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Real Mom Nutrition Weighs In On Fat

I am delighted to publish this guest post from Sally Kuzemchak, the registered dietitian behind Real Mom Nutrition. When she asked if I had anything specific in mind, I pounced with my standard question to nutritionists: 'What do you think about fat?' what follows is her reasoned and helpful response. An occupational hazard of being a dietitian is that people love to tell us we’re wrong. Anytime a research finding flies in the face of conventional nutrition wisdom—Beer is good for you! You can eat Twinkies all day and still lose weight!—we’re on the receiving end of a certain amount of “gotcha!”

And a report last year seemed to do just that: After analyzing 21 studies involving nearly 350,000 people, researchers concluded there was no proof that saturated fat raises the risk for heart disease or stroke.

So everything we’ve been telling people—buy low-fat milk, eat leaner cuts of meat, lay off the butter—is way off base? And the Wise Traditions folks (and even the Atkins dieters) are right on target? Well, at last year’s national meeting of the American Dietetic Association, even a panel of heavy hitters from Tufts University and Harvard Medical School couldn’t reach a conclusion.

But I can tell you this much: Most people’s fat intake isn’t coming from a grass-fed steak with a side of kale. It’s coming from McDonald’s cheeseburgers and DQ Blizzards and Olive Garden Alfredo sauce. And this highly processed diet also happens to be crammed full of sodium, nutrient-poor white flour, added sugar, food dyes, and preservatives. So could a higher-fat diet without all this extra junk be good you? Maybe, but I’m not ready to start drinking tall glasses of full-fat raw milk just yet.

While the research is still evolving—and the major players in the field are still fighting it out—here’s what I’ve settled on for myself and my family when it comes to fat:

*I buy local, organic eggs and wouldn’t dream of throwing the yolks down the drain to save fat grams (the yolk contains nutrients you won’t find in the white).

*I cook beef every week, from a share we bought of a grass-fed cow.

*I buy full-fat cheese because it tastes better. I bake with real butter.

*I buy conventional, skim milk because I like the taste (and because frankly, I’m not ready to make the financial leap to organic yet since we drink three gallons a week). If I did buy organic, I’d choose one or two-percent since it contains omega-3 fatty acids.

*I use liberal amounts of olive oil in cooking and eat nuts or nut butter every day.

*I limit processed meats. I love wonderful, delicious bacon as much as the next person, but it doesn’t have much nutritional value—and the American Institute for Cancer Research says any amount of processed meat raises cancer risk—so it’s an occasional splurge around here.

*I’m trying to cook more meatless meals. I’m convinced that eating a plant-based diet is important for health and the planet. Plus, it’s more economical. And my Paleo Diet-following friends will have to pry the (whole wheat) pasta out of my cold, dead hands.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.