This post was updated on May 21st, 2020
There’s no argument that saturated fats are delicious and now there’s also no argument that women like you and me shouldn’t be enjoying them as part of a healthy diet. I make eating saturated fat a daily requirement for my PCOS diet and here is 6 reasons why you should too:
1. Saturated fat does not make us fat
The myth that fat makes us fat has been well and truly debunked. This terrible piece of dietary advice is not supported by science, yet the strong influence of powerful industry lobby groups that have a commercial interest in people eating low fat, high carbohydrate diets, means that even today, government organizations are reluctant to correct this long standing error.
If you don’t believe me, check out the summary on this highly cited peer reviewed article for a scathing scientific assessment of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report which is used to inform most mainstream healthy organisations. Here is one of my favorite excerpts:
“The DGAC Report does not provide sufﬁcient evidence to conclude that increases in whole grain and ﬁber and decreases in dietary saturated fat, salt, and animal protein will lead to positive health outcomes.” – (Hite and Feinman et. al 2010)
Given that many women with PCOS put weight on more easily than the general population, eating saturated fat, as part of a healthy PCOS diet can actually help you lose weight as explained below.
2. Saturated fat helps us eat less
Our bodies are perfectly designed for the consumption of saturated fats as this was a staple part of our diet since the dawn of mankind. The hormones leptin, insulin, and CCK all play a role in helping us feel full and these hormones all respond well when we eat saturated fat.
What this means is that when we eat fat, we feel full for longer, so we eat less overall. If you ever feel hungry shortly after eating, chances are you probably need to eat more saturated fat to satiate your hunger hormones.
Don’t believe me? Why not try a spoonful of organic extra virgin coconut oil the next time you start to feel hungry or when you are craving something you know you shouldn’t eat and see how long it takes to feel hungry again.
3. Saturated fat increases good cholesterol
HDL is the type of cholesterol that people often associate as being “good’. Well, guess what happens when you eat saturated fat? Your HDL goes up!
The other type of cholesterol is LDL, which people often associate as being “bad”. The truth however is that not all types of LDL are “bad” as there are actually two kinds of LDL:
- Small dense LDL which can penetrate the wall of our arteries which then leads to heart disease (small dense LDL is DEFINITELY “bad”) and,
- Large LDL which is too big and fluffy to pass through the walls of our arteries and hence don’t cause heart disease.
When you eat saturated fat, your LDL can increase but it’s actually your large LDL going up. In addition to this, eating saturated fat changes the dangerous, small dense LDL to the benign large LDL and actually reduces our risk of developing heart disease!
Given that women with PCOS are generally at increased risk of developing heart disease, eating saturated fat is actually GOOD FOR YOU!
4. Saturated fat does not cause heart disease
Despite everything you may have learned, the science is 100% out on this one. The link between saturated fats and heart disease has been studied intensely for decades and NO LINK has ever been found.
Check out the conclusion from a highly cited scientific study which combined all of the results of many other studies (a scientific technique which results in very definitive findings):
“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.” – (Siri-Tarino and Sun et. al 2010)
5. Saturated fat has a low glycemic index
It is widely understood that women with PCOS experience a reduction in symptoms when they switch to foods that are slower to raise blood sugar levels. Foods that do this, are called low GI. As it turns out saturated fat has a low GI, and if you add it to other higher GI foods, the resulting GI is lower than the sum of its parts! How cool is that? If you want to reduce the glycemic index of your food, then just add a bit of butter to it!
6. Saturated fat helps us absorb micronutrients
Some of the essential micronutrients we need such as vitamins A, E, and K2 are fat soluble. What this means is that for our bodies to absorb these nutrients we need to eat them with fat, and saturated fats are amongst the best fats for doing this.
Saturated fats are great for a PCOS diet
If we needed any further proof that saturated fat is good for our PCOS and overall health in general, then we need to look no further than studies of low carbohydrate diets for women with PCOS which include a higher proportion of fat in their diet, but still provide the same total energy intake. These type of studies have shown:
- Preferentially loss of fat from harmful deposits around the stomach and thighs (Goss and Chandler-Laney et. al 2014).
- Increased insulin sensitivity (Barr and Reeves et. al 2013) i.e. the reversing of insulin resistance which affects more than three quarters of all women with PCOS.
- Decreases in circulating testosterone (Gower and Chandler-Laney 2013) which is what causes many of the unwanted symptoms of PCOS.
The take home message is simple. Eat more fat, but do so without increasing your overall calorie intake by cutting back on carbohydrates at the same time. This is exactly what I teach during my live Free 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge and why I incorporate lots of yummy fats into the weekly meals plans.
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.
Barr, Suzanne; Reeves, Sue; Sharp, Kay; et al. An Isocaloric Low Glycemic Index Diet Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS, 2013.
Goss, Amy M.; Chandler-Laney, Paula C.; Ovalle, Fernando; et al. Effects of a eucaloric reduced-carbohydrate diet on body composition and fat distribution in women with PCOS. METABOLISM-CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL, 2014.
Siri-Tarino, Patty W.; Sun, Qi; Hu, Frank B.; et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, 2010.