Many people shake their heads in silent censorship whenever the word “fat” is mentioned in conjunction with health. Somehow, we’ve suffered a collective brainwashing by the no-fat, low-fat diet zealots; and the mere mention of “fat” has been demonized. Add “saturated” fat to the conversation and you run the risk of being banned from civil society! Well, at the risk of raising a few eyebrows and sending some of you running from this page, I will try to clear the confusion on saturated fats and share with you some fat facts: which are bad, which are good for you; especially for the production of testosterone, and just a little fat chemistry.
So please don’t run away just yet, especially those of you who secretly harbor a desirous longing for full fat butter, full fat cream, and bacon. Yum!
Yes, gents, fat is where it’s at!
So, before I stun you with some hard facts about the importance of saturated fats, let’s get a little scientific by looking at the molecular structures of the three types of fatty acids found in foods: (for those of you who are beginning to yawn or are getting a little wobbly brained at the on coming approach of biochemistry, please skip this section and go down to the next photo and read the bullet points on the benefits of saturated fats.)
- Saturated ~ saturated fats are highly stable because on the molecular level, all of the carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. When all of the carbon-atom linkages of a *fatty acid are filled, it is saturated. Saturated fats tend not to go rancid when exposed to air or high temperature cooking. In nature, saturated fatty acids are found in animal fats (butter, lard, duck fat) and tropical oils (coconut, palm). By the way, Crisco, and other types of hydrogenated oils do not exist in nature and are not healthy sources of saturated fat.
- Monounsaturated ~ monounsaturated fats are not quite as stable as their saturated counterparts because they have one double bond with two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and so are lacking two hydrogen atoms. Your body can make monounsaturated fatty acids from saturated fatty acids. Oleic acid is a common monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil, as well as oils from almonds, peanuts, tea seeds, sesame seeds, and avocadoes. Although the monounsaturated oils are not as stable as saturated fats, they don’t go rancid too easily and can be used for cooking.
- Polyunsaturated ~ polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more pairs of double bonds, and so are the most unstable of the three types of fats. A polyunsaturated fatty acid lacks four or more hydrogen bonds and are therefore very prone to rancidity and should not be heated or exposed to air for a long period of time. Two well-known essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are Omega-3 and Omega-6.
*fatty acids are long-chained molecules having a methyl group at one end and a carbolylix acid group at the other end.
That’s enough of carbon-hydrogen bondage science for now. The important thing to remember is that all fats and oils are composed of a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Butter, lard, and other animal fats contain between 40 – 60% saturated fats and are therefore solid at room temperature. Tropical oils also contain high percentages of saturated fatty acids, but are liquid in warm climates and very solid in cold climates. (Coconut oil is 92% saturated).
In terms of cooking, the more stable or saturated the fat; the more it can hold a high cooking temperature without going rancid. And there lies the center piece of good health! Ingesting rancid oils cause raging radical damage by introducing a lot of free radicals in your body and so requires a lot of antioxidants to squelch the radicalness.
Benefits of saturated fats:
- Our cell membranes are composed of fats. At least 50% saturated fatty acids. We need the proper amount to maintain cellular integrity. In fact, The membrane of our cells preferentially chooses saturated and monounsaturated fat for incorporation into its structure.
Experts concur that men need about 30% fat in their daily diet to optimize testosterone production.
- Saturated fats help our body absorb and utilize EFA’s such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
- When it comes to our lungs, a very important phospholipid class called lung surfactant is made with 100 percent saturated fatty acids. Our lungs depend on good saturated fats to maintain integrity.
- Short and medium-chain saturated fatty acids (from butter or coconut oil) have antimicrobial actions and can protect us from harmful micro critters that enter our digestive tract. Lauric acid ( a medium-chain fatty acid) found in coconut oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
- The World Health Organization and even the American Heart Association recommends that we get saturated fat in our diet to maintain optimal health.
- Our brains are composed of 60% fat, mainly saturated. Men, you ARE fat heads, and so are women! So, eat your fats, and enjoy a better brain and better sex!
So, good saturated fats to engage with for testosterone production, cellular health, brain function, and heart health: organic or raw butter, ghee, coconut oil, and yes, even lard and bacon if they are from free-ranged animals.
Article: “The Truth about Saturated Fats” by Mary Enig Ph.D. and Sally Fallon
Print: Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach by the IFM (Institute for Functional Medicine)
Print: Brain-Building Nutrition by Michael A. Schmidt
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