The Saturated Fat Debate + Whole Food Plant Based Tofu Salad Recipe

tofu salad_no_oil_stacked

Grab your poodle skirt, your 4-cent stamp, and your favorite 45 RPM record. We’re bouncing over to the 1950s to meet a man named Ancel Keys.

Keys was an American scientist who had a theory that heart disease was the product of too much-saturated fat in the diet. His theory came about after observing the dramatically lower rates of heart disease in Italy and Spain compared to the United States.

He noted that the key (pun totally intended) difference in these cultures was what they ate.

In the Mediterranean region, the traditional diet was made up of an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies, beans, legumes, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and little amounts of meat, dairy, and processed foods.

Historically, Americans have had a hot steamy love affair with meat and dairy and never really got turned on by vegetables, unless you count french fries as a vegetable as the USDA does, and then we have multiple orgasms.

You may have already pieced it together, but Ancel Keys is responsible for introducing the Mediterranean diet to America and he was definitely onto something.

Unfortunately, there was a negative backlash from his research that changed the way America eats to this day.

Here’s what happened.

Once word got out that fat was responsible for all the heart attacks happening in the U.S. in the 1950s, the food industry quickly came up with a solution.

They would simply take the fat out of food, label it Fat Free and BAM, the problem would be solved.

Well, not so much as it turns out.

When food makers took the fat out of things like yogurt, salad dressing, milk, cookies, etc., they shit.

To overcorrect, sugar and additives were added back in to make the food more palatable.

The war on fat had started, real food was swapped out for processed food and the over-consumption of sugar began.

Ancel Keys gets a lot of flack because of what happened to the food industry after his research, but in my opinion, this was the food industry’s answer to turn a threat into profit. And it worked like a charm.

Since the ’50s, we’ve been told that saturated fats are bad for us and are the major contributing factor to heart disease.

We have also been told that Polyunsaturated fats (remember those Omega’s I talked about?) and monounsaturated fats (think olive oil and avocados) are important to have in moderation.

With me so far?

Good because things are about to get wonky.

Earlier this year, a study came out in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal and all of a sudden, saturated fats were no longer bad for us. It was confirmed that carbohydrates and sugar were the real villains.

The news splashed all over the internet, the meat and dairy industry threw a party, and butter starred on the cover of the June 2014 issue of Time Magazine.

2014 was a good year for saturated fat.

The Paleo diet gained even more momentum. The Atkins Diet was being given a second chance. The coconut industry exploded, and the low-fat vegan diet was once again the unpopular kid on the playground.

Do you want in on a little secret?

Apparently, the meta-analysis that gave animal fat the green light was flawed. It was also heavily supported by the National Dairy Council.

Whatever the flaws, it didn’t matter. This study gave a country that’s already not great with healthy food choices a free pass to eat as much butter, bacon, and cheese as they please.

Seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that as a country we weren’t avoiding saturated fat before this “saturated fat is a go” study came out.

Collectively, Americans spend almost 4 billion dollars a year on fast food. We also eat an average of 200 pounds of meat a year and 630 pounds of dairy a year per person.

That’s a lot of saturated fat.

Even with all this “safe” saturated fat we’ve been eating, there are still 600,000 deaths from heart attacks alone each year in the U.S. With saturated fat now on the national “good to go” list,  this number will likely increase.

Can you imagine what would happen to this country’s health care system if we were spending 4 billion dollars a year on cruciferous veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and fresh fruit? It’s pretty much my wet dream.

Animal fat in meat and dairy is the primary source of saturated fats. However, some plant foods also contain saturated fat, like coconut, dark chocolate, avocados, and some nuts.

Saturated fats from plants are processed differently in the body than saturated fats that come from animals. This is because they are structurally different and plant based saturated fat molecules are smaller than animal-based saturated fat molecules, making them easier to digest and not as harmful.

Just like most things, all plant based fat should be eaten in moderation and not made the staple of any diet.

Whole Food Plant Based and Oil Free Egg Salad

Author: Molly Patrick of Clean Food Dirty Girl


  • 1 package firm tofu 14oz. / 397g
  • 1/2 cup celery about 1 stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion 35g, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped


  • 1 ripe avocado do this by leaving the avo in it’s shell, and then scoop it out, pit taken out, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast 10g
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 15ml
  • 1 tablespoon water 15ml
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt


  • Place the tofu in a large bowl and mash it with a fork until there are no big pieces.
  • Add celery, red onion and parsley.
  • In a separate smaller bowl, make the sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients and stir until smooth. You might have to mash with a fork to get the avocado creamy.
  • Pour the sauce over the tofu mixture and stir until everything is combined.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
tofu salad_no_oil_top_shot
tofu salad_no_oil_side_shot
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Have a good week and remember, it’s less about the circumstances and more about how you react to the circumstances that matter.

Plant positive
Dr McDougall – Annals of Internal Medicine
Huffington Post – Grease is good?
Daily Mail UK – Average American spends $1,200 a year on fast food
NPR – The average American ate (literally) a ton this year
CDC – Heart disease facts

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  1. Curious on October 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

    What were the flaws with the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine? Do you have any links to them. Thanks. Great website.

    • Molly Patrick on October 8, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Hi there,
      Thank you for asking this and reminding me to add my sources.
      You can find them at the bottom of the post.

  2. Curious on October 8, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Thank you!

  3. Gena Blamey on October 9, 2014 at 7:24 am

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you
    hire out a designer to create your theme? Great work!

  4. Courtney on August 19, 2017 at 10:51 am

    5 stars
    Oh my, George Takei! This recipe is fantastic! The ingredients list sounds strange, but they come together perfectly. The only change I made was that I added some kala namak to the tofu mixture before adding the sauce. Thanks CFDG!

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