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Short Answer:

Yes, Saturated Fat is Paleo, but..

Aren’t Saturated Fats Bad for the Heart??

Saturated Fat is a type of fat found in foods such as meats, cream, butter and grass-fed butter, ghee, dairy products, animal fats like tallow, lard, and chicken fat. Oils like palm and coconut are made up of saturated fats too. Many baked products also contain high levels of saturated fats. Saturated fat is made up of triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids which have no double bonds between carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.

Due to saturated fats’ chemical structure, it is usually hard or solid at room temperature.

Saturated fats have been associated with different diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, specifically coronary heart disease and some cancers like breast, colon and pancreatic. Saturated fats can raise the cholesterol level in the body thus, the higher risk of having stroke or heart disease. It has been blamed for clogging up the arteries. But recent studies have shown that this is completely wrong. For over 40 years, saturated fats have been ditched because of this misconception.

In a 2010 evaluation of 21 studies about saturated fats, it has been confirmed that saturated fats do not cause increased risk of coronary heart diseases. Saturated fats can only be associated to these diseases only if a person normally eats processed meats.

Heart diseases and obesity are actually results of trans fat, refined carbohydrates, overeating and inactivity of the body.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

HDL and LDL are not cholesterol but are transport lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol also known as “bad cholesterol” is a combination of protein, triglycerides, and cholesterol that transports cholesterol from the liver to other cells of the body for use. This contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that clogs the arteries which may result to heart attack or stroke.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol on the other hand, is a combination of protein, triglycerides, and cholesterol that transports cholesterol from cells of the body back to the liver where it may be excreted or reused. It helps remove the LDL cholesterol from the arteries.  A healthy level of HDL may protect the body against heart attack or stroke.

A high saturated fat intake can reduce the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart diseases.

Saturated Fats Are Actually Good For You!

Saturated fats are really not the enemy like what we have been told. They in fact have health benefits to offer.

  1. It is true that saturated fats can increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood. But the effect of cholesterol does not necessarily lead to heart diseases. Cholesterol plays a vital role in the human body.  Every cell membrane in the body is made up of it. It is used to make hormones like cortisol, testosterone and estradiol. Cholesterol is required to build and maintain membranes.
  2. Foods with saturated fats are nutritious. Butter, lard and tallow are best sources of saturated fats. They contain high levels of soluble vitamins A, D, E & K which needs the presence of fat to be absorbed by the body. Fat is also needed in order absorb and utilize other vitamins and minerals.
  3. Heart diseases are not caused purely by consuming saturated fats. It has been found that there is no association between saturated fats and risk of heart diseases. In fact, there are studies showing that consumption of saturated fats may actually reduce the risk of stroke. Stroke is caused by the disturbance in blood flow to the brain. This can damage brain tissues and can cause disability and death.
  4. Saturated fat helps the liver to excrete any fat accumulation within it. It protects the liver from toxic insults of alcohol and medications.
  5. The airspace in the lungs is coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant. This contains 100% saturated fat. With the absence of saturated fats can result to improper function of lungs collapsing the airspaces causing respiratory distress.
  6. The brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol and is therefore necessary for healthy brain functions. A diet low in saturated fats deprives the brain of the building blocks in needs for proper repair and function.
  7. While calcium is necessary for healthy bones, saturated fats are essential for calcium absorption.
  8. Certain saturated fats function as signalling messenger that influences the metabolism including the appropriate release of insulin. It sends signals that tell the organs and glands on what they are suppose to do.
  9. Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil plays a critical role in the function of a healthy immune system as well. Insufficient saturated fats in the white blood cells obstruct their ability to recognize and destroy viruses and bacteria that can harm the body.
  10. Low-carbohydrate diets, which are usually high in saturated fats, improve all biomarkers of health. It also helps in losing more weight compared to low-fat diets.
  11. When cooking in high heat, saturated fats are the best option as they are more stable and less likely to oxidize as they don’t react much with oxygen. Oxidation can form toxic substances in food.

The Take Away..

Though saturated fats have been demonized for decades, it has been proven that they are essential in the human body. Do not fear the fats. Instead, embrace healthy sources of saturated fats and ensure balanced consumption.

What Experts Say About Saturated Fat.. Is It Paleo?

“Saturated fat is also a fantastic source of energy, at least if you trust your body to make the right decision – otherwise, why else would we store excess carbohydrates as saturated body fat?” – Mark Sisson

“Eating saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease”. – Chris Kresser

All you ever wanted to know about Saturated Fat and Paleo

The Paleo Diet. Saturated Fatty Acids

The Paleo Diet. Is Saturated Fat Bad?

The Paleo Diet. What’s The Verdict on Saturated Fatty Acids?

Paleo Leap. The Fear of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Mark’s Daily Apple. Mark Sisson Is Not Afraid of Fat

Chris Kresser. The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy

Paleo Plan. Are Coconut Oil, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Really OK?

Mark’s Daily Apple. Top 7 Most Common Reactions to Your High-Fat Diet (and How to Respond)

Mark’s Daily Apple. The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat

Robb Wolf. What Is The Paleo Diet?

The Blog of Tim Ferriss. 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat

Dear Mark: Saturated Fat

Wellness Mama. Is Saturated Fat Healthy?

Authority Nutrition. Top 8 Reasons Not to Fear Saturated Fats

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.  Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Mar; 91(3):535-46.

Dietary fat intake and risk of stroke in male US healthcare professionals: 14 year prospective cohort study

Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Micha R, Wallace SK, et al. Circulation. 2010 Jun 1;121(21):2271-83.

Other names for Saturated Fat

Hydrogenated fat

Did we miss anything?

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