Attitudes to saturated fat are slowly shifting back to positive, thanks, in part, to research debunking fat myths as well as tireless crusaders of wholefoods and natural fats. While this doesn’t get the deep fryer off the hook, it does give us reason to relax around natural fats. After all, they might just be good for us.
By
Kris Franken

4 Jun 2014 - 3:39 PM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2014 - 2:23 PM

The forgotten superfood

Joanna Rushton, chef, coach and nutrition specialist, says there’s no such thing as ‘bad’ fat. “The only time a fat – whether it’s polyunsaturated, monounsaturated or saturated – becomes bad is if it’s altered from its natural state or consumed in excess.”

In her classic book, Nourishing Traditions (NewTrends Publishing, $27), Sally Fallon sums up the benefits of fats from animal and vegetable sources as providing “a concentrated source of energy… that slows down nutrient absorption so we can go longer without feeling hungry… and acts as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.”

Fat also boosts the immune and respiratory systems and the ability to produce hormones, while regenerating cells so they’re strong, rigid and healthy. “It makes biological sense that we need saturated fat; each cell in our body is made up of 50 per cent saturated fat,” says Rushton.

Here’s where to find them:

Dairy

High-quality, full-fat dairy - especially butter, yoghurt and cheese – is nutritious and worth eating if your digestion can tolerate it, according to author Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple. He refers to studies that show a link between milk and reduced blood pressure; full-fat fermented dairy and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease; and vitamin K2, found in cheese, linked with reduced risk of incident and fatal cancer.

According to The Weston A. Price Foundation, grass-fed butter has the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which protects against cancer, and helps the body build muscle rather than store fat.

Pork and lard

Good, clean lard is fat from an organic pig, not a hydrogenated product in a shop. It may not sound nourishing, but it contains the second-highest amount of vitamin D found in any food source, and half the saturated fat found in butter. It’s also recommended by Andrew Weil M.D. for cooking, because it has a higher smoking point than other fats, and foods cooked in it absorb less grease.

Rendered lard from Healthy Green Kitchen by Winnie Abramson

 

Chicken, egg and liver

Organic chicken is a healthy source of high-density protein, selenium, zinc, niacin and other vitamins. Organic eggs, nature’s perfect protein snack, contain twice as much omega-3 fats, three times as much vitamin E, and seven times more beta carotene than conventionally produced eggs, according to Rushton.

Chicken livers are densely nutritious; rich in iron for healthy blood, folate for protection against heart disease, vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes, and cholesterol for healthy hormones, cells and nerves.

Chicken liver pate from Fuel on a Budget by Joanna Rushton

 

Red meat

Almost half of the fat in grass-fed red meat is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid - the heart-healthy fat that's also found in olive oil – associated with lowered inflammation and less body fat. As for the saturated fat in red meat, Rushton explains it actually decreases heart-disease risk by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, reducing the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol, plus there’s high amounts of iron and vitamins B6 and B12.

Slow-cooked lamb Kashmir shanks from Rocket Fuel on a Budget by Joanna Rushton

 

Coconut oil

Consumed in the tropics for thousands of years, coconut oil is now a huge hit in Australia and for good reason. Its anti-fungal properties make it ideal for healing intestinal problems; it’s good for stabilising blood sugar levels; reduces inflammation and is anti-viral. “It contains medium-chain fatty acids, which get used straight away, not stored as fat. It’s an instantly available energy source!” says Rushton.

Avocado

According to the Avocado Association of Australia, the popular green fruit has surprising amounts of potassium (twice as much as a banana), calcium, folate, fibre, omega 3 and protein. Plus, it’s a powerful antioxidant.

Chocolate mousse from Rocket Fuel on a Budget by Joanna Rushton

 

Choose organic

Choose fats from an organic source to ensure all the nutrients are intact. If the animal is fed grains or other foods not natural to their diet, levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 and toxicity levels will increase within that fat. Local farmer’s markets may stock fats and meat from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals that haven’t been certified organic. If you’re not sure, ask! And enjoy, naturally.