Diet, similar to religion and politics causes a lot of controversy. High or low fat, high or low carbs, shall I trust Dr Campbell (advocating a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet ) or Dr Atkins (protein and fat as the primary sources of dietary calories in addition to a controlled number of carbohydrates from vegetables)? After all, both of them are holding a medical degree.
For the average consumer it might be overwhelming.
Let’s look closely into controversy of saturated fat.
We should be conscious of both palmitic and myristic saturated acid (both present in meat and dairy), as they seem to be the most common in a Standard Western Diet. Both of these fatty acids raise LDL levels so we should try to reduce them in our diet.
The 1992 Food Guide Pyramid of the U.S. Department of Agriculture advised eating 6 to 11 daily servings of starchy foods such as bread, cereal, rice, and pasta while limiting all fats and oils. American society implemented that recommendation and reduced fat intake from 42% to 34%. And what has happened? Heart diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes are still on the rise.
Is there something, which not only US Department of Agriculture, but also a lot of medical advisors missed? It seems the answer is in old rule of ‘quality over quantity’. Replacing saturated fats with highly processed carbohydrates simply doesn’t work. We should rather think where our macronutrients are coming from. Whole grains, legumes or starchy vegetables are great source of carbohydrates in our diet. There is no consensus on how many carbohydrates we actually need. There are studies which show that the most beneficial diets, from a health perspective, are those with a broad range of carbohydrate to fat ratios.
The ‘quality over quantity’ rule also works with the fat source in our diet. A whole food plant-based diet is naturally low in saturated fat so it's relatively easy to meet the WHO recommendation of no more than 10% of saturated fat from your total calories.
Nutritional science is not always black and white. However all studies show on a population level that saturated fats increase the risk of chronic disease and swapping them for unsaturated sources of fat improves health