Saturated Fatty Acids have been demonized since the 1970’s and as far back as the 1950’s, when Ancel Keys published his famous “7 Country Study“. However, many studies are now beginning to show that saturated fat isn’t the bad guy we’ve been led to believe. For example, tropical oils are one of the items deemed “unsafe”, by the federal government, due to the high amounts of saturated fat in the oils. However, one study proved that coconut oil prevented cell death due to the high amounts of medium chain saturated fats, as well as polyphenolic antioxidants. (3) Other studies suggests coconut oil has anti-oxidant and anti-stress qualities, along, anti-cancer properties as well as the ability to lower serum LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) (5), (6). (7)
What is saturated fat?
Remember from my first fat article, there are 3 main classes of fatty acids. Mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated and saturated fats. Unsaturated fatty acids have either one or more double bonds, as seen below:
Saturated Fatty Acids – SFA – have all single bonds between the carbon. Because there are no double bonds in the chain, SFA’s are rigid and inflexible, and completely surrounded or SATURATED with hydrogen. This rigid nature makes them quite dense, and, therefore solid at room temperature. (as seen in the image below)
Why we need saturated fat…
When you begin to worry about too much saturated fat intake, keep this in mind. EVERY CELL MEMBRANE IN YOUR BODY IS 50% SATURATED FAT! One article I read describes the cell wall as the “consistency of olive oil studded with proteins“. These proteins are anchored by saturated fats; without which the proteins would literally float away. (1) Our bodies do have the capability to produce saturated fatty acids from carbohydrates, however, this is in relatively small amounts, from 1 to 5 grams a day, depending on diet. So intake of healthy forms of saturated fats, such as coconut oil, is essential.
Benefits of saturated fats: (2)
- Strengthen bones by helping calcium fully incorporate into the skeleton.
- Lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease.
- Protect the liver from toxins.
- Enhance the immune system.
- Needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3
- Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties.
Types of food that contain saturated fats:
When you think of saturated fats, you typically think of animal foods, such as beef and whole fat dairy. However, the foods with the highest percentages of saturated fat are actually plants. See table 1 below from www.westonaprice.org:
Good saturated fats vs bad saturated fats.
Any form of processed food from either plants or animals
- lunch/deli meat
- Factory farm raised meat – including beef, chicken and turkey
- Any form of farm raised fish
- non-organic forms of dairy (especially ultra-pasteurized)
- hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil
EAT THIS INSTEAD!
Anything from a whole food source, either plant or animal
- Coconut products including – Whole coconuts, coconut flakes, Extra virgin coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut butter
- Organic, 100% grass-fed butter – (if you can find “raw” butter, all the better)
- Organic, 100% grass-fed whole fat yogurt (again – raw is best, but difficult to find)
- Organic Pasture raised eggs
- Organic 100% grass-fed beef
- Organic Pasture raised chicken and turkey
- Raw Cacao butter
- MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglyceride)
- wild caught fish/salmon
- Raw cheese