Dietary Fats: A Resource Page

Dietary fat is a topic of much controversy, and as of late, increasing research. Depending on where you find yourself in this conversation, you’ll probably be curious about why I make particular fat choices in my recipes. So in the stormy sea of available information about fat, I did my best to find you informative, well-cited articles that will hopefully give you a good grasp on all this. I may not fall 100% in line with each point made in every article here, but I think even that is important to formulating a balanced view. 

In these articles, there’s not much mention of trans fats (partially-hydrogenated oils). My guess is that's because there's really no argument over whether or not they're okay to eat. Simply, they should be avoided as much as possible. Here’s a look at where they're most commonly found (1): 

  • Most baked goods, such as cakes, cookies and pie crusts
  • Some snack foods, such as potato and corn chips and microwave popcorn
  • Fried foods, such as doughnuts and french fries
  • Ready-made doughs for things like pizza crust, pie crust and cookies
  • Nondairy coffee creamer and margarines

Consumption of trans fatty acids is linked to inflammation and cardiovascular disease (2), cancer (3), and it messes with blood cholesterol (4). Across the board, they're very bad news.

Okay, on to the articles!

Fats Made Simple by John Meadows of TNation

So yes, this is a bodybuilding website. With a bent toward maintaining testosterone levels. But wait! It provides such a great article on healthy fats. I love how he breaks down which oils are good for cooking and which are good for dressing/topping. He also touches a bit on rancidity, oxidization, oils reaching smoke point, and ratios between Omega 3 to Omega 6. Told you it was good!

The Total Beginners Guide to Paleo and Fat by Paleo Leap

Even though I don’t fall entirely into the Paleo camp in general philosophy and some practice, we share a lot of similarities in our beliefs and approach to nutrition. This is a good, very readable overview of different fats and their sources. It’s well-cited, and informative. 

Favorite quotes:

“Not all fat is good! Remember… you should aim to limit Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. 

The following foods will set you up for too much Omega-6, so avoid them: 

Industrial seed oils: 

- Canola oil

- Corn oil

- Peanut oil

- Soybean oil

- 'Vegetable oil' (could be any or all of the previous)

- Margarine, 'buttery spread,' etc. Real butter is good for you; fake butter is not.

- Excessive amounts of nuts or seeds. It’s fine to eat them; just keep it to about a handful per day.”

I don’t snack on nuts if I’m planning to incorporate them into a meal that day. Otherwise I find that a handful a day is a good rule of thumb.

“Essentially, as long as you completely free yourself from all fear of fat 'making you fat,' your taste buds and hunger will guide you towards appropriate amounts of fat.”

As long as you’re eating the right fats, this rings true for me.

The Fear of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol by Paleo Leap

From the same blog as the previous article, this one looks at the relationship between saturated fat and cholesterol, and where the purported causal association began.

Favorite quote:

“…while it could be true that a generally high serum level of cholesterol correlates somewhat with heart disease, it’s only oxidized cholesterol that wreaks havoc. High-levels of non-oxidized serum cholesterol are not problematic, but protective and essential to life and to all cells. With these last findings, we should therefore be focusing on what oxidizes the cholesterol in the first place.

It turns out that the biggest factors contributing to that oxidation are high polyunsaturated fat consumption from seed oils and excess fructose consumption. Those are the exact foods that the AHA and the USDA (United-States Department of Agriculture) have been telling us to eat in order to reduce our consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol.” (5)

Does Dietary Saturated Fat Increase Blood Cholesterol? An Informal Review of Observational Studies by Stephen Guyenet

I appreciate this extensive review on studies looking at saturated fat and its assumed link to heart disease. You can tell he waded through a lot of information to bring it to us. I also like his tone of unbiased presentation. (6)

The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat by Mark Sisson

This next one is from Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. This article is so informative it’s definitely worth a look.

Favorite quote:

“…talk of the superior cardiovascular health of the Tokelau (with their 50% dietary saturated fat intake) or the Masai (with their diet of meat, blood, and milk) or the Inuit (with their ancestral diet of high-blubber animals) is all disregarded or ignored. If they even deign to listen to the facts, they’ll acknowledge the existence of healthy populations eating tons of saturated fat while muttering something about “genetic adaptation” or “statistical outliers.” It’s all hogwash, and it’s infuriating, especially when there’s so much literature refuting the saturated fat hypothesis. If you’re interested in more information on these three oft-cited high-saturated fat groups, check out Stephan’s entries on the Tokelau, the Masai, and the Inuit.” (7)

And let’s not forget dairy!

I think the bottom line with dairy is, as with most things, you need to pay attention to your body’s signals. Can you tolerate it? Then choose high quality dairy (organic, grass fed milk) and eat it in moderation. The reason I’ve made my site dairy-optional is because I want to be as inclusive as possible.

Here’s a bit from Paleo Leap’s Saturated Fat, Revisited:

“Butter, Ghee, and Dairy Fat

Dairy fat in particular has come in for a lot of well-deserved exoneration lately: if there’s anything wrong with dairy, it’s the proteins and the carbohydrates, not the fat!

This study (2010) found that dairy consumption was associated with lower risk of heart disease and stroke. 

And according to this one (2014), ‘Data pertaining to dairy fat were inconclusive, but point to a potential protective effect of full-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt on risk of cardiovascular disease.’” (8)