Want to eat healthier but feel like you're reading conflicting advice on saturated fats everywhere you turn? We're setting the record straight on saturated fats so you can make the healthiest choices for your heart and health.
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In 2014 Time magazine declared that butter is back, and with it, saturated fat. People who'd cut animal fats from their diets for health reasons rejoiced; they had permission to start eating all the “forbidden” foods they'd been avoiding.
But was this advice sound? We're separating nutrition fact from fiction by addressing these common myths about saturated fat.
Myth #1: Dietary fats don't cause weight gain
With nine calories per gram, fats can lead to obesity if consumed in excess. As a comparison, carbohydrates, and protein only offer four calories per gram. In addition, fats have zero fiber, an essential component for a healthy gut or digestion.
So if you're considering a high fat low carb diet, like keto, for weight loss, it may be time to reconsider (and opt for plant-based foods instead). Both keto and plant-based diets can help with weight loss, and in the short-term, keto wins for overall pounds lost; but when it comes to fat loss, sustainable weight loss and compliance, nutrient-density, and overall health benefits, a plant-based diet comes out on top!
To lose weight, the best option is a healthy, oil-free, plant-based diet, centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate consumption of nuts, seeds, and foods naturally high in good fat, such as avocados.
Myth #2: Dietary fats are not associated with high blood glucose
Think you have to cut carbs to cut diabetes risk? Studies have repeatedly correlated saturated fat consumption with an increased risk of diabetes, not carbs.
This is because excess calorie and fat consumption lead to an increase in the size and number of fat cells in the body, and fat starts accumulating in areas they shouldn’t be, link the muscle, liver, and pancreas. Fat in the muscle stops glucose from entering the muscle cells, resulting in higher sugar levels in the blood. The pancreas in return starts producing more insulin to overcome insulin resistance, trying to force glucose into the muscle.
At the same time, fatty deposits in the liver cause liver failure to suppress glucose production, leading to even higher blood sugar levels. This accumulation of inflammation and fatty acids leads to pancreatic failure and eventually the pancreas is unable to produce more insulin, leading to diabetes.
Why do carbs get the blame? Because if you already have insulin resistance, due to a high fat diet, carb-heavy foods, even natural ones like fruit and potatoes, can cause blood sugar to spike because insulin resistance is preventing the insulin from doing its job and getting glucose to those muscle cells.
Myth #3: Dietary fats are good for the heart
It depends on what types of fats we are talking about here.
Consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation has been known to reduce LDL levels in the blood (low-density lipoprotein, known as the “bad” cholesterol) and increase HDL (high-density lipoprotein, known as the “good” cholesterol). This protects against cardiovascular diseases and strokes.
However, saturated fats have the opposite effect on cholesterol. Eating saturated fats leads to cholesterol build-up inside the linings of the blood vessels, gradually narrowing them down so that the blood is straining to pass through. This ultimately leads to high blood pressure, clot formation, and severely increases the risk of heart disease.
- Saturated fat consumption has been associated with a number of disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, and obesity.
- For optimum health, aim to follow a low fat whole food, plant-based diet.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.