The Benefits of Saturated Fat

We’ve already covered why eating fat doesn’t make you fat, but let’s talk specifically about saturated fats today.

[source]

Saturated fats have gotten a bad rap over the past few decades, but are they really as dangerous as we have been led to believe? I don’t think so. Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing that eating a fresh coconut can possibly lead to heart disease or cancer, even if it is brimming with saturated fat!

In fact, according to Julia Ross, author of The Diet Cure, going low-fat has had no beneficial effect on women’s rates of heart disease, stroke, or cancer.

Many experts would actually argue that saturated fats aren’t the problem, it’s the high omega-6 vegetable oils that are. (Especially the hydrogenated ones!) In the 1990s, it was conclusively proven that hydrogenated vegetable oils (a.k.a. “trans fats”) cause heart disease, not saturated fats.

Another 2010 study also confirms that saturated fat is innocent, concluding that there is no association between saturated fat and risk of heart disease or stroke.

I have a feeling it will take some time before saturated fat is able to shed its “unhealthy” stigma, so here are a few reasons why I believe it’s actually good for us:

1. Saturated fats are uniquely resistant to heat and rancidity. Cooking in high-heat can toxify most vegetable oils (even olive oil!), while saturated fats, like butter and coconut oil, will hold up during the cooking process, without creating dangerous carcinogens. This is why I will ONLY cook with grass-fed butter or coconut oil.

Save your cold-pressed olive oil for dressing salads, or for drizzling over cooked veggies just before serving.

2. Saturated fats are essential for proper nutrient absorption. Vitamins A, D, and E cannot be absorbed into our bodies without saturated fats acting as a carrier, nor can calcium. [source]

This is why I recommend eating some fat with your leafy greens! Cooking your spinach in a bit of butter or coconut oil actually increases the calcium your body absorbs. Olive oil also contains a bit of saturated fat, making it a perfect salad topping. Grass-fed butter is surprisingly packed with nutrients, including 10 vitamins, 10 minerals, and 18 amino acids!

3. Saturated fats are more satisfying, and help curb cravings. Saturated fats are great for energy, converting slowly and steadily into cellular fuel as needed, keeping our blood sugar levels stable. Cravings for starchy carbohydrates and sugar are reduced as a result!

4. Saturated fats may boost metabolism and aid weight loss efforts. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that medium-chain fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil, were three times more effective at raising the metabolism than long-chain fatty acids. [source]

The following study provides a great argument for the benefits of coconut oil, too. (And an even better reason to avoid processed soy and corn!)

In the 1940s, a group of farmers attempted to “fatten up” their cows by feeding them dietary fat (in the form of coconut oil). To their dismay, the cows actually became leaner! Eventually, they found that a diet of soy beans and corn– which converts to sugar in the body– suppressed the thyroid and caused the animals to fatten up without even eating as much food. [source]

Despite the benefits stated above, this is not an excuse to start binging on bacon and butter. When consuming fat, I believe quality is very important! Especially when it comes to animal fat, choose organic, pasture-raised products whenever possible. Body fat is where we store toxins that shouldn’t come into contact with our essential organs, so the more toxic the environment that the animal was raised in, the more toxins we are likely to consume in their stored body fat. Grass-fed butter and meats are best. In regards to coconut oil, look for organic and pure extra-virgin labels. The same goes for olive oil!

Fragile vegetable oils, like canola, soy, corn or cottonseed, are often processed and are not recommended. Vitamin E is usually removed from these oils to produce their attractive golden color, but this processing causes rancidity, and eating rancid oils damages cells and encourages abnormal cell growth. [source] These cheap oils are also deodorized, so that we can’t discover the rancidity! Yuck.

So, here’s to enjoying some satisfying saturated fats–> especially in the form of almond butter fudge or coconut macaroons! 

Reader Feedback: Have you been scared of eating saturated fats? If so, are you more likely to eat them now?

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Meet Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned certified nutritionist consultant, trying to make healthy living as easy as possible. I believe in eating delicious whole foods on a regular basis to help naturally support the body’s detox organs— no juice fasting required. (Unless you want to!) If you make one of my healthy recipes, tag @detoxinista on Instagram or Facebook so I can see!

22 thoughts on “The Benefits of Saturated Fat

  1. Rose Hill

    I’m totally on board with your assessment. Who knew coconut consisted of saturated fat?:) I love coconut and nobody could ever convince me there may be something bad for you in it.
    Coconut Macaroons are a gift from God:)
    Thanks for this enlightening article, now I’m off to find your coconut macaroon recipe.

    Reply
  2. Felicia

    okay this is soo funny because this morning i was reading to my parents about the health benefits of saturated fat and why they need to be eating coconut oil DAILY. love this! i feel a lottt better on a high fat diet and don’t ever plan on changing that 🙂

    Reply
  3. Chef Almost Vegan

    You know I’m all about my coconut 🙂 I’ve struck a good balance with fat, where I don’t overdo it (it’s ridiculously easy for me to eat 70+% of my calories from fat! Nuts, seeds, and coconut, baby…), but I do eat more than most people think we’re supposed to – 40% is pretty standard for me. I don’t feel satisfied with less than 30% or so each day.

    Reply
  4. the delicate place

    so many times yes! as a scientist, i do my research yet i can’t believe how many times i get the stink eye when i tell people how much fat and in particular fat from coconut i eat on a daily basis! however, i will put the disclaimer out that raw pressed oils (extra virgin) are definitely way way to go. i avoid most seed oils due to the quick rancidity but i have flax in moderation to mix things up.

    Reply
  5. jeanne

    I love plant fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, and I’ll do coconut oil from time to time but there is no way I will eat saturated animal fat. There’s just too much evidence in the literature right now against it and heart disease is too scary for me to trust the few sources that say it’s healthy. Many of my relatives have had the problems associated with a high animal fat diet but so far all of my numbers have been in the normal range so I’m not going to take the risk. I don’t really crave those kind of rich foods like butter anyway so it’s not a big deal. My personal decision is to stay away, but that’s just me 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marianne

      Animal fat got a bad reputation, but the science is not sound. For a full review, read Good Calories, Bad Calories. It is rather shocking how the conclusions now regarded a fact came into being, and how little science there really is to back it up.

      Reply
  6. Lisa

    I was just telling my mom how great coconut oil is for us! And saturated fats in general, from proper sources. Funny you posted this today! I used to think fat made me fat and was terrified of coconuts. But, I love them now and eat some form of coconut once a day. And I’m not anywhere near fat in the slightest.

    Reply
  7. Holly

    I couldn’t agree with you more!!! I have unsweetened coconut and/or coconut oil daily! I also have some type of nuts or seeds or avocados daily too! LOVE ’em!!

    Reply
  8. David Evans

    It might be surprising to some but the scientific evidence agrees with you that saturated fat is beneficial. I have the details on my website “Healthy Diets and Science” of over 100 studies that show the benefits of saturated fat.

    Reply
  9. Naz

    Absolutely LOVE this and I agree 100%…. we really need to get away from this fat phobia that has been ingrained in our culture! I’ll be sharing this on my blog!

    Reply
  10. tyronebcookin

    Red Palm Oil is also a raw pressed oil and mainly used for cooking in West African cooking.

    I have spent a few years traveling in West Africa and have known their cooking and heavy use of Red Palm Oil in almost every meal (especially Liberia and Ghana)and I can assure you getting fat or health problems from this saturated fat are miniscule and non-existent. Yes, it is a different culture and we could probably argue years of DNA and genes passed down but…

    I bring this up because there are some dishes back home (in the USA) you just can not reproduce certain African dishes or recipes UNLESS you use the Red Palm Oil, it has a distinct taste.

    Also palm oil is used in a lot of foods and oils (mixed) both processed and cooked in the USA and world-wide. Because it can be listed as a ‘vegetable oil’.

    Reply
  11. Lauren

    Love this. It has been because of what I’ve read here that I’ve stopped cooking with olive oil. I’ve never trusted canola oil, and I know that corn and soy are both highly subsidized by the government, so I feel like farmers will do whatever is necessary to grow a lot of each, including genetic modification. Such a great post!

    Reply
  12. Sophia

    Another excellent (delicious) source of saturated fat is cocoa (chocolate). In fact, if you look at the nutritional profile of unsweetened chocolate (like a baker’s chocolate), it has a lot of iron, and dietary fiber as well. Use less refined sweeteners (blackstrap molasses has a lot of iron as well for those that are iron deficient) if unsweetened chocolate is too dark (I love it).

    Reply
  13. Karen

    I eat as much fat as I want. And I have a lot of energy, I eat what I want (as long as it is what I would consider a real food) and I call it a day. I never have food cravings anymore, I have more energy, and Ive gained more muscle. I don’t even feel the need to wear as much makeup anymore because my increased fat intake has made my skin complexion and hair better.

    Reply
  14. Bradley Wiskowski

    You know .. the other hidden benefit in addition to consuming the healthy saturated fats coconuts have like you all mentioned and are in tune with is that COCONUT IS ALKALINE IN THE BODY – and as some of you may or may not know, diseases, cancers, and other illnesses CANNOT EXIST in a body that is alkaline. An alkaline body has a pH balance of around 7.3-7.4 and coconuts most certainly help get you there. Here’s to you Coconut – Cheers y’all!

    Bradley

    Reply
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  16. Melanie

    I’m going to give this a fair try!! I have about 30 pounds to lose from the last 2 babies and like most people, my trained brain keeps telling me to keep away from fat!! I do eat pretty healthy, mostly vegan and unprocessed, low (if any) sugar, etc… But also very low fat. I’m going to do a 30 day test run and see how it goes

    Reply

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