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Saturated Fats: The Truth May Be Surprising
In the world of diets people run from fats, especially saturated fats. Saturated fat, normally solid at room temperature, consists mostly of animal origin, including dairy products, meat, nuts, coconut, and palm oil. Doctors have accused saturated fat of raising total blood cholesterol levels, obesity, stroke, and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Even today, many scientists consider too much saturated fat just dangerous to the human arteries (spacedoc.com). Actually, contrary to the mainstream health talk, saturated fat such as virgin coconut oil and real butter do one’s body a huge service in nutrition and weight loss.
Before revealing the benefits of saturated fat, examining history and background of heart disease illumines facts. Heart disease hardly existed before 1920. Apparently, no one suffered from clogged arteries. However by the mid-1950s, heart disease contributed to one of the most leading causes of death among Americans. During this time, saturated fat intake actually decreased, while vegetable oils (in the form of margarine, shortening, and refined oils) increased by about 400% and the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased by about 60% (Fallon 2001). Marketers follow the hype with selling all kinds of “low-fat” and “fat-free” food alternatives. For most of these products, unhealthy, non-nutritive alternatives such as refined sugars, chemical “fat substitutes” like Olestra, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and Splenda, replace the fat. As a result, conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes have increased dramatically. Unfortunately, many people have believed the false accusations of saturated fats, and they turn to processed foods to avoid high intake of saturated fat.
Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) receive their name because all available carbon atoms of the molecule bond with a hydrogen atom. In other words, the SFA molecules do not have openings for rancidity or spoilage; whereas a polyunsaturated fatty acid contains two or more pairs of double bonds without hydrogen atoms in the open space. Because of this, SFAs can have a long shelf-life; resist heat damage, and help many essential body functions. . Furthermore, saturated fats improve the immune system. Animal saturated fats, like butter or fatty organ meats, contain huge amounts of essential fat-soluble vitamins. Not only meat, but coconut oil, which originates from plants, has received negative publicity.
Unfortunately, over the years dieters avoid coconut oil, even though in reality coconut proves one of the healthiest fats. Even though pure virgin coconut oil contains the highest amount of saturated fat of any fat, Bruce Fife, MD, recommends adding coconut oil and substituting it for polyunsaturated oils to suppress appetite, boost metabolism, and bring about weight loss. Unlike highly processed fats such as canola oil, the liver recognizes coconut oil as a fat and metabolizes it as one. Joseph Mercola, D.O., claims, “Coconut oil is truly the healthiest oil you can consume” and urges readers to try virgin coconut oil and “experience the health benefits for yourself” (Mercola). Saturated fat in coconut oil (as well as in palm kernel oil) contains the medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) variety. Interestingly, the body digests MCFAs more easily and uses them differently than other fats. MCFAs travel directly to the liver where the fats convert into energy anon. In other words, the body uses the fat to make energy rather than store it (Fife 2001, 39).
Additionally, virgin coconut oil consists richly of lauric acid, a prized substance. Pure coconut oil contains about 50 percent lauric acid making it the most abundant natural source of lauric acid available (Walling 2009). Lauric acid contains strong antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Many people who regularly consume coconut oil experience less sickness. Interestingly, the only other natural source of high concentration of lauric acid consists in breast milk. Eating coconut will not only provide protection against bacteria and viruses, but also improve the condition of skin and hair, in addition to many other benefits (Walling 2009).
In conclusion, dieters have certainly gone too far in proclaiming saturated fat unhealthy and artery-clogging. Consuming appropriate amounts of saturated fats, such as those found in organic butter, eggs, and coconut oil, help in maintaining proper hormone balance. Studies of older women with heart disease eating the most saturated fat resulted in the least atherosclerosis disease progression in coronary arteries over a three-year period concurs with the nutritious bounty contained in saturated fat (Boyles 2004). With this in mind, I do not advocate all saturated fats. People should only consume butter labeled organic, raw, antibiotic and hormone free butter, and if possible, from grass-fed cows. Healthy-eaters must acknowledge the surprising truth: saturated fat has proven crucial for life’s functions.
Fallon, Sally, with Mary G. Enig (2001). Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that
Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, 2nd edition.
Washington, DC: New Trends. Print.
Fife, Bruce. The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil. Colorado Springs, CO:
Health Wise. 2001. Print.
Mercola, Joseph. “The Truth About Coconut Oil: Why It Got a Bad Rep.” Mercola.com.
October 2011. articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/09/13/coconut-oil-
Ravnskov, Uffe MD. “Saturated Fat is Good for You.” spacedoc.com. August 2011. October 2011. http://www.spacedoc.com/saturated_fat_is_good_for_you_1 Web.
Walling, Elizabeth. “Learn About the Many Benefits of Lauric Acid in Coconut Oil.”
NaturalNews.com. 9 Aug 2009. Oct. 2011.