I like my food greasy. Why? Because it tastes good that way. Texture, too, plays a part, compare dry toast to hot buttered toast for example – more pleasant entirely, though don’t expect me to talk about ‘mouthfeel’ because I detest the word.
Grease, or we can call it fat if you find that more palatable (a bit less ‘heavy machinery lubrication and grubby overalls’, admittedly), I am a fan of – butter, olive oil, lard, cream, coconut fat; I’m not fussy. It’s all good, and I like it on my plate.
In my previous life as someone who swallowed the much touted advice to limit animal fats in the diet, I used to put real effort into making delicious, low-fat, vegetarian food thinking my body would love me for it. And it wasn’t easy! Anyone can toss in a pot of cream and make a sumptuous, rich velvety sauce, or roast a simple piece of good quality meat, or make just about anything taste good by slathering it in butter. Making wonderful food that not only tasted fabulous, but was also the perfect nourishing fuel for your body, now that takes skill I used to say. French cooking? Pah. Tastes great, but at what cost?
Well guess what? All is not what it seems. After some ferocious saturated fat bashing that’s been going on for a remarkable 60+ years, medical opinion is changing in part due to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study, published in 2010, found that there wasn’t sufficient proof to link saturated fat to either heart disease or stroke. What’s more, studies published before and after have demonstrated the same. Understandably, the research (which, incidentally, was huge and thorough, involving 21 studies, and nearly 350,000 people), attracted much attention.
Ronald Krauss, MD, the author of the study, and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of California, said “Everyone had just assumed that the evidence against saturated fat was strong… We had to work hard to get our study published. There was an intrinsic mistrust of this kind of result.”
So – if saturated fat isn’t implicated in heart disease and stroke, is essential for the absorption of certain minerals and a host of other crucial processes, contains the essential fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and slows down food absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry, have we been hoodwinked? I would say so. And frankly, I’m cross.
But what about weight loss? Well, when you consider weight loss, the very thing that low-fat diets are designed to promote, the fact that fat-free biscuits, dairy and other foods lack the critical lipids that make us feel full makes us tend to eat double or triple the usual portion. Another suggestion is that the lack of nutrients in low fat foods lead us to crave more in order to provide our bodies with what they require. And because manufacturers dump piles of sugar into such foods to make them palatable in the absence of fat, we can end up consuming just as many calories, if not more.
I’m convinced that food that includes fat is delicious because it’s good for you. Simple. Pleasure is nature’s wonderful way of ensuring that animals get what they need – it’s logical that instinct should lead us to make to make good choices. After all, if reproduction weren’t pleasurable, where would that leave the human race?
The theory known as the lipid hypothesis, which suggests a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease came about in the late 1950s by a researcher named Ancel Keys. Despite numerous later studies seriously questioning his data and conclusions, his work received much attention and was quickly accepted as the truth. And when the vegetable oil and food processing industries who stood to gain from his findings began funding and promoting further research designed to support his hypothesis, the demonising of saturated fat was well underway. And that’s the bit that makes me cross – industry, once again, manipulating people for profit.
The effort I was making with food was resulting in more work, with less enjoyment and benefits, and all because a scientist stuffed up, and an industry saw an opportunity to make a fat buck if you’ll pardon the pun. Thankfully public opinion is changing, though this idea has been in circulation for so long that change is crashingly slow. My overweight, yoyo-ing mother-in-law for example is having none of it as she chows down on yet more high-fructose corn syrup-laden low fat ‘diet foods’ whilst all the while baffled that the plan never produces the promised goal.
So go and enjoy your eggs and bacon people – and don’t spare the butter on your toast. Me? I slather the stuff on, practically drink cream, and enjoy chips fried in lard. But then, I’ve got 2 decades of dietary wrongdoings to make good.