Watching what you eat may help you drop pounds and get healthier, but only if you know what to look for. Many of us are actually avoiding the wrong foods. When board-certified nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS discussed this topic on SiriusXM radio, he told listeners to stop fearing saturated fat. We were elated he chose to include Malaysian sustainable palm oil in his discussion.
Back in the 80s and 90s, most health experts told us to embrace a low-fat diet. “Some people still believe that, but it’s one of the most destructive and victimizing beliefs in the history of nutrition,” said Bowden. His latest book, Smart Fat, hopes to change this errant thinking which caused an unhealthy fear of fat. “That information is not only obsolete, it’s destructive and it’s wrong,” he said.
Fats, such as Malaysian sustainable red palm oil, are an important part of healthy diet. “It’s loaded with carotenoids,” explained Bowden. Carotenoids, such as alpha and beta carotene, are powerful antioxidants. Palm oil also contains vitamin E tocotrienols. “This is a good healthy oil,” he said “It was demonized because it’s a saturated fat, but we now know that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease.”
All palm oil, however, is not the same. “I care passionately about animal welfare,” said Bowden. “A lot of palm oil comes from countries where they deforest and ruin the environment for orangutans.” Some suppliers have been known to burn pristine forests to clear land for oil palm plantations. This practice is illegal in Malaysia. “I always mention Malaysia when I talk about palm oil, because I think countries like this should be rewarded. Fifty percent of their forests are protected,” said Bowden. “There is no deforestation going on. They have tremendous wildlife and conservation (programs), and meanwhile you have this great fat which is sustainable, easy to produce and it has all these nutrients in it.”
Bowden urged the listeners to embrace the latest research about fats and oils. “We have to stop fearing saturated fat,” he said. Partially hydrogenated oils with their factory-formed trans fats, however, have been associated with increase health risks. “We have to fear toxic fat.”
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.