For years now the very idea of there being ‘best saturated fats’ has been rejected. This food group has been considered the enemy #1 of healthy eating and some diets call for excluding them altogether. However, new studies prove a fact that should have been obvious, not all saturated fats are equal. And most importantly, some of them are truly good for you.
What Do Studies Say on the Best Saturated Fats?
Over the last decade, we’ve had several studies into the effects of saturated fats. One of the first, a meta-analysis by Siri-Tarino et al, indicates that there isn’t any factual connection between the increase in the risk of heart disease and saturated fat intake. This study is an analysis of 21 other studies that observed the relationship between dietary saturated fats and heart health. Overall, it covers over 340,000 subjects and 23 years of intense research work.
Another study from Australia focused exclusively on full-fat dairy products. Their fat content made them one of the foods that are currently considered ‘unhealthy’ by many dieticians. However, research indicates that consuming these products regularly also doesn’t increase the risk of suffering a stroke or heart disease.
Granted, neither of these studies show that saturated fats do any actual good for the body. They simply point out the fact that these foods aren’t responsible for the current endemic of cardiovascular conditions. You also must understand that obesity is a proven contributor to those diseases. Eating foods rich in saturated fats is often associated with obesity. Yet, it’s not the sole reason for gaining excess weight in dangerous amounts.
But what about the best saturated fats and how are they different from the worst?
A study from the University of Bergen, published on December, 2 2017, sheds some light on the differences in saturated fats. During this project, researchers observed two groups of people. One with a high-carb diet and one with a high-fat. The results showed that their susceptibility to cardiovascular disease is similar. Therefore, the assumption that high-fat diets lead to heart health risks is wrong.
However, this particular study also highlighted a very important factor. The foods in the research were rich in the so-called ‘best saturated fats’. The participants of the study were on a high-fat but healthy diet. This means their lipids came from rice and other whole grains, as well as cold-pressed vegetable oils, butter, and cream.
It’s imperative to remember that the majority of foods contain some amounts of saturated fats. Even avocados, which are considered one of the healthiest veggies in the world, have almost 5g of these lipids in a cup of raw puree. The total fat content of that serving is around 30g.
What Are the Best Saturated Fats?
‘Good’ fats are classed as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), while the ‘not-so-good’ fats fall into the category of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). Note that this distinction exists in all types of fats, including saturated, unsaturated, mono-, and polyunsaturated. The difference lies in how the fatty acids are processed by the body.
LCTs aren’t the best saturated fats because they must undergo an extremely complex biochemical process of transformation. Once they get into your digestive tract, these fats need bile and pancreatic enzymes to break down. Then, they will travel all through your body before oxidizing will finally turn them into energy. During this process, a significant amount of those under-processed fats will be stored in your tissues as fat deposits. Hence, the increased risk of obesity.
MCTs, on the other hand, are the best saturated fats, because they are converted into energy while still in the gut. Therefore, instead of making you fatter, they give you fuel to exercise and can be incorporated in weight loss programs. That’s why one of the benefits of coconut oil is assisting in weight management.
This difference in the effects of MCTs and LCTs also indicates why the so-called ‘best saturated fats’ help lower LDL cholesterol. Therefore, one really shouldn’t be afraid of healthy foods with fats.