Why Saturated Fats ARE Healthy Fats

Mighty Blends Mighty Blendz

When first seeing the Mighty Blendz packaging & nutrition label, most customers are super excited about the health benefits of the product including the high-protein, healthy fats, prebiotic fiber, and leafy greens. That is until they flip over the packaging and find our nutrition label: the first question is always: why “so much” saturated fat?


The saturated fats from MCT oil in Mighty Blendz are not there by accident, we included them intentionally and for good reason. Well, if you asked us, we would say that the 16 grams of saturated fat in Mighty Blendz really is not that much! It is just a bit more than one tablespoon’s worth of coconut-MCT oil. But we are huge coconut MCT fans here, so here is what the research says:


Where Did Saturated Fat’s Bad Rap Come From Anyway?


Historically saturated fats have gotten a bad rap out of fear that they may contribute to heart-disease & other cardiovascular diseases. In the 1950s, a scientist named Ancel Keys started claiming that saturated fat caused heart disease. With seemingly convincing research for the time, his theory was the catalyst for the beginning of a relentless fat-fearing era of nutrition.

What The Science Says About Saturated Fats

Unfortunately for generations of chicken breast-eating, nonfat milk-drinking, and carb-crunching Americans, Keys’ research is not only flawed, but there is evidence that he manipulated his data to ensure fat looked bad (bringing himself fame and grant money in the process). Even worse, there is also evidence that sugar industry leaders have been paying scientists to shift the blame for obesity and chronic disease from sugar to fat since the 1960s [1].

Fat contains more than twice the calories (9kcal) per gram than carbohydrates (4kcal). So if you eat a high-fat meal it is more calorie-dense than a high-carb one, but there is evidence to also show that carbohydrates can lead to feelings of increased hunger. A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic index (bread, rice, pasta) caused effects on the brain that led to feelings of increased hunger [2]. Another study in 2013 found high-carb meals could leave you feeling hungrier hours later compared to a low-carb meal with more fat, protein, and fiber. The team behind the research attributed this effect to the spike & crash effect high-carb meals have on blood sugar [3].

Keys’ research led fat intake to decrease from 36.6% to 33.7% from 1971 to 2006 and carbohydrate intake to rise from 44.0% to 48.7% [4] Yet obesity levels have escalated. 

It turns out that science does not support low-fat claims at all.

But it was too late. Food manufacturing companies began pumping out low- and nonfat products, and pouring in the sugar to compensate for their tasteless food. Soon enough, grocery store shelves were filled with sugary, processed “diet” foods and people became fatter than ever.

After 60 years of low-fat propaganda, the “fat makes you fat” rhetoric is so ingrained in our collective consciousness that many people still fear fat, even though study after study shows that fat is harmless [5]. In fact, eating more fat is the single most powerful way to kill your cravings, focus your brain, manage weight, and balance your hormones. Fat is not just good for you; it is vital.

Adding more fat to my diet threw me for a loop at first, too. It went against everything I had ever been told about healthy eating, especially as a woman inundated with an anti-meat, low-fat diet culture. However, the more I dived into the research, the more it became clear that fat (especially saturated fat) and cholesterol are actually the building blocks for a thriving body and mind.


Fat Makes You Full, Not Fat


Good fats are essential to fuel our bodies on the day-to-day and especially to do Mighty things. They are the catalyst for many vital bodily functions, and even fight bad cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. Good fats also help you to stay fuller for longer by providing fuel to the body in the form of ketones rather than spiking (and subsequently crashing) our blood sugar. 


Fats have received a bad rap, but the right kind of natural fats are some of the best, most nourishing foods on earth.  They give us energy, recharge our brains, build hormones,  cell membranes, and make us feel comfortable and satisfied.  If you are on a low-fat diet, this study should convince you to eat more healthful fats. 

If you have ever tried traditional dieting, you know that low-fat, low-calorie diets leave you miserable. They are unsustainable. You feel hangry all the time, crave sugar, and the weight you lose comes right back after you stop dieting.

Quality fats, however, are clean-burning energy sources that keep your body and brain running at high capacity. As with every ingredient we eat, fat sources matter! It is time to end the era of fat-fearing. Let us look at some of the ways fat actually helps you.

7 Reasons Saturated Fat is a Healthy Fat

  1. Fat makes you feel fuller longer. You will actually eat less if you trade empty processed grains and sugar for quality fats [6].
  2. Dietary fat contains more energy per gram than any other nutrient, so it is the most efficient way to deliver energy to the parts of your body that need it, like your brain.
  3. Quality fats often contain fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Eating fat alongside other nutrient-dense foods will increase the fat-soluble nutrients you absorb from them, too. That is why it is a good idea to eat fat at every meal, and especially with your vegetables. Good thing butter and veggies pair so well together!
  4. Compared with protein or carbohydrates, fat has the lowest impact on insulin levels. Insulin spikes are what lead to energy crashes and weight gain. Insulin is the body’s response to high blood sugar. You do not want your pancreas constantly pumping out insulin because it will get fatigued and give up on you. That is when diabetes happens.
  5. Fat slows the absorption of carbohydrates, keeping blood glucose levels under control [7] .When blood sugar is high, so is cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. Chronic circulating cortisol will keep blood sugar high and can contribute to inflammation and hurt your immune system.
  6. Fat is a building block. Quality fats form strong cell membranes and help build sex hormones. Your brain is the most fat- and cholesterol-dense part of your body and it requires saturated fat to build myelin, the insulators that connect many of your brain cells to one another. Low-fat diets starve your brain. No wonder they make us feel so cranky and fatigued! Because the healthy fats in Mighty Blendz help to maintain and balance hormones, you will be able to manage your weight more effectively.
  7. Caloric restriction is not the answer. Sure, you can starve yourself thin. But different foods go through different metabolic pathways in the body, which is why bread can make you fat and butter can thin you out [8]. Long-term caloric restriction can stress your body and contribute to leptin resistance, insulin resistance, low testosterone, and thyroid issues, which is why so many people lose weight in the short-term, then gain it all back when they begin to eat normally again. Plus, on fewer calories, you will feel hungry all the time, so you will be more likely to “cave” and eat an entire pizza. When you satiate your brain and body with good fats, your cravings disappear.

What About Heart health?

Even though all of the above evidence is convincing, we understand you might still have some concerns about the effects of saturated fat on heart health. When looking at the effects of saturated fats on triglyceride levels [9] – a type of fat (lipid) found in the blood - studies found that when coupled with exercise, saturated fat from coconut oil significantly reduced triglyceride levels. A recent Brazilian rat study also found that coconut oil and exercise could lower blood pressure [10].

A meta study (a study of other studies) published in the January 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that there is “no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”  (CHD is coronary heart disease and CVD is cardiovascular disease.)

There is no evidence that saturated fat is bad for your heart. In fact, one of the most famous studies on fat and coronary health showed that yes, a diet lower in saturated fat will lower your cholesterol, BUT lowered cholesterol does not ensure a long lifespan! There was actually an increase in mortality in participants following a “heart healthy” diet of mostly linoleic acids from corn oil, as opposed to delicious fats from foods like grass-fed beef, coconut-oil, and butter.

Of course, this is only one study. There are plenty more systematic reviews looking at the link between saturated fat and heart disease, and no one can prove that saturated fat from quality sources cause heart disease [11,12].

Nutrition myths are often oversimplified and recirculated in the media. That is why people have come to believe that eating saturated fats makes them fat, causes high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases. The latest research shows that this simply is not true.

This falls right in line with findings from other recent publications like Gary Taubes’ bestselling book Good Calories, Bad Calories.  This meta study confirms that the right fats are not dangerous at all. You simply crave fat because it is critical for optimal health, not because you are weak, or lack willpower. Several studies even suggest that saturated fat can reduce the risk of stroke [13,14].

Coconut Oil Case Study 

If the science alone is just not clicking, then take an everyday, historical example. In Masai, Africa, the majority population of people consume large amounts of saturated fat but have low to nonexistent levels of coronary heart disease. Similarly, the Tokelauans of New Zealand consume a massive amount of saturated fat through coconuts: more than 60% of their daily calories come from coconuts [15] yet have no history of heart disease. 

We are learning so much more about fats and that there is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. Leading nutrition experts have been calling for an amendment to dietary recommendations for more than fifteen years. Despite these calls and the high-quality evidence assembled throughout the past decades, doctors, governments – and by extension the public – still take extraordinarily little notice. Perhaps it has something to do with the sugar and big grain lobbying that goes into our nutrition label standards in America, but that is a conversation for another day. A decade of research to the contrary would suggest it is time we moved away from entrenched thinking, towards a more enlightened attitude towards saturated fat.

Mighty Action Items:

  1. Learn your fats. Not all fats are created equal. Some fats feed your brain and help turn off your cravings, while some cause inflammation and make you crave terrible foods. Get all the benefits of a high-healthy-fat diet by adding more of the good fats to every meal. 
  2. Limit your carbohydrates, especially net carbs (carbs - fiber). If you are upping fat, you will want to limit your carbs. You will likely gain weight if you mix the two together.
  3. Focus on quality, not quantity. Calories-in, calories-out is a myth. When you focus on the quality of your food and the nutrition it provides, cravings subside, and your body will start to regulate your caloric intake naturally. This results in the fat loss and mental clarity that so many people experience on a lower carb, high protein, whole foods diet.
  4. Try it. Everyone’s body is different. If your body does not thrive on healthy fats, eliminating processed grains, and limited starchy carbs, you will be able to tell (do give it 1-3 weeks to adjust though. If you have been running on high amounts of carbohydrates for your whole life it will take your body a natural period to adjust).  If you feel horrible after three weeks, or if your blood results start to let you know you are going in the wrong direction, stop what you are doing and reassess.

References

  1. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2548255
  2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/06/26/ajcn.113.064113.abstract 
  3. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/27/science/la-sci-high-carbohydrate-hunger-20130627 
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310830 
  5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8696422 
  7.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6386412 
  8. http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-3-9
  9. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186 
  10. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/interactive/news/coconut-oil-can-lower-blood-pressure-id801774604-t116.html 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635993 
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995
  13.  http://www.bmj.com/content/327/7418/777.short 
  14. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/08/04/ajcn.2009.29146.abstract
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18523037 

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