I’m not buttering you up: Fats help you live longer

For a long time, saturated fat was considered enemy number one in the fight against heart disease. Luckily for egg and butter-lovers everywhere, those days are over…

It turns out, saturated fat isn’t bad for your heart after all. In fact, it’s more likely to improve your cholesterol levels, heart health and overall health than hurt them…

Researchers from the KG Jebsen Center for Diabetes Research at the University of Bergen in Norway recently found that men who ate a very high-fat diet for three months didn’t increase their risk of cardiovascular disease. They did, however:

  • Lower their blood pressure
  • Balance their blood sugar
  • Improve their insulin levels and insulin resistance
  • Reduce their body’s storage of fat in locations like their liver, skeletal muscle, heart and pancreas
  • Improve their good cholesterol (HDL) levels

So it seems saturated fat is a health savior rather than a saboteur. Of course, there is a caveat…

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Your source matters

Saturated fats will benefit your health as long as you get them from high-quality, whole food sources. The men who ate a high-fat diet in the study got about 50 percent of their total fat intake from saturated fat, but it came primarily from minimally-processed foods like butter, cream and cold-pressed oils. In other words, saturated fat itself isn’t the problem…processed food is.

“The alleged health risks of eating good-quality fats have been greatly exaggerated. It may be more important for public health to encourage reductions in processed flour-based products, highly processed fats and foods with added sugar,” said assistant professor Simon Nitter Dankel, who led the study.

So instead of banishing saturated fats from your diet, just banish the really bad fats… the trans fats found in processed foods. These are the fats that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

And, of course, focus your efforts on eating fresh, unprocessed foods. That’s what the men in the study did. And in a short three-month period, their health was a lot better off for it. Researchers had these men eat diets that were not only high in fat but high in fresh vegetables too. And the men got their carbs from rice rather than flour-based products.

Where to find the best fat

If you’re not sure how to get the best quality saturated fats in your diet, don’t worry. All you need to do is turn to a few nutritious, high-fat foods, like:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil
  • Grass-fed dairy products
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Dark chocolate
  • Eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines.

And if you’re still skeptical about the health benefits of high-quality saturated fats, consider this…

Emma Morano, who lived to be 117, ate one food every day for the last 97 years — eggs. So it seems saturated fat (from healthy sources) may be the secret to health and longevity rather than its downfall.

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Sources:
  1. L. Veum, et al. “Visceral adiposity and metabolic syndrome after very high-fat and low-fat isocaloric diets: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016.
  2. “Avoid These 10 Foods Full of Trans Fats.” Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org. Retrieved December 5, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.