For many years, Americans were taught to fear fat, with fatty foods getting the blame for our country’s obesity epidemic, among other health issues. But studies have since made it clear that there is a fatty spectrum, with trans fats on the unhealthy side, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats on the healthy side, and saturated fats falling somewhere in the middle (or even leaning to the healthy side, depending on whom you ask). Red meat often contains high levels of saturated fat, but it depends on the type of beef in question.
Highly marbled beef such as Wagyu beef contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) due to its high concentration of oleic acid. When people think of foods high in healthy fats, they likely imagine olive oil, salmon, and avocados, but beef high in monounsaturated fats can also be a great source. Foods high in unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature, which is part of the reason the fats in cuts of Wagyu melt at the first sign of heat. Studies have made it clear that if you want to eat beef high in monounsaturated fats, Wagyu beef is the way to go, because at 52.9 percent oleic acid concentration, it scores higher than other breeds of cattle, such as Angus, which contains 32.9-34.6 percent oleic acid concentration.
Healthy fats have a wide range of benefits. Here are just three:
3 Reasons Healthy Fats Are Good for You
Healthy fats are essential to a person’s physical well-being. Foods with a high ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats have been shown to help lower cholesterol, prevent coronary disease, and aid with weight loss. Polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential fats, meaning our bodies can’t make them but need them to function normally. They are necessary to construct cell membranes as well as coverings for nerves, and to properly clot blood. And even saturated fats have been shown to have health benefits, especially when they replace sugar in a diet.
1. Help lower “bad” cholesterol
Similar to fat, cholesterol suffers from unfair stereotypes. Many cholesterol-rich foods, such as eggs, unprocessed meats, and cheese, are actually highly nutritious and have many health benefits. It’s primarily processed cholesterol-rich foods, such as fried foods, processed meats, and sugary desserts, that should be avoided. Beef from thoughtfully raised cattle, especially high-MUFA beef like Wagyu, can actually help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
2. May reduce risk factors for heart disease
There are many different risk factors for heart disease, which is the cause of death for about 610,000 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These risk factors include a poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. The oleic acid found in Wagyu beef and other high-MUFA foods is linked to reducing blood pressure. And diets high in healthy fats can also reduce inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease and obesity.
3. Can aid in weight loss
When foods high in healthy fats replace other calories in a diet, they have been shown to help with weight loss. One study of 124 people who were overweight or obese found that following a diet high in monounsatuated fats (20 percent of total calories) or a high-carb diet for one year led to comparable weight loss of around 8.8 pounds. Another study found that participants who followed a low-carbohydrate diet and increased their energy intake from saturated fats actually improved their overall lipid profiles.
At the end of the day, we should probably rethink the misconception that fat is the reason for our health woes. As Gary Taubes argued in his book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, “The simple answer as to why we get fat is that carbohydrates make us so; protein and fat do not.”