Nourishing Foods for Beginners: Eat Your Saturated Fat!

Today I want to put some emphasis on a hot topic: eating fat! And not just any fat. I’m talking about the vilified saturated fat, the kind shunned by the medical community and most dietitians. The kind blamed for heart disease, diabetes and all sorts of other debilitating conditions.  

The kind that's absolutely essential to good health.

I’m not kidding. We need--desperately need--saturated fat to be healthy, to be happy, to have energy, to live! These are the most natural fats on the planet, and have been plentiful in the human diet since time began. That cannot be said of modern vegetable oils, which have only recently been engineered to infiltrate our food supply. These oils ushered in the modern age of disease, not the healthy saturated fats our ancestors used with such enthusiasm.

Here’s a list of benefits taken from the Weston A. Price Foundation’s The Skinny on Fats:

“Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes. They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.
They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
They lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease. They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol.

They enhance the immune system.

They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids.

Elongated omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats.

Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. The heart draws on this reserve of fat in times of stress.

Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties. They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.”

Read more about healthy fats in these posts:

Simple Ways to Eat Healthy Saturated Fats

Today we’re talking baby steps, so I want to propose just a few very simple changes for those of you who are just beginning to discover the merits of traditional foods:

  • Switch to butter and coconut oil. Toss out all those fake spreads filled with vegetable oils and trans fat (even the ones without trans fat aren’t healthy!). Use real butter and high quality coconut oil: they are both delicious, healthy and easy to use.
  • Drink whole milk. Raw milk is best, but if you’re going to buy pasteurized milk, still choose whole (and if possible, non-homogenized). The vitamins and minerals in milk are located primarily in... the fat! That's why low-fat and nonfat milk have to have these nutrients added back in (usually in synthetic form, which is less bioavailable).
  • Buy whole-milk dairy products. Choose full-fat cheese, yogurt and sour cream. Low-fat and no-fat versions typically contain all sorts of additives and chemicals that try to mimic the real version's consistency and flavor. Low-fat is simply not natural!

These three steps above are basically effortless to make and don't usually cost much more than what you already buy.

A note about quality fats: Now, if at all possible, it’s important to get these foods from grass-fed or pastured animals who are free from antibiotics and artificial hormones. However, I will not get into that in depth today because we are talking small changes for beginners. I understand that it can be really discouraging in the beginning, and my main point is to encourage you to take baby steps if that’s what helps you move in the right direction!

A note for digestion: If you have been eating low-fat for years, it may be helpful to slowly incorporate high-fat foods into your diet. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, swedish bitters and naturally fermented foods can help you comfortably digest the extra fats, too.

Need to find healthy real food ingredients like coconut oil? Check out my Resources page!

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly - it's not about getting it right it's about the journey - thanks for that!

  2. This is probably baby step part 2, but I would also suggest cutting back or eliminating industrial oils (corn, soybean, vegetable, canola) and replacing them with the fats you listed above or my favorite, coconut oil. :) This will really help your omega 3 to 6 ratio since so many of the industrial oils are high in omega 6. :)

  3. You're welcome TurtleOak! :)

    Great suggestion, Elizabeth. I am definitely going to address that in the next part of my series!