By Molly Patrick
Oct 3, 2014
Grab your poodle skirt, your 4 cent stamp, your favorite 45 RPM record and your marshmallow fluff. We’re bouncing over to the 1950’s 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 like 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 1950’s, 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 tasted...like shit.
To over correct, 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 has always gotten a lot of flack because of what happened to the food industry after his research. But come on, was the dude’s intention really to fuck up the way America eats?
I say no.
This was the food industry’s answer to turn threat into profit. And it worked like a charm.
Since the 50’s, we’ve been told that saturated fats are bad for us and are the major contributing factor of 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 the results of 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 has been 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.
It didn’t even matter that it had Clinton,
J. Lo and Beyoncé. No one could see past the bacon.
Do you want in on a little secret?
Apparently, the meta-analysis that gave animal fat the green light was extremely flawed. It was also unsurprisingly heavily supported by the National Dairy Council.
Whatever the flaws, it didn’t matter.
Hell, the National Cattlemen’s Association could have done the actual study and no one would have looked up from their steak.
This study gave a country that’s already pretty shitty with food choices a free pass.
We can now eat as many chips, french fries, bacon wrapped anything, milk, cheese, ice cream and steak as we want.
But for the love of god, let’s NOT touch the whole wheat pasta!
I need to take a sec to address something that seems glaringly obvious to me.
It’s not like as a country we were 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 shit load of saturated fat.
Even with all this “safe” saturated fat we’ve been eating, there are still 600,000 deaths from heart attack alone each year in the U.S.
With saturated fat now being on the national “good to go” list, I only see this number going up in the future.
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.
Now, I want to make something clear.
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.
Here’s the thing.
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.
So, on the saturated fat debate, I’m with Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and the rest of the Whole Food Plant Based crew who are sticking to their guns and saying no to animal based saturated fat.
It’s okay, I’m good with being one of the unpopular kids.
I want to make something clear before I sign off and leave you with today’s insanely yummy recipe.
I do not for one second think that saturated fat is our only problem.
We have a processed food epidemic that is out of control. People are addicted to fat, sugar and salt like it’s heroin. This is one area of the Paleo Diet that I’m in full support of.
The Paleo Diet cuts out all processed food and that is essential, regardless of what “diet” someone is following. Props to the Paleo diet for getting that one right.
I will leave you to ponder with today’s recipe.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, welcome to yumtown!
- 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.
Have a good week and remember, it’s less about the circumstances and more about how you react to the circumstances that matters.
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