Like most parents today, Luke and Natalie Weber watch the saturated fat in their own diet as carefully as that of their young daughters.
“We stick to lean meats and an overall wholesome diet,” said Luke. “The girls love cheese, but we don’t let them eat as much as they want.”
Their interest was piqued recently by the new book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.” In it, author Nina Teicholz writes that the low-fat diet message we heard starting back in the 1970s had the unintended consequences of Americans becoming overweight.
She also writes that original evidence was flawed.
Ancel Keys was the American physiologist who embarked upon the famous 1950s “Seven Countries” study. The result was a hypothesis that became the foundation for a body of science implicating fat as a major risk factor for heart disease.
According to Teicholz, Keys cherry-picked his data, leaving out countries that had high-fat diets but low rates of heart disease, including France, Sweden, and West Germany. Instead, he studied the Greek island of Crete during Lent when 60 percent of the population abstained from meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and butter.
Today, fingers are pointing toward carbs.
Recent research suggests that refined carbohydrates, such as those in processed snacks and sugary drinks, increase the small, sticky fat particles that appear linked to heart disease.
What do the mainstream health and medical groups say about this? For now, they hold the line on saturated fat. Keep in mind that Keys, who followed a low-fat, plant-based diet, lived to 100.
Natalie Weber hopes that if the dietary consensus changed and some saturated fat is okayed, her doctors would update their nutrition advice.
“Our girls are only 3 and 4. I’d rather they have butter than something artificial,” she said.
While the scientific community re-examines the evidence, my recommendations are:
Follow the Mediterranean Diet. It is time tested to provide the right balance of nutrients from a variety of foods.
Focus on polyunsaturated fats and eat more fish, both lean and fatty. The omega-3 fats found in fish are more protective than those in fish oil supplements. Be aware that low fat diets actually lower good HDL cholesterol in women.
Eat more real food in lieu of overly processed stuff. For example, a steak salad at lunch can satisfy and keep you from snacking all afternoon and evening.
Christine Palumbo is a nutritionist in Naperville, Illinois who would rather eat a little bit of real butter, full fat cheese or ice cream than a substitute. Find her at Christine Palumbo Nutrition on Facebook, @PalumboRD on Twitter and Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.Prep time: 35 minutes; cook time: Five minutes
Yield: 2 servings
1 cup tart cherries, frozen
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup of chia seeds
¼ cup tart cherry juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Optional: tart dried cherries, dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
INSTRUCTIONS: In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds, cherry juice and coconut milk. Allow this to soak for at least 30 minutes or until the chia seeds have absorbed most of the liquid creating a thick gel. Pour the chia seed mixture into a food processor or high speed blender with all remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Pour into the serving bowl.
Optional: Garnish with a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top or additional tart cherries, fresh, frozen or dried.
NUTRITION FACTS: 380 calories, 25 g carbohydrate (11 g sugar), 7 g protein, 31 g fat (22 g saturated), 9 grams fiber, 25 mg sodium, 486 mg potassium, 15% DV vitamin A and calcium, 35% DV iron.
Photo and recipe used with permission from McKel Hill of NutritionStripped.com.