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;)