I Eat Beef Fat. And I Like It. [Learning to Love Saturated Fats]

by Charlotte on April 26, 2012 · 37 comments


Confession #1: Today I stopped and bought my boys t-shirts at a garage sale to wear because I haven’t had time to do laundry for two weeks now and everything they own has been worn twice. (Once right side out and once inside out – for the latter, I just tell everyone they dressed themselves. I don’t add that I told them to dress themselves that way.)

I hang my motherly head in shame. But that is nowhere near as shocking as my next confession. If Charlotte-from-10-years-ago knew what I was about to confess, she’d have had me committed then and spared me this horror. In fact, the only reason I will even admit to this in black and white is because the other day Gym Buddy Allison ‘fessed up to doing it – and liking it – too. So here goes…

Confession #2: I eat beef fat.

Not only do I eat it but I love it. I crave it. You know all that white stuff all around the edges of a steak? The stuff that everyone from Dr. Oz to Dr. Phil (to Dr. Oprah-spawn) tells you to trim off? Well, I eat it.

My road to debauchery started out innocently enough with a simple cow (don’t all roads to debauchery start with a cow? No??). Gym Buddy Krista was talking up her favorite local beef farmer and since I started Geneen Roth’s guidelines, as I explained before, I’ve stopped being vegetarian in favor of eating what my body – not my mind – says it wants. So I signed up for one of those grass-fed-and-finished, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, organic, kissed-by-angels bovines.

Upon retrieving the dead carcass from the super friendly farmer (any local peeps who want his info, I’m happy to pass it along! Poor man hasn’t discovered the Internet yet and has no website but he raises awesome livestock so we’ll forgive him.) I learned two important things. First, cows are insanely huge animals. My Bessie was 920 pounds. The smallest portion he’d sell me was 1/4 – those of you good at math (update: this group will not include me as in the original version of this post my cow and cow quarters didn’t even remotely add up. I blame the tireds.) will realize that left me with 230 pounds of animal – so thank heavens Gym Buddy Megan split it with me. Second, Mr. Farmer informed me that while fat from traditionally farmed cows (read: cows fed with grain) is terrible for you, fat from grass-pastured cows is fan-freakin’-tastic with a huge ratio of those Omega-3 fatty acids health nuts are always crowing about.

Me being me, I couldn’t just take some farmer’s word for it, even if he is the coolest farmer I have ever met (which is only because I’ve never officially met the Bag Lady) so I checked out the research. And you know what? He’s right. For too long we’ve been conditioned to believe that adage about Good Fats and Bad Fats. Turns out all naturally sourced fats are good fats. Even saturated ones like coconut oil, heavy cream and, yes, animal fat (as long as it isn’t conventionally farmed). The only bad fats are those man-made monstrosities like trans-fats and interesterified fats.

We have a long, troubled history with fat. Back in the early part of the last century someone invented margarine, a cheap alternative to butter made out of hydrogenated vegetable oils. This oleo spread didn’t catch on at first but then someone else decreed that eating fat makes you fat – especially the saturated fats found in animal products and coconut oil. Margarine, replete with the demon-spawn transfats, came to rule the market and a whole movement was born. The hysteria culminated in the fat-phobic 90′s where fat grams were the only piece of information about a food that mattered. In fact, when I was a wee lass just beginning my eating disordered journey, fat grams were my number of choice to obsess over. It was my goal to make it through the day on less than 1 gram of fat. I was really good at it too! I went for years without touching meat, real cheese, nuts, avocados and even chocolate. I replaced them with – and I kid you not – fat-free popcorn and SweeTarts candy. And I felt downright smug about my “healthy” diet.

If a time machine is ever invented I want to go back and smack me.

Over the past 10 years or so, we’ve come to see the importance of dietary fat to our health and have welcomed “healthy fats” like olive oil, avocados and nuts back into our diet. But we were still told to limit saturated fats. Even today, this very second, the FDA is still recommending to “limit saturated fats to less than 10% of calories with the majority of fat coming from poly- or mono-unsaturated fats.” They’re also still recommending fat-free or reduced-fat milk despite the fact that studies have shown full-fat dairy to be healthier.

But now The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (via Scientific American) has published a meta analysis of major studies on dietary fat that refutes once and for all the assumption that saturated fats are to blame for heart disease.

The meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.

The finding joins other conclusions of the past few years that run counter to the conventional wisdom that saturated fat is bad for the heart because it increases total cholesterol levels. That idea is “based in large measure on extrapolations, which are not supported by the data,” Krauss says.

 

But wait, it gets better: “Stampfer’s findings do not merely suggest that saturated fats are not so bad; they indicate that carbohydrates could be worse.” The article goes on to discuss research that shows that eating a diet high in refined, processed carbohydrates is correlated with heart disease. All those Snackwell’s are sitting a little heavy now, aren’t they?

While I’ve embraced the “good fats” a la avocado, nuts and olive oil for several years now, I’ve only been on the saturated fat love for just over a year. I’ve transitioned to full-fat dairy (even kicked my beloved Smart Balance habit!), sucking down raw virgin coconut oil,  and of course meat fats. The upshot of this mini-experiment is that eating lots of fat keeps me satiated longer and helps reduce my cravings for sugar (because while it turns out saturated fats aren’t correlated with coronary heart disease like we all thought, sugar sure is!) Consider me a convert! I love my real whipped cream.

I still don’t like bacon though.

What are your feelings about saturated fats? Do you ever eat the fat on your steaks or chops? Anyone else just hate bacon? And if you want to tell me about the time you bought new clothes/dishes/underwear rather than clean the ones you have, that might make me feel better;)

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyssa (azusmom) April 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I have bought new underwear rather than having to face the ultra-scary laundromat in my then-neighborhood.
Plus, I was REALLY lazy! I had time, I just chose not to do laundry.
Now we have a washer and dryer in our garage. I do laundry on a semi-regular basis, but there is still a mountain of it in the house.
Oops.

I don’t eat beef, so I don’t eat beef fat. But I do believe that eating more stuff that occurs in nature and avoiding frankenfoods leads to better health.
I just need to keep telling myself that, and back away from the cooking spray.

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bill April 27, 2012 at 12:30 am

ben greenfield (bengreenfieldfitness.com) and peter attia (waroninsulin.com) are proponents of saturated fats and have much to say on the subject. great websites to geek out on nutrition/fitness information.

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Rach April 27, 2012 at 12:44 am

holy moly, yes! yes! to the sat. fat. I save it until last – it’s the best bit. I cannot abear those chops and steaks that are sold with the fat CUT OFF! What are they thinking? And this is why I don’t buy supermarket meat any more. It has to be real beef and real pork with loads of fat left on it, around it, and running through it, from a proper butcher who knows the glory of crispy meat FAT.

Ah, I love me my sat. fat.(And dripping on toast is God’s own food.)

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Crumpled Moments April 27, 2012 at 4:02 am

I will eat fat from any grass fed, free range, hormone/antibiotic free creature that is on my plate My plate. The husbeast won’t get on board with eating the fat. He scrapes it to the side of his plate and tells me I can have it. It makes me feel like the family dog.

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Sue April 27, 2012 at 4:21 am

I’ve always hated fatty meats, even as a little child. The texture just grossed me out. Today I’m a vegetarian and grossed out by all kinds of meat, fish, or sea food.
Back in the 90s, I was on the low-fat bandwagon, too. Even now, I watch my fat intake a little, because it does contain lots of calories. I do agree about being more mindful of your sugar intake, mostly because too much (processed) sugar just makes me feel sick.
Anyway, thanks to your post I feel alittle bit better about consuming some full-fat dairy. Hand me the cream cheese!

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Miz April 27, 2012 at 5:20 am

I do.
I love me the fat (all kinds) because it tastes good:) is satiating and makes my hair look less BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

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etejoie April 27, 2012 at 5:59 am

I Charlotte I thought we had so many things in common but YOU DON’T LIKE BACON?!? I do not understand. I am all for full fats now, but I still prefer lean filets for steaks, which is good I guess since most restaurants don’t have grass fed beef?

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Jenn (GH) April 27, 2012 at 6:45 am

Love the research here! I’ve been eating animal fats since I read The Makers Diet (7 or so years ago) and then later Nourishing Traditions. Right now I have a bowl of beef fat in my fridge that I skimmed off of some bone broth I made. I use it to sauté veggies. However I can’t eat steak fat. It’s a texture thing. Makes me queasy!

Interesting you don’t like bacon! I like it but only eat it on occasion. The same with shellfish. Again started that bc of The Makers Diet years ago.

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Dr. J April 27, 2012 at 6:47 am

I left the dark side many years ago :-) I guess we’ll find out how it all will play out in the long run.

I have come to the belief that the evolved chooser does not eat meat.

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Michelle April 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

I don’t eat much meat, if my husband ever leaves me I will have to revert to being vegetarian as I hate to touch raw meat of any kind!

HoweverI think if you found a farmer that produces his own bacon you might be converted. I don’t like grocery store bacon but a couple of times in my life I have had amazing bacon from local farmers.

One of my best meals ever, a sandwich on toasted multigrain bread, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, lettuce and apple smoked bacon.

Somehow my breakfast smoothie is looking less satisfying now lol!

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marie April 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

No, you are not the only one who does not like bacon. I hate, loathe, abhor, detest, and despise bacon, butter, & the Dave Matthews Band. This has led others to speculate that I must be from another planet. It’s rare for me to find someone else who shares one of these dislikes, and I’ve never met anyone who shares 2, much less all 3.

I have the same problem with coming of age in the fat-is-evil times. I’m getting over it, slowly, and I like plant fats (nuts, seeds, avocado), as well as sesame & coconut oil, and I loves me some nice fatty fish–salmon, anyone? But butter & bacon just do not do it for me.

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Megan Ward April 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

Wait, you don’t think bacon is good to eat or you don’t…like it? You don’t LIKE IT?!

Sorry. I had a moment there…

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colleenzo April 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

It’s like you’re hanging out in my brain! I also love the steak fat and hate bacon! Kindred spirits, we are.

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Cristina @ Tiny Perfect Bites April 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

I definitely eat beef fat! And pork fat, butter, full-fat dairy. . .I think that everything in moderation is fine, although I generally avoid processed foods. (Okay, I am totally biased because I will eat Cheetos but not any sort of Tastykake product.)

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Helene@healthyfrenchie April 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I don’t like the fat on meat, I find it to tough and weird.. But I am tired of the food fads, and everything coming round in circle.. What are we supposed to eat? Seriously? As a rule I try to stick to unprocessed food and organic / grass fed as much as I can..
Oh and I’m glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t like bacon :) People usually think I’m crazy lol

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StoriesAndSweetPotatoes April 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I love this post :) There’s a ton of benefits to certain kinds of saturated fats that people just refuse to acknowledge. Trans-fat is the enemy, at least saturated fats are naturally occurring. Saturated fat from grass-fed beef contains CLA and can boost your testosterone which, as a female weight lifter, I’ll take all the help I get because I’m sure as hell not injecting testosterone into my ass. ;)

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Courtney April 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I don’t understand a person that does not like bacon. I was a vegetarian for 8 years and recently went back to eating meat (only the good kind, not factory farmed) and bacon is probably the #1 thing that makes me delight in my choice (burgers are probably #2).

I don’t eat the fat though, but that’s only because I detest the texture. Last week I realized that I’d never had lamb, so I directed my husband to procure some for my dinner (he’s the chef in the family) and he did, being the awesome man that he is. It had chunks of fat all around the edges and I even tried to eat it just to see, but it indeed still grosses me out.

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Jennie (the gf-gf) April 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I am with you on both counts! I usually wait to do laundry until my hamper is absolutely overflowing. I don’t think I have bought a single pair of underwear when I was caught up on my laundry. :-)
I was also a vegetarian for several years, and was anemic enough that no amount of spinach and molasses would help. Eventually, when my hair started falling out, I started eating beef again, and I started feeling GREAT – which was so surprising to me, because I was sure it was going to make me gain weight, raise my cholesterol, etc. Actually, the only side effect I’ve had was normalized iron levels.

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Jame April 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

As for confession #1: I have been buying new stuff to avoid laundry since college. I now have plenty of underwear to last I don’t know 2 months or so. ;) I turned my sister on to this trick.

Confession #2: I can’t eat the white beef fat. I don’t really like solid fat. But beef fat is tasty. I am definitely down to eat it if it has softened. And maybe left in the pan with all the beef juices. And some nice crusty bread. ;) Or kinda like this recipe: http://www.sidewalkshoes.com/2009/03/roasted-tenderloin-of-beef-with-roasted.html

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Naomi/Dragonmamma April 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Amen, sistah, tossing away the blobs of fat from grass-fed beef is a wasteful sin.
You know what’s even better? Marrow! I love to slurp that stuff out of the bones.

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Fern April 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I am so glad you posted about this! And it’s even better that you linked MDA! I’m Paleo, so I adore fats of all kinds except for the unholy transfats and other man-made Frankenoils. I definitely identify with the transition from fat-free to fat-tastic. “I was really good at it too! I went for years without touching meat, real cheese, nuts, avocados and even chocolate. I replaced them with – and I kid you not – fat-free popcorn and SweeTarts candy. And I felt downright smug about my “healthy” diet.” This comes straight out of my thinking from two years ago. I was the girl who wouldn’t touch egg yolds with a ten-foot stick and got my kicks from reduced-fat peanut butter (NEVER. AGAIN.). It still astounds me that I simply took conventional wisdom as gospel without doing any of my own research. In my darkest days, I cried after eating a slice of quiche that I found out had sour cream (and full-fat!) in it after all. I relish fats now. I haven’t loved food like this since I was 14. I adore coconut cream especially, curries are my staple. Bacon is amazing, but I understand not liking it (sometimes I find it too salty). I’m 16, so I do get some pressure from family. They’re very confused when I’ll chow down to a full English Breakfast without touching the toast. They also know of my past though, so they’re aware that it’s a big leap from where I was “at”. Oh, and my friend’s sister has chronic fatigue. Her family did a lot of research into integrative medicine, and she takes at least 3 tablespoons a day of straight coconut oil. Correlation does not denote causation, but I found it interesting. Thanks for the great post :) I feel like you can read my mind!

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Fern April 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm

What happens when I don’t check my post before hitting submit:
yold = yolk
And I forgot to mention that my friend’s sister is much better for taking the coconut oil.
ANYWAY.

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TwoDiffSocks April 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm

i have no idea what this post is about cos i read this part: Once right side out and once inside out – for the latter, I just tell everyone they dressed themselves. I don’t add that I told them to dress themselves that way.

and laughed myself silly. THAT is PRICELESS!

;D

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Joanna Aislinn April 28, 2012 at 7:06 am

OMG, I, what a FUN article. Love your posts but time doesn’t always love me keeping up with them.

Laundry: do my best to keep up with it but hate it. Thank God hubby hangs it up or puts it away. (I do the actual laundering or we might not have wearable clothing, lol.)

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the fat on steak and pork chops and have scarily gotten into sausage lately too. (There. I owned it.) Unfortunately, I haven’t made it to looking for grass-fed varieties yet; I do, however, leave only a little fat on the meats and boil my sausage big-time before grilling or browning it. (That’s good, right?) I like my 1% milk–organic–and have no desire to go back to full-fat. (Too creamy, unless it’s in coffee.)

Love bacon but don’t go out of my way to buy it and don’t really think about it, unless it’s there. (THAT is another story.)

This post also confirms what I’ve always wondered about Amish folks and their diet. Heavy on the saturated fat but probably okay since they raise their own food.

Think I covered all your questions. Enjoy your day!

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deb roby April 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

Back about 25 years ago, I was put on the “heart healthy” diet because of genetically high cholesterol. I’ve had weight and eating problems ever since.

Have just recently decided to try eating the way my body naturally wants to – fat, protein, fresh fruits and veggies. I feel better. After the first week, I no longer have cravings for sugar.

When it comes to animal flesh, the important thing is knowing what your food ate. Wild caught salmon ate algae and is high in Omega 3 oils. Farmed salmon ate corn, and is high in Omega 6. Same with pork and beef.

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Evilcyber April 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

In my opinion, we simply have to get away from the idea that “nutrient x is bad” (fill x in with whatever is the craze de jour). 25-30 years ago it was fat, today it is carbohydrates. In reality, what counts is the complete picture: as long as your weight remains in the normal range and you do a moderate bit of fitness, you pretty well covered all your bases.

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Rachel April 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Hi Charlotte,
I just read the China Study, which was the single largest study of diet ever – and they found that animal protein (not the fat – big distinction!!) was the single determiner of cancer. and since cancer runs in my family much much more than heart disease, I’ve decided to go vegan. I don’t miss meat now that I’ve stopped eating it (although I haven’t been able to get off of cheese cold turkey…) I still eat a lot of fat though. I love fat!

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Colleen April 30, 2012 at 10:43 am

You should check out Robb Wolfs page and what he has to say about this study. As well as Marks Daily Apple. The study may have been large but not well done.

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Jen April 28, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Everyone knows SweetTarts are a superfood. Duh.

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Man Bicep April 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I’ve bought new underwear instead of doing the laundry. Of course when the new underwear ran out I realized that I finally had to do the stack of laundry that was starting to completely take over my room!

And I LOVE animal fat. I eat every little bit of the fat on my steak. I’ve seriously even been tempted to reach over and grab the fat off of Ryan’s plate when we have steak if he doesn’t eat it! (I have yet to do this as I’m sure it will get me a very strange look.)

I think I just love fat in general though.

I do love bacon. And butter. When we eat lobster, I swear I eat more butter than I do lobster!

And the best part is, I firmly believe all of these fats are good for me especially if they come from naturally raised animals!

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Fat Guy April 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I don’t eat the beef fat. I do, however, cut it off, rub it on my face, and lick it many, many times. Ahhhh….the shame.

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Abby Anderson April 30, 2012 at 11:12 am

I love crispy fat. *head down in shame.

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Heather April 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Nothing better than beef fat, especially from a ribeye steak grilled at home. Yum!

I also love eating chicken skin, so there is a good chance I’m just gross….

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Abby April 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Well, as a born and raised vegetarian I’ve never had a steak so I can’t speak to that but I do love vegetarian bacon! Yum! I don’t think it tastes like real bacon though, or so I’ve heard.

I’m still pretty fearful of fats. Being raised during the fat free 90s I grew up drinking skim milk and eating reduced fat peanut butter, etc. It’s a super hard habit for me to change! I do eat nuts/avocado/olive oil and I switched to low fat cheeses and yogurt but full fat is terrifying. And I heart margarine. It’s both the higher calories and the fat. But I do get crazy sugar cravings so maybe that would help…

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Robyn May 1, 2012 at 9:47 am

I will take my steak cooked with the fat on and wrapped in bacon, but then trim it. I can’t eat the fat. The texture is too slimy.

I haven’t bought anything to replace what isn’t washed lately, but when my husband and I were apartment dwellers with no dishwasher, dishes piled up for 2 months at a time. We ate off paper plates rather than tackle the mountain. When we bought our house, we realized we wouldn’t have to wash those dishes; we could just get rid of them. We’d be able to use the new dishes we received as wedding gifts, and had been saving for when we bought a house. Hooray! Lazy and wasteful and kind of embarrassing to admit, but we have been happily eating off of clean dishes for the past 8 years (thanks to a dishwasher).

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Rebecca May 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Again, I will say:

You can pry my butter and peanut buttered toast out of my cold, dead hands.

FAT IS AWESOME.

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nodrama4mama May 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I LOVE me some beef fat. Especially when its fresh from the oven or grill. Its the tastiest part!

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