Are saturated fats inherently bad for you? For years, the idea drilled into our heads has been that the saturated fats found in meat, cheese, and butter are to be largely avoided due to the increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease. But now we’re not so sure.
A new analysis of research was released in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine this week, and reported by the New York Times health blog here, cast doubt upon this guideline.
The new research reviewed over 80 studies that looked at what the participants reportedly ate, plus blood test results that measured fatty acids and cholesterol levels. This analysis did not find increased heart disease in those who ate less saturated fat, nor did it find less disease in those eating more unsaturated fat—the good stuff found in natural foods like olive oil, fish, and avocados. It did, however, notice a benefit in those taking Omega-3 fish-oil supplements in preventing the onset of heart disease. (more…)
Fat makes you fat, right? Wrong.
For years, all fats have been made out to be a delicious incarnation the devil. As a health and nutrition coach, I get questions all the time from my clients about low-fat diets and avoiding avocados and olive oil in case they cause weight gain. Some have even justified eating an entire bag of Twizzlers because it says, “No Fat”.
Listen up: Fat is not the enemy! At least, not entirely.
Let me be clear in saying that there are many kinds of fats, including the saturated and trans fats found in candy bars, processed foods, and T-bone steaks—these are generally no good. But there are also the natural fats found in whole foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, coconuts, and olive oil, which are so, so good!
The tide seems to be slowly shifting away from demonizing fat. While my family doctor admits my cholesterol is “so good it isn’t even on [her] chart,” she still isn’t comfortable with the fact that I cook with lard. Coconut oil and olive oil, however, are much more acceptable fats for food preparation. Fat is not unhealthy; it supplies energy, helps us feel more full, balances blood sugar, promotes cell growth, decreases inflammation throughout the body, and regulates hormones.
Not all fats are equal, though. Trans fats, or “hydrogenated” fats, have been considered contraband at my house for years. In addition to lard, coconut oil and olive oil are staples in my kitchen. The question of which to use for a specific recipe is more complicated than just the ingredient list. There is a bit of a science to cooking (and shopping) that can help you ensure that the recipes you use provide the full nutritional benefit to your family and do not create unintended health consequences.
Why the Smoke Point is So Important
When fats or oils reach a certain temperature, they begin to break down and lose nutritional value and flavor. At this point, called the smoke point, carcinogenic oxygen radicals are also generated. Recipes need to be evaluated by comparing the oils used with the temperature at which they are prepared. (more…)
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
How’s your fat? Don’t worry—I’m not talking about your thighs or belly. I’m referring to the fat on your fork. You’ve heard about all the great things omega-3 fats can do for you, including boosting your mood, keeping your brain sharp and reducing your risk for heart disease. One reason for its stellar health creds: It fights chronic inflammation. But it can’t do its job if it’s outnumbered by its chief rival—omega-6 fats.
These two polyunsaturated fats compete for entry into your cells, and for most Americans, omega-6 is winning handily. Our bodies evolved to thrive off an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio anywhere from 1:1 to 4:1. Instead, the ratio is 16:1 or higher. That imbalance may literally be killing us.
Where does all the omega-6 come from? Soybean oil is a major source; processed and fast foods are rife with it, and it’s the oil in “vegetable oil” sold in the supermarket. Meanwhile, we eat very few omega-3 rich foods, like fatty fish, chia seeds and flaxseed.
Here’s how to get back in balance: (more…)
We recently wrote about the science of mouthfeel and how food manufacturers engineer what we eat to not only taste great, but entice our senses through the texture of the food. Sometimes, food makers face challenges posed by highly publicized campaigns against certain ingredients, one of which brought on the low-fat diet phenomenon.
Demonizing Fat Created a Bigger Problem
One of the bigger problems in human nature, which has manifested itself in the world of diet and fitness, is that we tend to overreact to information. For instance, we hear that saturated fat is bad for us, then instead of simply moderating our intake, we obsessively avoid it altogether or feel guilty when we can’t adhere to unrealistic expectations.
Decades ago, as the public became increasingly weary of saturated fat, manufacturers had to artificially engineer foods to retain their appeal. So what happens? They replace naturally-occurring fats with man-made substitutes that are just as bad, or worse. (more…)
By Abra Pappa for Nutritious America
In a world of endless food “science” it isn’t terribly surprising that even the mighty cheese is subject to investigation, processing, and testing in an attempt to create a cheese-like-food-product that scientists will deem “healthier” by reducing sodium and fat. In this never ending quest to make all food “diet worthy” and eternal dieters “happy” there is no food spared from their turn in the science wheel. Yet, each time we’ve attempted to replace a natural, whole food with a processed version of the food the results of “health” have not exactly worked out.
Case in point: changing butter to margarine. The partially hydrogenated fats that were originally thought to be much healthier then butter’s saturated fat have since proved to be the exact opposite. Why would a “new” cheese be any better?
The average American consumes nearly 30 pounds of cheese per year; that is an awful lot of fat and salt. But, cheese is so much more than a block of fat and salt, it has a story, a life, a history.
If you have ever spent time with a cheese expert or any amount of time in a real cheese haven like Murray’s cheese shop in New York City, you may have been graced with some of the history and story behind cheese. Stories of generations of sheep farmers in France creating glorious cheese from humble resources, or small American artisinal cheese makers who, with a much shorter history of cheese making, are taking this culinary world by storm. Cheese has been consumed as a traditional food in many cultures for literally thousands and thousands of years, and yet it is just in the last 50+ years that we are seeing the steep decline in the health of people. It makes us ask, is cheese really to blame? (more…)
A new study published online in a European journal titled Human Reproduction has released information that men eating a diet high in saturated fat had lower sperm counts and sperm concentration levels. Although men who consumed less fat had better counts, the study also revealed that men with better formed sperm consumed more omega-3 fatty acids.
“Diets containing higher amounts of omega-3 fat and lower amounts of saturated fat are associated with favorable semen quality parameters and may be beneficial to male reproductive health. Although these findings need to be reproduced, adapting these nutritional modifications may not only be beneficial for reproductive health but for global general health as well,” said Dr. Jill Attaman, author of the study.
A total of 99 Americans participated in the study and all of them were in their mid-30s. The men provided semen samples for analysis from December 2006 to August 2022 and answered questions about their diet. The results showed that the men who took in the highest amount, or around 13 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat, had a 35 percent lower total sperm count and a 38 percent lower concentration than the men who consumed lower levels.
The commercial seems innocent – a mom, trying to do the right thing for her family. She’s looking for a healthy breakfast choice, one that her kids will eat. She opens the pantry and pulls out a jar of Nutella, and the family happily sits down to nosh on it. She’s surrounded by smiling faces, all enjoying a breakfast of Nutella spread on whole grain toast. It’s a blissful shot, one that most moms would give their right arm to enjoy. Everyone eating breakfast with no fuss, no complaint, no “I hate that!” within hearing.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. We’ve been ’round this debate before. Despite a lawsuit, the company is still insisting that Nutella is a nutritious breakfast choice. But is it really, or is this just a case of false advertising?
Janine Bolton, RD, has this to say about Nutella for breakfast: “I would not consider Nutella part of a healthy or balanced breakfast for kids. A balanced breakfast is one that features foods from different food groups, so that we get a variety of nutrients. Nutella does not belong to any food group and packs in over 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon. I wouldn’t recommend Nutella for anything other than an occasional treat.”
Mary Hartley, RD, MPH, is the director of nutrition for Calorie Count, providing domain expertise on issues related to nutrition, weight loss and health. She creates original content for weekly blogs and newsletters, for the Calorie Count library, and for her popular daily Question-and-Answer section, Ask Mary. Ms. Hartley also furnishes direction for the site features and for product development.
Saturated fat was recently in the news at the Institute of Food Technologists expo when experts revealed, again, that the link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease is inconclusive. Both the public and professionals are now confused, since diets low in fat, particularly saturated fat, have been the mainstay of scientific consensus for more than 30 years. Saturated fat, a solid fat mainly found in animal foods, includes cheese, whole milk, butter, and fatty cuts of meat. It, together with liquid poly- and mono-unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, grains and fish, make up all naturally-occurring dietary fat.
Back in the 1970s, the American Heart Association and other authorities said to reduce all fat to 30 percent of total calories and saturated fat to 10 percent or less. The recommendation was drawn from epidemiologic studies that compared the diets among different countries, in particular, the Seven Countries Study. Those studies showed a correlation between total fat intake and rates of heart disease. That, along with the National Diet-Heart Study of the 1960s, form the basis of the message that reduction in saturated fat lowers blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
Blame it on rising corn prices or blame it on the embalming fluid, either way, say goodbye to Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal.
In a category of food that produced over $600 million in revenue last year, Corn Pops only made $74 million, an 18% decrease since the year prior. The breakfast food that is advertised as being “crispy, glazed, crunchy, sweet,” can no longer compete with its peers. Cereals like Cheerios and Frosted Flakes made over $200 million last year.
Not only are big name cereals beating out Corn Pops but the sales of private brands have impacted totals.
Some have argued that the recent price hikes in corn are the culprits behind the demise of this long standing brand. There is some validity to that claim. However, one has to wonder if it’s the ingredients of the cereal that have really lead to the poor sales. Sure, the cereal is “crispy, glazed, crunchy, sweet” but what makes it so?
File this one in the “goes against everything we’ve been told” file.
A recent study published in American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology suggests that a high-fat diet is OK and even beneficial for the heart. The study, which looked at cardiac function in patients suffering from heart failure, found that that a high-fat diet improved the heart’s ability to pump, along with boosting cardiac insulin resistance (which reduces the risk of diabetes). Sounds pretty different than what we’ve been told all along right? That eating too much fat is bad for the heart?
Not so fast. According to the study which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Case Center for Imaging Research, all fats are not created equal. In fact, a balanced diet that includes mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and which replaces simple sugars and highly processed foods with complex carbs, are most beneficial for damaged hearts. Notice what wasn’t on that list of a healthy diet? Trans fats or saturated fats.