Twenty first century man dreads fat in a rather irrational way. Contrary to what we have been led to believe by the medical establishment, nutritionists, government authorities and the media – fat is vital to our diet. Without natural fats our body ends up like a bike chain lacking lubrication – scratchy, whinny and sub-optimal. The consumption of natural, traditional fats is vital if our bodies are to absorb the fat soluble vitamins essential for our overall well-being. No natural fat. No nutrients.
Fat is the bête noire of twenty-first century man. No wonder – rates of obese people are being seen in levels unknown and unheard of in previous eras. Weight-gain creeps up on the best of us. Few are immune from the curse of the bathroom scales. The most obvious culprit for these modern blights is fat– saturated fat in particular. From a visual point of view this is easy to believe. Saturated fats, being solid, look like they might just line the arteries and clog the heart-valves. Fat makes us fat. End of. Go on a fat-free diet. Cut out the butter. Get a life.
Since the 1950’s the medical establishment, governmental advisors and nutritionists have placed the blame for the rise in obesity and the subsequent coronary heart disease, hypertension and bad cholesterol, fairly and squarely, on saturated fat. Indeed, to this day many still talk about “saturated” fat being a “bad” fat.
Yet we need natural fat – and, believe it or not, we need natural cholesterol for optimum good health. Without fat our bodies are unable to utilise the vital fat soluble vitamins A, K, D and E. A further benefit of natural, traditional fat unlike modern fakes, is that they act as a useful guide to telling the brain when the body has ingested enough nutrients. There is nothing like natural fat to make the body feel satiated – one of the reasons it is said that those on a low-fat diet feel permanently hungry – not because they are eating less but because the brain has yet to receive the signal that enough nutrients have been consumed.
Turning to the past there is no denying that for thousands of years the most common, available fats were saturated animal fats or saturated plant fats. Before the on-set of industrial fake foods animal fats formed a vital part of our daily diet with vegetable oils forming but a small proportion of mankind’s daily consumption.. Vegetable oils and fats were expressed and consumed only in regions where the fruit of the plant could be grown. Thus olive oil was and is common around the Mediterranean but was pretty unheard of in, say, Norwich. Coconut fat was and is common in the tropics but was never used as part of daily cooking in Milan.
In “Classic Italian Cooking” Marcella Hazan reminds readers that it was only in the south of Italy, as from Tuscany, that olive oil formed a predominant part of the diet. In the northern areas of Italy butter and other animal fats were (and still are) used for the simple reason that olive trees do not grow so well in Alpine conditions. For both the north and south of Italy animal fats always played (and still do) an important part of the daily diet.
The reality is that most populations relied on natural animal fats the nutrients of which are essential to optimal well-being. Populations in Scotland had little or no access to vegetable oils. Omega-3 fat was obtained by eating oily fish, meat, whole grains and nuts in small proportions – never in high concentrations from new polyunsaturated seed oils. Similarly, isolated Alpine communities ate butter, lard, schmaltz or drippings from their feed-stock and ate essential omega oils through whole-grain breads never through bottled rape-seed or sunflower oil.
The fact that the French have fewer deaths from coronary heart disease than any other nation is referred to as a “paradox”. The French have long resisted new fats preferring to consume saturated animal fats in the form of butter, cheeses and goose fat. Perhaps, in reality, there is no paradox at all – only a conceit on the part of those who refuse to accept that saturated fat forms a vital part of the diet helping to prevent – not cause – coronary heart disease?
Natural, traditional fats (described below) are not the cause of today’s alarming rise in obesity and weight-gain. Fake fats such a vegetable shortenings, margarines and rape-seed oil mixed together with fake, new sugars are far more of a blight to modern man than the natural, traditional fats and oils mankind has relied upon for millennia to form an essential part of their balanced diet.
The real paradox is that modern, non-traditional fats and oils are given the right to claim they are healthy whilst natural, traditional fats have been cast as the cause of weight-gain, obesity, hyper-tension and cholesterol. The deception is astounding and for those who see the logic of a traditional diet there can only be one conclusion. What a fraud.