Disclaimer: The following is not intended as medical advice.
For three decades in the West — give or take a few years — we have been eating foods low in animal fat.
A little over two years ago, I ran a post on Dr David Diamond’s lecture about his return to low cholesterol and to good health via animal fat. The video is 60 minutes long, but well worth watching. He also lost a lot of weight because he cut down on carbohydrates.
Today, whilst in the midst of a household project, I again thought of Diamond’s experience and that of my late grandmother who said that she often felt down before going in for her quarterly cholesterol test because she couldn’t eat anything prepared in lard. She lived to 93 years of age and regularly fried in lard. She never once bought vegetable oil or margarine.
Two noticeable developments have occurred over the past 30 years, in addition to Diamond’s and my grandmother’s stories: the increase in violence and clinical depression.
Oddly, these have occurred at the same time many Westerners are switching to vegetable fats or no fat at all. They are also on the increase as fanatical ‘experts’ — in reality, marketers, economists and sociologists — bombard us with ‘health’ messages about avoiding fat.
However, our nerve endings need fat in order to work normally. Those of us who have reached a certain age (50+) learned that in primary school science and secondary school biology courses. This essential physiological fact is probably no longer taught.
The French newsweekly Marianne periodically runs articles warning about low-fat processed foods. They conclude that, in order for these snacks or meals to taste good, the absent fat needs a substitute: sugar or an ersatz chemical substitute.
I shall need to investigate further — so far Dr Diamond’s lecture is the most thorough information out there — but it does seem as if our uptake in violent behaviour and diagnosis of depression could well be related to a low consumption of fat, particularly animal fat.
My father died at an early age following a heart attack in the 1970s. He had suffered his first only a few years before. He followed his recovery diet religiously: no smoking, no drinking, no fat. I don’t call living for five years longer a successful recovery thanks to diet. My mother told me that his last words were, ‘If I’d known I’d only have lived this long, I would have kept on with cigarettes, beer and fat.’ He missed his fat, and the lack of it made him quite cranky. He also put on some weight after his first heart attack.
Yesterday, I, too, was feeling rather cranky, although I had lost a few pounds. Today, I found a piece of chicken skin in the refrigerator. I had carefully flattened it and wrapped it up in aluminium foil a few days ago to reheat in the oven as a garnish. Home cured bacon awaited my better half as a side order to this evening’s guinea fowl.
A note about reheating bacon, poultry skin and pork crackling (uncovered, on a baking tray or aluminium foil): it renders further in the oven, so you’re reducing your caloric intake of the original — as well as the roasted — fat.
That chicken skin — or schmaltz — never tasted so good. It was crispy and melted in the mouth. I feel right as rain now, equilibrium restored. Perhaps the animal fat accounted for it. My grandmother occasionally missed her animal fat in the run up to the quarterly cholesterol test. Perhaps had my father indulged in animal fat against his doctor’s wishes, he would have lived a few years longer.
Perhaps if we ate a bit more animal fat we’d feel happier and be healthier. A little bit of what we fancy might not go amiss.