Hashed Browns

The two questions I get asked the most are, “Why do you use so much fat in your recipes?” and “Can you give me new lunch ideas?” This week, I want to tackle both questions for you and today we’ll start with the question of fat.

I rode the non-fat bandwagon for many years. I tried to eat as little fat as possible (eggs were completely shunned in our house, along with butter and whole milk) but never felt good or satisfied. I had problems keeping weight off and my energy levels up. About six years ago, when I took on an organic diet, I began reading about the importance of fats and discovered some very interesting information. We need fats. Unprocessed, saturated fats are essential for energy, hormone production, a healthy immune system, and many other important functions. This information intrigued me, but also confused me a little. Wasn’t fat bad? Doesn’t fat cause heart disease? Doesn’t fat make me fat? I wanted the answers to these questions so I began digging.

The low-fat message began in the 1950’s with a theory called the “Lipid Hypothesis”. This hypothesis proposes a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Ancel Keys, the researcher behind the Lipid Hypothesis received a lot of publicity especially from the vegetable oil and food processing industries. Many experts preach the validity of a diet low in fat and cholesterol for decreasing the risk of heart disease. I was shocked to learn there is very little scientific evidence to support this claim.

“Before 1920 coronary heart disease was rare in America; so rare that when a young internist named Paul Dudley White introduced the German electrocardiograph to his colleagues at Harvard University, they advised him to concentrate on a more profitable branch of medicine. The new machine revealed the presence of arterial blockages, thus permitting early diagnosis of coronary heart disease. But in those days clogged arteries were a medical rarity, and White had to search for patients who could benefit from his new technology. During the next forty years, however, the incidence of coronary heart disease rose dramatically, so much so that by the mid fifties heart disease was the leading cause of death among Americans. Today heart disease causes at least 40% of all US deaths. If, as we have been told, heart disease results from the consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet. Actually, the reverse is true. During the sixty-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1%. During the same period the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils increased about 400% while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60%.” Mary G. Enig, PhD

This is just a taste of the information I’ve found and there are multiple studies and research from reputable doctors and scientists that suggest fat and cholesterol may not be the enemies we’ve made them out to be.

I’m not a scientist or doctor but here’s what I’ve learned:

1. A fat like butter is a short fatty-acid chain that is quickly absorbed into the body for energy and plays a vital role in the immune system.

2. Coconut oil, a medium fatty-acid chain, has high antimicrobial properties, is also quickly used for energy and contributes to the health of the immune system.

3. Olive oil is a long fatty-acid chain and supports many processes at the cellular level.

4. Polyunsaturated fats are needed in very small quantities but unfortunately, we consume them in mass quantities from processed sources such as corn, safflower, canola, and soy. High levels of polyunsaturated fats have been shown to contribute to many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, weight gain, among many others.

5.We also consume too much omega-6 (mainly from commercially-processed vegetable oils) and not enough omega-3 (from pastured eggs, meats, dairy, and fish).

6. Saturated fats are needed for the health of our bones, to protect the liver from toxins, to enhance the immune system, among many other things.

7. Saturated fatty acids give our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.

8. “Evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.” (Wow!) source

After a year or two of my own reading and research, I decided the evidence was compelling enough to give fats a try. I got rid of all of the processed fats and oils in my pantry (vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, etc.) and replaced them with butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and a few others. The result? I feel better, my energy level is up. Our family as a whole rarely gets sick. Here’s a big clincher, my cellulite has slowly continued to disappear over the last few years! It’s not completely gone, but it has decreased significantly. Ask my friends, they saw it all happen and asked me what I was doing.

I had a friend call two years ago and tell me his cholesterol was elevated and there was also calcification in his arteries. The doctors recommended certain drugs, but along with that, he wanted to try other alternatives. I showed him what I’d learned, so he dramatically changed his diet and made sure to consume a healthy amount of unprocessed, saturated fats from natural organic sources each day. The result? In a year his cholesterol went down (60 points), his blood pressure is normal for the first time in 20+ years and his calcification is gone. Gone! He told his doctor what he did, and after his doctor did his own research, he is now a believer in the importance of healthy fats to support the body.  [This is a doctor who’s spent more than a decade advising his patients to limit their cholesterol intake and prescribing drugs to control cholesterol and blood pressure.]

I have many other friends with similar stories.

If you’re reading this information for the first time, I know it can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. I understand, I was the same way. Remember, it’s all about little changes. Take some time, read and research for yourself, and see what you think. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find.

For further reading:

The Skinny on Fats
The Cholesterol Myths (unfortunately out of print, but look at your local library)
Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease
Eat Fat, Lose Fat (my favorite, and a very easy read)
The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions
The Oiling of America
What if Fat isn’t so bad? No one’s ever proved that saturated fat clogs arteries, causes heart disease. (MSNBC)
Good News on Saturated Fat (New York Times)

Today’s recipe is a family favorite for those lazy mornings when I have time to make a big breakfast. Cubed potatoes sauteed in butter blend perfectly with minced onion and plenty of sea salt. I usually serve it alongside some scrambled eggs and pastured bacon.

Hashed Browns

Serving Size: Serves 4

Hashed Browns

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons coarse Celtic sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add potatoes, onions, salt and pepper and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are browned and the onion is caramelized. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.

Because I was limited in time this week, the first and third photographs in today’s post are from istockphoto.

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47 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. Fats are an important part of the diet. They got a bad rap for a long time, but healthy fats are necessary and need to be included! I used to shy away from them, but now I try to make sure I incorporate healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocado, and yes sometimes butter:)

  2. This is really helpful. I eat a pretty healthy diet, was raised to believe in butter as much healthier than manufactured substitutes, still it is confusing and overwhelming. I will check out all of those links, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide this information!

  3. Molly Chester

    I think you're the bees knees. Love this post and love all the independent struggles you faced to find a diet that works for you!Oh, and LOVE the cellulite thing… I have actually started noticing that myself, too!

  4. LA

    i have MANY clients who dont understand how a dietitian can seriously tell them to enjoy moderate amounts of butter and leave the processed stuff behind even if it says "low-fat." COWS OVER CHEMISTS, people!! sigh……

  5. Thanks for such an informative & well researched post. I absolutely agree with everything you say here. I traveled a similar path as you. I had cut out essential, natural fats and also ended up lethargic, my skin hair & nails also took a beating. Now my diet has plenty of these good for you, easy to process high-energy fats. The hash looks great….love those 5 tbs of butter :) xo

  6. I am so glad to see your stand on this issue. Thank you so much. Three years ago, I read an article in the New York Times on how the U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop bought into a good study, (which you cite in this post)that was wrongly interpreted. Twenty-two countries were studied to find a relationship between diets high in fat and disease. Only the data from the US, Japan and four other countries were analyzed. Had the data from all twenty-two countries been analyzed, no overwhelming correlation would have been found. But a leading scientist, Dr. Ancel Keyes, used the data from only these six countries, Dr. Koop bought into it, and the rest is history.We were all duped and fed a line of fear that high fat diets are bad, will make us fat and result in heart disease. I and thousands (millions?) of others spent years taking fat out of our recipes, eating low-fat yogurt, almost no oils. And now I wonder how this could have contributed to my various health issues, like chronic dry skin and severe menstrual problems.One theory for the epidemic of obesity is that one never feels satisfied after eating a low-fat meal. The urge is to eat yet more calories.Organic butter, cream, full-fat yogurt, lots of coconut oil, are all a part of my diet now. I haven't gained a bit and feel more energetic than I have for years. I'm happily making up for decades of denying myself butter and cheese.Brainwashing is a hard thing to overcome. It may take generations to correct this. I'm sorry if I wrote too much, but I feel very passionate about this subterfuge perpetrated on the entire country. NYT article: http://tinyurl.com/25fvgclKathleen

  7. It's great knowing that its okay to eat fats if you do it right. Olive oil is a staple in my kitchen, but I don't use coconut oil at all. I bought a jar but use it as an intense moisturizer…Guess I need to get another jar to start cooking with!Thanks for the insights!

  8. Cooking in Mexico: Thank you so much for your feedback. I read about that study also and was shocked at how the results were so skewed! I'm glad to hear that eating healthy fats has made a change in how you feel! It's not hard to say "yes" to real butter and cream! :)Shelly: Oh gosh, don't worry. I was asking the same questions just a few years ago. :) Pastured is when the cow has been raised on the "pasture" and not in a feed lot. The cows are able to feed on grass, clover, and other plants. The meat and milk from pastured cows is much high in omega-3 fatty acids and lineolic acid as well as other nutrients.

  9. Me, Myself and Pie

    I am so glad I read this post. I've always been torn with fats. My husband has very high cholesterol and his doctor told him to limit his fat to 35 grams per day. (That's almost impossible!) They want him to start drugs too, which we don't want to do. I can't wait to pass this along to him. Thank you!

  10. I just happened upon your website from one of your other articles and must say I love it. We have been fed lies for so long. I started using butter again within the last year. Hoenstly my family is healthy so we used margarine my whole life because it was cheap. I also only have olive oil and coconut oil in my house. I cook with the coconut and have read that I should use the olive oil for uncooked things like salad dressings and to drizzle over things. I still use it to cook sometimes though. I read about the problems with that same study and a little bit more of the puzzle came together for me. My bf and I have just started to try to ear more healthy but unfortunately with all the lies the govt is feeding us we don’t even know what healthy is. The food pyramid is the worst. I’ve been doing organic but rent increases, college loans etc have cut my budget so small I doubht I will be able to afford food anymore (literally) let alone organic and food good for you. I will still try my best with my new found knowledge of what healthy food is. Just anything that has a small amount of ingredients that you have heard of. The hash browns look and sound awesome and I like the sweet potato idea thrown in in the comments.

  11. Shannon

    I was also on the low fat/no fat kick for many years. I was always hungry and frequentlygot sick. I was sick so much that I saw a nutritionist who recommended putting back the healthy fats in my diet. I was hesitant to do so because I was sure I’d gain a bunch of weight. Well, for almost 4 months now I’ve cut processed foods out of my diet and introduced healthy fats and I have not gained a pound, I have a lot more energy, and I haven’t been sick once! I now tell everyone I know that the low fat diets are what’s making us fat and sick!

      • That’s so weird. The gist of it was that I’m annoyed to find that even with all the changes we’ve made toward this kind of healthy eating, my cholesterol has crept up (just barely “high” now, where it wasn’t before) and I’ve got very low hemoglobin. And all of my cellulite. I guess either I’m not doing enough or doing it wrong or something. It’s frustrating.

  12. Pam

    Carrie, Thanks so much for this post. I love having a concise explanation along with links to pass along to friends who continue to eat “low fat” processed foods thinking they are doing the healthy thing.

  13. Marcia S.

    Carrie, I was introduced to you from the 100daysofrealfood blogs and I’m so glad I found you. Such helpful info. I have 2 questions for you.

    1.) Why do you need to boil potatoes before frying? (I saw a tv personality say the same thing, but didn’t explain why they should be boiled first.)

    2.) I was reading in your cookbook last night that you recommend starting your day off with 1 TBSP of coconut oil each day. Do you eat it plain or do you mean you add 1 TBSP to whatever you are eating?

    Thanks.

    • Deliciously Organic

      1. Parboiling helps the potatoes cook more evenly and prevents them from burning in the pan. 2. There are lots of ways to supplement with coconut oil. If it’s cold, I take small pieces of it and swallow it like a pill, or you can spread it on warm toast or put it in a hot drink. Or if you don’t like the taste, putting some on your skin (especially your feet and then putting socks on) is a great way to use it. Sara Wilson just wrote a post about coconut oil and she has some great ideas! http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/tag/coconut-oil/

  14. Amy in Upstate SC

    I want to say thanks for all the time that you put into your site. I happened upon your site accidently and was blown away by the wealth of information that you offer. I am 32 years old with 2 kids, 10&6. I was told 2 years ago that I have Heart Disease, LVH, my left Aorta is enlarged, I have Stage 2 Kidney Disease along with Type 2 Diabetes. On top of all of this, I was told that if I was to have another child which I want, that my body would not hold up. I lived in denial up until a few weeks ago when my 10 year old son begged me to get better. I started looking into our diets and learned that what we are eating was really killing us slowly. I could not believe that I was feeding the people I love most in the world the horrible food that I was. Today is our first day of organic real foods and, though it isn’t easy because we can already feel our bodies screaming for the junk food, we know it will pass and the cravings for the right foods take over. My prayer is that when I go back at the end of summer for my next check-up, the outcome will be completely different. Once again, thanks for all of the information that you have given us.

    • Deliciously Organic

      I’m so glad you found my site and that you are making changes to better your health! You can do this!! A book I highly recommend is “Deep Nutrition” by Cate Shanahan and “Wheat Belly” by William Davis. Both are full of amazing information and can hopefully help you on your journey. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

  15. Chais

    Thanks for this post! It definitely is enlightening but certainly a challenge to get your mind rewired into thinking about fat as a good source. I was wondering what kinds of good saturated fats should we be eating and what are some we should avoid?

    Thanks again!

    • Deliciously Organic

      I recommend reading the book “Eat Fat, Lose Fat” by Dr. Mary Enig. She outlines all of this information in her book. It’s a great one! Also, if you go to the “Pantry” page on this site, you can see the list of fats and oils I like to use.

  16. Mona G.

    Just read this and I believe it too…but have a question…why is the CELTIC SALT better for you than the regular salt ?

    I do have and use Gourmet Sea Salt sometimes, but mostly use just regular table salt……

  17. Mona G.

    I am using 2% milk, but really rather drink the whole milk tho, but slowly went to the 2% due to all the talk about all the fat in the whole milk…

    Used to drink the COFFEE MATE in my coffee, got tired of all the ingredients in it, some which I can’t even pronounce……so I tried HALF AND HALF and didn’t like that, so went to WHIPPING CREAM and have been drinking that now for the last year….:) my daughter thinks it is bad for me…..can I get an opinion from you ?

    • Deliciously Organic

      If the cream is raw or at least non-homogenized then it’s a great choice. The fat isn’t something to be worried about – it’s the processing of the milk that can create an unhealthy food. I drink heavy cream in my coffee each morning too and love it! :)

  18. I am totally blown away!! Wow. This goes against everything we are told, so it only makes sense that it would be correct lol Totally pitching the fat free milk and all the low fat crap. Bookmarked this post to share with family and friends in the future!! Thank You!!

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