14 May 2009

Fat and Cholesterol

"It's a scientific fact your body will not absorb cholesterol if you take it from another person's plate"

Dave Barry

Hey hey, today I'm also guesting over at the fantabulous, the funtastic, the free thinking, MizFit Online. Check it out here.

As I continue along the road of The Great Cholesterol Challenge, I find my self tripping over, falling down and getting up again, confused. Where did that hole in the road come from and why is it full of Ferrero Rocher chocolate?

Nevertheless, onward I go, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the perfect diet.

So, the whole cholesterol and fat thing. Not so simple. As many of you know there's fat and then there's fat and then there's transfat just to make things interesting. Some people say avoid all fats, some say it's just saturated fat that is bad, then there's those that believe that saturated fat isn't the culprit at all.

Mary Enig PhD is a big advocate for the conscious inclusion of saturated fats in our diets and has written extensively on the topic. If you're interested, her article, written with Sally Fallon, The Skinny on Fats, is well worth the read.

Another great read is from Harvard School of Public Health and talks more about eating the right kinds of fats.

Enough of that, on to practicalities.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are found in a variety of foods, and the general consensus is that these fats contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and should be enjoyed occasionally. These foods include:
  • Beef
  • Chicken with the skin on
  • Processed Meats
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Lard
  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Pastries, biscuits and cakes
  • Fried foods
  • Full fat dairy products-milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Coconut oil

Trans fat

Trans fat or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, was once considered the bees knees. Not so any more. This oil is used in many processed foods and should be avoided at all costs. Denmark is leading the way in banning the use of these oils in Danish food. Hopefully other countries will follow suit. Darya at the wonderful Summertomato directed me to this recent study that further indicates the role of trans fat in cardiovascular disease. Read your labels and ditch the trans.
Foods likely to contain trans fat include:
  • Biscuits, cakes and pastries
  • Fast food
  • Fried food
  • Margarines and spreads
  • Donuts
  • Check your labels, it can be hiding anywhere

Dietary Cholesterol

To eat eggs or not to eat eggs? That is the question. While the concept that foods that contain cholesterol will raise blood cholesterol makes some sense, this idea is no longer considered the rule. It appears that the effect dietary cholesterol has on blood levels is not as great as once speculated.

The folks over at Harvard recommend enjoying eggs as part of a heart healthy diet, while of course exercising that wonderful notion, moderation. Although eggs and other cholesterol containing foods are now considered off the "bad" list it seems that there are some of us who need to continue being vigilant. It appears some individuals blood cholesterol levels do increase when they consume cholesterol containing foods, which include:
  • Eggs
  • Organ meat-liver, heart, brain, kidney
  • Butter
  • Prawns
  • Caviar

Good Fats

Just as fat can be bad, fat can also be good. Monopolyomegapaloooza so many goodies to be had.

Omega 3 fat, a type of polyunsaturated fat, is considered a goody, found commonly in:
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • For those not interest in the fishes, try flax seed, chia seed and walnuts for your omega 3
Polyunsaturated fats. The word from the American as well as Australian Heart Foundations is that these fats are considered heart friendly and can be found in:
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Nuts and seeds
Monounsaturated fats can also be considered good and you'll find them in:
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado

Final Word

There is much talk about fat and while there are all sorts of lists, guidelines and recommendations, I tend to stick to the principles of whole foods. For me this means, I do eat chicken skin, I do eat full fat dairy and the occasional serve of golden butter from grass fed cows, and I also value the many health benefits of the humble coconut and the misunderstood egg. I make a pretty serious attempt at moderation most of the time, and I also include plenty of foods that help to lower cholesterol.

The verdict seems to be that we need fat in our diets, it's about making the right choices and not over doing it.

What do you think? Are you a fat free devotee? Or, like me, is fat something you feel you need?


  1. great post I agree with you, choose more monounsaturates like olive oil and omega 3's and limit trans fats and a little butter won't hurt once in a while, love the detail and practical advice you give

    lol Rebecca

  2. Love your site Bernie. This is a great post with excellent information. You have encouraged me to begin a blog, check it out at:



  3. Does this mean its way better to deep fry...say potatoes in canola or olive oil than coconut oil?

  4. Great post. Your summary says it all though. It is all about moderation. Just because something is good for us, doesn't mean we should eat it like there is no tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. @thumbbook that's a great question. Most heart associations would say to use canola or olive oil. However there is a lot of evidence to support the use of coconut oil. It is much more stable when heated and therefore causes less oxidative damage in the body. Other great oils for deep frying are peanut oil and rice bran oil which also have a much higher smoke point.

  6. Berni!!! Still replying to an earlier post ... Those dishes; they look SOOOOOO good!!! Jaco x

  7. Is saturated fat all that bad? Go to wholehealthsource.blogspot.com and look around. Lots of interesting literature citations calling this conjecture into question.

    Definitely stay away from the trans fats.

  8. Hey Anon, thanks for the comment. wholehealthsource looks like a very interesting blog. I agree there is definite conjecture regarding the relationship between saturated fats and heart disease and indeed the r'ship between elevated chol. and disease as well. Check out the link in the post to Mary Enig's work, a crusader in the quest to get saturated fat back on our tables.

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