Fat on the Paleo Diet

Healthy fatsIn today’s America, it is commonly thought that fat, especially saturated fats, are bad for health and can increase risk for serious and sometimes fatal diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, food companies that began marketing foods as low fat and low cholesterol to attract a new, low-fat consumer perpetuated the idea that all fat is bad. This new marketing technique led to a standard American diet of increased grains and simple carbohydrates and decreased healthy fats. Enthusiasts of the Paleolithic diet, however, believe that saturated fat, a type of fat often demonized in popular opinion, is actually good for the body and a source of healthy fuel.

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Robb Wolf, a leading paleo expert, believes that saturated fat is not as bad as it is made out to be. While legitimate sources, including the Harvard School of Public Health, argue that consuming saturated fat increases risk for cardiovascular disease, Wolf and other paleo diet backers argue that cardiovascular disease is really caused by many other factors. Smoking, consuming trans-fats, nutrient deficiency, consuming too much omega 6 fatty acids, etc. are known factors that increase risk for developing cardiovascular disease, and proponents of the paleo diet claim those factors outweigh saturated fat intake.

Dr. Loren Cordain, considered to be the father of the modern paleo movement, contends that ancient and modern hunter-gatherers ate significantly more saturated fat than that recommended by today’s nutrition authorities and cases of cardiovascular disease and death by stroke were nonexistent in the Stone Age. To mimic the cardiovascular and other health benefits of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, paleo dieters decrease intake of grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugars, and vegetable oils, foods considered to increase chances of long-term and chronic illness.

While saturated fat is not considered bad for health while on a paleo diet, paleo experts encourage dieters to choose free-range and wild meats whenever possible. These meats are considered much healthier and nutrient-dense than factory farmed meats. Saturated fat content in the bodies of free-range and wild animals is much lower than that of factory farmed animals. Free-range animals also provide higher levels of DHA and EPA, fatty acids that most Americans are deficient in. DHA and EPA are essential omega 3 fatty acids, fats that are necessary for survival and adequate brain functioning. Fish oils and walnuts are excellent sources of these types of fatty acids.

Proponents of the paleo diet believe that fat is absolutely essential to proper body function and consider healthy fats necessary fuel for the body. Sources of healthy dietary fats include coconut oil, which is used frequently in paleo circles. Clarified butter and ghee are also generally considered appropriate paleo fats, especially when garnered from organic, grass-fed animals. Animal fats, avocado oil, and olive oil can be used on the paleo diet.

If you are participating in a paleo diet challenge or are making the switch for the long-haul, including healthy fats and some saturated fat in your diet is important for adequate energy upkeep and a healthy, strong body. Forget the amount of fat you are taking in and begin to consider the quality of fat. Choose nutrient-dense oils and lean, wild meats over fatty meats.

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