Last post I opened the preverbal can of worms by unveiling the heresy that fats are not only good for us they are a primal necessity for our body’s functions. Our culture has villainized them based on Ancel Keys’ work in the 1960s that was only a hypothesis and a poorly done one at that.
As American’s have dutifully reduced their saturated fat intake due to this hypothesis, obesity has doubled, diabetes has tripled and heart disease is still the number one killer. With research burning up the labs, the evidence is irrefutable and it is not what American’s want to here. The culprit isn’t fat… it’s processed carbohydrates.
The latest research findings were published in March through the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”. The Oakland Research Institute studied 350,000 people from 5 to 23 years on their daily food intake and their risk of developing heart disease. The analysis found no association between the amount of saturated fats consumed and the risk of heart disease.
So what about those saturated fats that we have been programmed to shutter over? Are they really… dare I say… good for us?? The scientific community is agog on what they are finding there. In 2008, Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition at Harvard co-authored a study that followed 322 moderately obese subjects for two years.
One group ate low-fat calorie restricted diet based on the American Heart Association’s guidelines. One group ate the Mediterranean diet which is calorie restricted, low in red meat and high in veggies, then the other group ate a low-carb nonrestricted-calorie diet. Guess who fared the best? The subjects in the low carb group ended up with the healthiest ratios of HDL to LDL cholesterol and lost twice as much weight as their low fat eating counterparts. Oh and kept it off too.
Stampfer’s findings do not merely suggest that saturated fats are not bad; they indicate that processed carbs could be the villain hiding in the bread drawer. So the next time you are eating your buttered toast, consider that fact that the butter is better for you than the toast.
Now this doesn’t mean that the green light has been given to everyone to go out and gorge on saturated fats, particularly combined with processed carbohydrates. Yet it does shine a light an area that has been misunderstood too long. (It is rather interesting to note here that the sugared beverage industries are lobbying very hard against this data going public.)
So what fats are good for us?? The simplest rule to follow here is fats that have been minimally processed are the ones to go for. Good nutrient dense saturated fats such as minimally processed coconut oil and palm oil, animal fats like eggs, butter, whole milk and meats are excellent fats to introduce back into your diet in moderation. Make sure and eat grass finished meats and healthy eggs to get the full benefits of these nutrient dense fats.
High Omega 3 oils are extremely important as well in the diet and should be supplemented if you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. These oils are essential for certain body functions such as the heart.
The ever shining star, olive oil is always a great choice. Nuts and nut oils are friendly fats to have conversations with. Of course, the gregarious avocado is always a delight to have lunch with.
Avoid all partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats. All factions in the nutrition world agree on this. (Rare but true.) Any seed oils are out, like canola or safflower due to how heavily refined and genetically modified it is. It has to be put through a process that renders it un-toxic to humans and animals and converts some of it to hydrogenated trans fat.
Once again, if you want to learn more on this, and there is so much more to learn, read “Good Calories Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes and/or “Cereal Killer” by Alan L. Watson. Meanwhile enjoy a your full fat salad dressing guilt free.
Roasted honey pear salad
This is a lovely salad that is dressy enough for special occasions. Use a melon baller to core the pears super easily.
The salad dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon of finely minced fresh rosemary
1 shallot finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
8 cups of fresh spinach, stemmed if needed
4 cups of arugula (optional)
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), halved, cored
A handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, pulled into smaller pieces
¼ cup of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, place the pear halves on a cutting board, cut side down. Starting 1 inch from the stem cut lengthwise into 1/3” to ½” inch thin slices till the whole thing is sliced. Scatter the rosemary sprigs on a lightly greased, rimmed baking sheet then place the pear halves on top of the sprigs. Carefully fan out the pear halves. (The first one is kinda hard, but you’ll get the hang of it.) Drizzle the honey over the pears and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake the pears for 15 minutes or until just tender. Let them rest on the baking sheet till cool. You can do this part a day ahead and store in the fridge till you use them.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a jar. Put the lid on and shake it up till well blended. Combine the spinach, arugula, onions and cranberries and toss with some of the dressing. Divvy out into four bowls and place one pear half on top of the greens mix. Sprinkle with the nuts and cheese and serve with the left over dressing. Bon appetite!