Last week an article in the Globe and Mail discussed recent research indicating that saturated fat is not the heart attack waiting to happen that we believed it to be for the last couple of decades. Great news for butter lovers! As an aside, my original tag-line for this blog was going to be “real dietitians eat butter”. Bad news for many health promoting organizations and for many consumers.
I say it’s bad news for many organizations because messages need to be updated and when you’re dealing with slow-moving bureaucracies such as Health Canada, this often takes some time to occur. In the meantime, this becomes bad for consumers because it’s difficult to know which messages to believe. When the government is telling you to choose margarine and others are telling you to put several tablespoons of butter in your coffee, who to believe?
Personally, I’ve always taken the stance that just because a little of something is good for you it doesn’t necessarily follow that a lot of it is better. Too much of anything is bad for you. Just because we’ve figured out that saturated fats are not likely to cause heart disease doesn’t mean that you should make all of the fat in your diet saturated. Variety is both the spice of life and the foundation of a healthy diet. Go ahead, use butter in that recipe, spread a little on your roll, but also continue to include other fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
We also need to remember that just because fat doesn’t automatically turn to fat in your body doesn’t mean that it won’t. Fats still have more calories by weight (9 kcal per gram) than other macronutrients. If you consume more calories than your body needs you will gain weight and consuming calorie dense foods (such as those high in fat) makes this easier to do.
There’s no need to fear the fat, be it saturated or unsaturated, but there’s also danger to embracing it to the exclusion of other nutrients.