For all the praise that fat gets from helping give meat outstanding flavor, it is an often misunderstood, and much maligned, part of our diet. In this two-part post, we’ll dive into the subtleties and sweet truths about fat. In particular, we’ll look at what makes our pasture-raised pork different in some important and delicious ways. But first, a little fatty acid science.
We asked the man behind our Regenerative Agriculture approach to farming – our Chief Ranching Officer, Allen Williams, Ph.D. – to weigh in on the role that fatty acids play in a healthy diet. And here, in a nutshell, is what he had to say. (He provided us with a comprehensive report which you are welcome to read here describing the molecular differences between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with what each type of fat does for our bodies.)
The short answer is that fatty acids are a critical component of a healthy diet.
When we eat fat, our bodies break it down into fatty acids that are then used to perform a number of very important functions in the body, whether it’s energy storage, promoting organ and tissue strength, processing cholesterol, controlling inflammation, strengthening the immune system, or a number of other functions.
The key is understanding that, even though our bodies require all types of fatty acids, we have to get the right amounts of these fats in relation to each other. For instance, highly saturated fats should be consumed sparingly, while another saturated fat called stearic acid, actually helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol. Go figure. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fatty acids — more specifically, a group of them known as “essential fatty acids” — are a must for good health. This is where you’ll find Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Again, the trick is getting these particular fatty acids in the right ratio to each other. Which is not as easy as it sounds. If you haven’t heard much about needing Omega-6 fatty acids, that’s because it is in just about everything we eat in this part of the world. Vegetable oils and most processed foods all have it. And that’s good. It’s just that Omega-3s are far less common in the typical Western diet. And even though the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association say we should be consuming 1 part omega-3 for every 4 parts omega-6, the average American diet is way off — closer to 1 part omega-3 for every 20 parts omega-6. Adding wild salmon and tuna to your diet, as well as other omega-3 laden foods like pumpkin seeds and walnuts help. Interestingly enough, so do grass-fed proteins (beef, dairy and lamb, for example). These tend to be more affordable than wild caught seafood and are absolutely delicious. So fat is good? Yes. But like most things it’s about balance, getting the right proportions of different types of fatty acids as part of a healthy diet to help our bodies work properly. Without fat, we put ourselves at risk of different diseases, disorders, inflammation, even dementia. Now that we’ve gotten to know fat a little better, it’s time to tackle probably the most misunderstood fat of all — pork fat — in part 2 of this series In Defense of Fat.