In the immortal words of one Mr. Ron Swanson, “There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk.” Preach it, brother.
I used to be pretty firmly entrenched in the “fat is bad” camp. After all, I don’t want to be fat, so why would I want to eat it? But as it turns out, we’ve been a bit misled (to put it mildly).
Fat as the Enemy
“Fat-free,” “low-fat,” “reduced-fat” shout at us from the boxes. Fat is vilified everywhere and the labeling abundant to capitalize on our fear of it, from ice cream to vegetables. Well, yeah, I kind of expected my broccoli to be low-fat, but thanks for the confirmation.
When I started to read outside the mainstream, I learned that this entire mindset boils down to a hypothesis which originated in the 1950s, that, even a half-century later, has still never been proven. Basically, a doctor (Keys) looked at the fat intake of a handful of countries versus their rate of heart disease mortality and noticed a correlation (and actually omitted the data from many more countries that didn’t jive with what he wanted to prove). America had the highest levels of both, and the Japanese the lowest, and ignoring any other potential causative factors, this was enough to formulate the diet-heart, or lipid hypothesis.
Naturally, there were skeptics, and since then, there have been many studies performed that do not support the hypothesis. One such study from the ’70s analyzed the Masai, a nomadic African people. If you remember from your schooling, they pretty much live on red meat, whole milk and blood, and surprisingly, had extremely low levels of cholesterol and almost zero heart disease. Unfortunately, at the time of the lipid hypothesis, Americans were hungry (no pun intended) for a scapegoat, so this is what stuck, and once the government got their hands on it, game over. It stuck so well that this is still what the majority of people believe. But eventually I started to wonder, is whole milk good for you?
Is Fat Really the Bad Guy?
In fact, fat, and saturated fat in particular, is actually necessary for your general health and well-being, is a prime source of energy, and is vital for many bodily functions. Heck, much of your brain is made from saturated fat. Did you know that breast milk is over 50% saturated fat? Do you really think that mothers were designed to get their babies started down the road to heart disease as soon as they’re out of the womb?
Saturated fat is also an important part of the cell membrane structure, is necessary for calcium absorption, and those fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K) aren’t really going to accomplish a whole lot without it. So next time you’re drinking that skim (no-fat) milk, which has been fortified with artificial A and D, consider how much benefit those vitamins are actually providing.
The real villains behind heart disease, along with many other ills afflicting us today, can be traced back to the crazy amounts of refined grains and added sugars in our diet, which has been indicated in numerous studies (and is just common sense). Tons of empty calories, no nutritional benefit, and a leading cause of inflammation, which is the starting point for all kinds of problems. Ever wonder why our ancestors weren’t keeling over from heart attacks and strokes left and right, when they consumed full-fat milk, cream, butter, cheese, red meat, and (gasp) even lard? Call me crazy, but I’d bet they also weren’t loading up on Doritos, Twinkies, and a 2-liter of Coke for dinner. To put it very simply, just eat real food.
So feel free to load up on whole milk and steak, cook with butter and lard, and finish it off with ice cream – just remember, a calorie is a calorie, whether it’s from bacon or Twinkies or celery, so don’t get too carried away :).
Get to Know Your Farmers
One final consideration: look at where your food comes from. We try to source as much of our animal product (meat, dairy, etc.) as we can from people that raise the animals in the way they were designed to live. As in, I’d much prefer that my cows eat grass, not jelly beans – seriously, when I heard that, I was udderly (couldn’t resist) speechless. That’s allowed? And people are okay that their steak subsisted on gummy worms and marshmallows?!? Am I the only one that sees a problem with that?? So as much as you’re able, try to find good sources for your food.
Note: I’m not a doctor. I don’t pretend to be one. I do my own research and formulate my own opinions, and I recommend you do the same. There’s a TON of information out there (here’s a good starting point; this is a recent study disproving the saturated fat link). If you agree with me, great; if you disagree, fine. Just don’t ever take as gospel someone else’s opinion without looking into it yourself.