Where can you find high-quality, good fat? The answer might surprise you.
Have you noticed an increase in articles and posts about the holidays? Now that we’re past Halloween, I see them frequently. More often than not, they seem to be foreboding - not about the holidays themselves, but about the dreaded holiday weight gain.
As a child of the 80s and 90s, I’m well-versed in our cultural fixation on weight. I grew up in a world of skim milk and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”. I remember the war on fats - and how it’s changed over the years - and the adherence to calorie counting. I imagine that many of you do as well.
These battles and public health campaigns often come from a place of good intent. They rely on research to make their claims. But they also reveal the tortuous relationship we have with food in this country. We like food. We want to enjoy it. But we’re often afraid of it – specifically, what it will do to our bodies. This is especially true when it comes to fats.
Living on a farm and raising our food has caused a surprising shift in my attitude toward fat. I’ve come to learn that eating more fat, not less, is actually essential to our health.
What am I talking about? Don’t we still hear numerous articles warning us against the dangers of “bad” fats? Aren’t those “bad” fats in red meat? Let me explain.
I’ve come to learn that I should eat more high-quality, good fat, and less highly processed, low quality fat. This may not come as a surprise. What may surprise you, however, is this high-quality, good fat is often found in saturated animal fats.
Saturated fats play a vital role in the structure of our bodies, from the calcium in our bones (which need saturated fats in order to properly incorporate calcium) to our cell membranes, which need saturated fatty acids to maintain their firmness. Likewise, saturated fats help our bodies better retain omega-3 fatty acids.
Moreover, saturated fats are the most stable fats – they do not oxidize easily. Oxidation can result in inflammation and free-radical damage, two of the biggest culprits for heart disease and cancer. Unlike saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (found in vegetable and corn oils, among other places) do oxidize easily. In fact, growing research indicates that their increasing prevalence in many foods - and thus our overconsumption of them - leads to persistent, long-term health issues.
But these benefits from saturated fats only occur when they’re high quality – specifically, when these saturated fats come from grass-fed animals. How can you tell the quality of the fat you’re consuming? By what you can see – and what you can’t.
Grass-fed animals produce conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which has strong cancer-fighting benefits, builds muscle, and prevents weight gain. You may see these CLA pills sold in wellness stores – but these pills come from ruminant animals that are grass-fed.
You can also tell by the appearance of the fat. Think about the fat you’re used to seeing from products purchased at the grocery store. What color is it? I imagine most of us would say that it’s white. But actually, grass-fed fat often has deep yellow hues. You can see the difference in the picture I’ve provided above, which shows the difference between the fat that you can purchase from grass-fed animals at Whole Foods, and fat from our grass-fed animals at Little Way Farm.
Okay, now you know about fat. But what are you supposed to do with it?
Some of the more adventurous of you may be ready to render their fat, but for others, there’s much easier ways to consume your healthy saturated fats.
You can find healthy saturated fat in pasture-raised eggs and meat. But one of the easiest sources is in a homemade bone broth.
How have your attitudes toward fats changed over the years? What thoughts do you have about pasture-raised meat and fat? I’d love to hear your thoughts!