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You may have been hearing for a while that fats should be back in our diets and on our plates. An overwhelming amount of research has confirmed that healthy fats contribute to overall good health. But this doesn’t give you permission to eat a steady diet of fast-food burgers and fries, or to use generous amounts of over-processed vegetable oils in your home cooking. By switching to smarter fats, you may actually hit your weight-loss goals and feel more energetic. Those fats include Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil, olive oil, coconut oil and yes, even organic lard! They don’t form the negative compounds that are bad for our bodies.


After decades of being told that fats are evil, it’s no wonder people are still confused. The notion that saturated fat and cholesterol are the demons in the diet is 100 percent wrong. When you look at the data, it’s very clear: Most of what we’ve been told about saturated fat and cholesterol is simply not so.


As a board-certified nutritionist and author of 15 books including “Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now!”, I’m out to rehabilitate the reputation of saturated fat, a perfectly healthy fat that we collectively demonized when we wrongly believed it leads to heart disease. Recent research has shown that there’s no connection between saturated fat in the diet and the incidence of heart disease. Instead of saturated fat and cholesterol, most leading edge experts are now looking at inflammation as a prime mover in the development of heart disease.


The irony is that the foods we were taught are good for us – breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes – are the very ones that are killing us. Our bodies convert these foods to sugar almost instantly. Sugar raises insulin, which causes inflammation, which is the fundamental cause of heart disease.


Here’s a big shock

One of the biggest shocks is palm oil. Palm oil is healthy! When we reduced our intake of saturated fat, and replaced it with vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, etc.), the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in our diets became wildly out of balance. Omega 6s are the building blocks of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies, and we are consuming 6 to 25 times more of them than we are the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. We should substitute Malaysian palm oil for some of that inflammatory omega 6, which will help right the balance. Malaysian palm oil, which is found in everything from some microwave popcorns to peanut butters and olive oil spreads, won’t cause inflammation. It also won’t break down into toxic substances when you cook with it.


The misinformation about palm oil is furthered when the topic of wildlife and land conservation comes into the mix. It ignores the fact that livestock is the largest driver of deforestation in the world. Canola, sunflower and soy are also hard on our environment. For example, it takes more than ten times more land to produce the same amount of soybean oil as palm oil. Palm oil is not horrible for the environment as long as it’s sustainably produced. That’s easy, since most of the palm oil used in the U.S. is sustainably produced in Malaysia.


Other foods containing saturated fat that are okay to eat

  • Butter: Butter was never bad to begin with! It was banished from our tables because of our ill-advised fear of saturated fats. So, we replaced it with something much worse!

  • Grass-fed beef: Grass-fed beef contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and less inflammatory omega-6s. It’s also free of hormones, a very big plus indeed.

  • Egg yolks: What a relief that you don’t have to suffer through one more tasteless egg white omelet! The advice to eat egg white omelets is way past its expiration date!

  • Dark meat poultry: The USDA data shows that there are mere milligrams of differences in the nutritional content of white and dark meat.

  • Cheese and nuts: One ounce a day is associated with lower body mass index, so these are absolutely healthy. But they are also easy to overeat and contribute to weight gain, so just be careful about the amount you consume.


Although experts estimate that we’re consuming fewer calories from fat, here in the U.S., obesity has skyrocketed. One reason is that the food industry replaced saturated fat with added sugar to maintain foods’ appeal.


We all need fat in our diets. People who follow low-fat diets are hungry all the time because fat is one of the main things that makes you feel full. Also, if your body learns to run primarily on sugar instead of fat, your metabolism is compromised. Sugar is far more damaging to the heart than fat ever was. The world’s focus on cholesterol has been incredibly destructive because we haven’t looked at these real promoters of heart disease: inflammation, oxidative damage, sugar in the diet and – number one with a bullet – stress.


The smartest fats yield clear health benefits. For example, the tocotrienols found in Malaysian red palm oil support heart, liver and brain health. So, they’re worth any extra cost. The better oils are also less processed, made with less heat and chemicals, and much more likely to retain whatever health compounds were in them in the first place.

Dr-Jonny-BowdenAbout the author: Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”) is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition, and health. He’s a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the best-selling author of 15 books on health, healing, food and longevity, including his latest book (co-written with Dr. Steven Masley), “Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now!”

Editor’s Note: Other healthy oils to consider: avocado oil, and camelina which is an ancient grain high in antioxidants with a 475 degree smoke point (which makes it excellent for stir-fry).  Other reasons to vanquish canola and soy oils are that they are mostly genetically modified.


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