The role of dietary fats, specifically saturated fat, in heart disease, continues to be a hot topic. While the American Heart Association (AHA) has softened its stance on dietary fats, the latest recommendation to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat still does not cut it, and the media continues to discuss the finer points of this, as in this recent article, “Good Fats, Bad Fats” in the New York Times. And from a low carb standpoint, swapping one fat for another is not the solution when all three can work together just fine while on a low carb diet.
First, here’s a quick review of the three types of fats:
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut and most other nut oils, as well as avocados. MUFAs are usually liquid at room temperature.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are always liquid at both room temperature and in the refrigerator. They’re mostly found in oils from vegetables seeds, and some nuts. Sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, soybean, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, and sesame oils are all high in PUFAs. So are the oils in fatty fish like sardines, herring, and salmon.
- Saturated fatty acids (SFA) tend to remain solid at room temperature. Butter, lard, suet, and palm and coconut oil are all relatively rich in saturated fats. The key is to focus on high-quality sources of saturated fats also include organic coconut oil, eggs from pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, fatty fish like salmon and dairy products from grass-fed cows.
When you look at the fat facts, each of these fats has a beneficial role in your diet and health.
And this is the point that the AHA continues to miss. We can all agree that the majority of Americans eat too many carbs, and that we should limit refined carbohydrates and added sugars and avoid trans fats. We can also agree that eating carbohydrates coming from vegetables, low glycemic fruits, nuts, and controlled portions of whole grains is the way to go. But the big fat debate about fat continues. What the AHA needs to take into consideration is that when carbohydrates are low enough saturated fats can be a part of a healthy diet when it is balanced with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
I believe in everything in moderation, which is why, on Atkins, your meals and snacks contain plentiful amounts of fiber-rich veggies, optimal protein and a variety of healthy dietary fats: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Within the context of a low carb diet, research has demonstrated that this way of eating works.