YOUR GRANDPARENTS NEVER thought twice about eating foods with saturated fat.
They drank milk with cream on the top, ate whole eggs for breakfast, and enjoyed steak for dinner—all while leading normal, healthy lives.
Yet today, despite all the warnings we’re told to follow regarding saturated fat and its deleterious effects on the heart, cardiovascular disease is more prevalent than ever. We corralled some of our most trusted nutritionists and asked them to dispel the most common myths about saturated fat.
Meet the experts:
- Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. Known as “the Rogue Nutritionist,” Bowden has authored 14 books on health, food, and longevity.
- Nate Miyaki, C.S.S.N. Miyaki is a trainer and nutrition consultant in San Francisco specializing in prepping physique athletes for competition.
- Spencer Nadolsky, M.D. An osteopathic family physician who specializes in bariatric medicine and cholesterol, Nadolsky is the medical editor of examine.com.
What are saturated fats?
From a very rudimentary standpoint, saturated fats are molecules that don’t have double bonds between carbon molecules (they’re saturated with hydrogen). This means they’re usually solid at room temperature. Some examples include beef, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, and dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk.
What actually causes heart disease?
There’s no single cause of heart disease, but there are a number of major promoters, and I believe the main ones are inflammation, oxidative damage, stress, and sugar, Bowden says. Toxins and viruses may play a role as well. Without inflammation, there’s no plaque—which is, after all, an attempt by the body to “patch up” an injury. Research suggests the hormonal effects of stress—namely, chronically elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol—have multiple effects on the body, all of them damaging and some of them directly related to heart health, according to a British study done in 2012. While fat has gotten a bum rap, the real villain in the American diet is sugar—and foods that quickly convert to sugar, such as processed cereals, pastas, and breads. It was never fat that was killing us—it’s been sugar all the time, and we’re consuming record amounts of it, unprecedented in human history.
Bottom line: If you’re battling heart disease, you want to watch caloric excess. Going wild on saturated fats isn’t advisable. But if your overall diet is healthy, there’s no outright reason for most people to avoid them.