Monday, December 08, 2008

Fat Should Inspire Sex

I recently calculated my daily fat intake. Since I eat essentially the same foods every day, my calculations are probably pretty accurate.

For breakfast, I typically consume 3 tablespoons raw extra virgin olive oil. That's 42 grams of fat, 360 calories--66% of the daily suggested intake.

Lunch, I consume 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (baked, in tempeh). That's 28 grams of fat, 240 calories.

By dinner, I've exceeded my daily fat intake, simply by consuming olive oil.

Is this healthy?

One prominent study suggests two tablespoons daily is a healthful dose. But I cannot find any studies on excessive olive oil consumption. I can say, though, that as a type-1 diabetic, I'm prone to an increased risk of high blood pressure, as well as heart and cholesterol problems. And yet, I'm healthy. I get blood tests several times a year. I check my own blood pressure monthly. My levels are healthy, normal.

Also, at 5' 11", 150 pounds, I'm slightly underweight.

Keeping this in mind, consider my dinner: I typically consume two tablespoons raw extra virgin olive oil, about 27 grams fat from chicken, and about 1/4 cup coconut milk. After dinner, I eat a little chocolate, about 6 grams of fat worth.

In one day, I consume:

7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil: 98 grams fat ; 840 calories.
2 chicken legs: 27 grams fat; 464 calories
1/4 coconut milk: 12 grams fat; 120 calories
Chocolate: 6 grams fat; 80 calories

That's 143 grams of fat--more than double the daily recommended value.

Again, can this be healthy?

I'd say, possibly. I rarely eat dairy fat (I eat raw butter and goat cheese occasionally.) I never, ever eat trans-fats. My animal fat intake is not excessive. (I take fish oil capsules every day, but the capsules do not increase my fat intake.)

Still, 143 grams.

I don't care. I love fat, with wild abandon.

Without fat, cuisine is unimaginable. Fat provides immense flavor and an impossible to match smoothness. Fat tenderizes food. Fat allows for high-heat cooking--the domain of crispiness and robust flavor. To me, low-fat cuisine is lifeless, boring, just plain stupid. Thousands of studies have proven the health benefits of fats--fish oils, extra virgin, olive oil, even saturated fats such as extra virgin coconut oil. People who eat low fat diets in pursuit of health or weight-loss are simply moronic. To me, low-fat dieters seem as boring and lifeless as their boring, lifeless diets.

No doubt, some chefs might say the same thing about me. I typically eschew the classics of gourmet cooking, cream and butter, in my own manic pursuit of "health." (I do use some animal fat, such as bacon, on special occasions, and when absolutely called for.)

Well, I challenge any chef to make my mashed potatoes. They're delicious; they're also healthy.

I think cuisine should provide taste and nourishment and vitality. Any chef can whip up a great-tasting mashed potato, with cream and butter. But how do creamy, buttery mashed potatoes make you feel after you eat?

I want my diners to feel satisfied, but I also want them to walk away from the table feeling light and sprite. I don't want my diners to moan, to lay around, devastated by my food. I want my diners to dance in celebration. I want my diners to kiss without fear of burbing unhealthy burbs. I want my diners to feel like making wild, winey-love. I want my diners to feel sexy, before and after eating.

Towards this end, I use the sexy fat: coconut milk.

Coconut milk (unlike coconut oil) does not dramatically alter the taste of a dish, if used in correct quantities. (My mashed potatoes do not taste at all like coconut.) And yet, coconut adds the silky luxuriousness that's missing from many dairy-free recipes. I use coconut milk in many recipes where cream might be called for, and usually the result is terrific.

Try mashed sweet potatoes. Try chocolate truffles.

Recently, I've been making variations on what I call "Healthy Creamed Spinach." It's basically greens, simmered with coconut milk. Try it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Coconut Braised Greens

I originally developed this recipe for Whole Foods Market; if you like it, you can rate it here.

1 large bunch kale or collard greens, trimmed and teared into small pieces
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh coconut milk
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 6-8 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and lemon juice to the pan. Add the greens. Gently toss. Simmer over medium-low heat, covered, until greens are just tender, 3-5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.


Anonymous said...

I love kale. I'm so trying that recipe too. I think I'll serve it at some point over Christmas - I share cooking responsibilities with my father during the holiday season.

I agree that fat makes food that bit more heavenly. I've never been more miserable as when I had gallstones and had to eat low-fat rubbish (when I could be bothered to eat at all). I dreamed of Stilton, chocolate, steak, while I lived on toast and marshmallows. Boring and lifeless, as you rightly say.

Seth Pollins said...

I do take a few antidotes to my high fat diet: Dandelion tea; digestive enzymes (containing lipase); and daily exercise.

Steve said...

My diet is way too inconsistent to ever be able to take an average polling like this. Some days I consume almost no fat, while on others my fat consumption is through the roof--like yesterday when I ate a whole package of cheese. Actually if it weren't for my hopeless addiction to good cheese, my diet would be extremely low fat, at least during the week.

I also disagree with the basic premise of this piece. Eating rich,creamy, fatty foods makes me only want to lay on the couch and act rich, creamy, and fat.

The energy I get from eating natural sugars in fruits and vegetables is the thing that makes me want to , ahem, move more.

Seth Pollins said...


You completely misunderstand the premise of the piece.

The premise is that eating healthy fats (as opposed to entire blocks of cheese) inspires energy.

My intention was to make a distinction between types of fat. Dairy fat, indeed, if eaten in excess might make you feel rich, creamy, and fat. But olive oil might not have the same effect at all; olive oil promotes health and energy--perhaps not in the amounts that I consume, obviously.

The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables can be destructive. Sugars in fruits and vegetables can cause havoc with your insulin levels, which can then cause havoc with your energy levels. (And yes, the potato is a major culprit.)

I speak from personal experience. I test my blood sugar 12 times a day. I see firsthand the profound effect an apple can have on your health. But don't believe me. Read this:

I limit sugars from fruits and vegetables. And I try to eat low-sugar fruits, such as blueberries. But low-sugar vegetables--such as greens, cucumbers, asparagus, fennel, and turnip--are the best choice, especially when combined with healthy fats, which aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Seth Pollins said...


Read about this study, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that:

"...people who consumed salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots than those who consumed their salads with a salad dressing containing fat."

Here's the link:

Steve said...

I've heard that before about fruit sugars and insulin. They say the same thing about consuming too much carrot or beet juice- Which I transgress, believing that the added health benefits of juicing raw, sugary vegetables far outweigh any negative consequences. There have been studies done about that too.

If so, then why are we recommended to consume 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily?

I've recently decided to just skip the entire digestive process, choosing to just freebase my vegetables instead. There's nothing quite like carrots out of a crack pipe.

Are their any studies on this?

Steve said...


I meant are "there" any studies on this.

Go ahead, you can blast me for that one. I deserve it.

Seth Pollins said...

Juicing essentially is like skipping the digestive process and freebasing.

I think it's probably a good idea to cut carrot and beet juice with low-sugar vegetables, such as celery or cucumber or spinach.

Norman Walker, after all, cites carrot-spinach juice (combination #61 in Raw Vegetable & Fruit Juices) as the most potent of health elixers. Are you reading this book, Steve?

Anonymous said...

I delight in this celebration of fat. Time and again, as I prepare ridiculous, unplanned and completely off the hoof meals, Owen cringes at the addition of 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the single tablespoon of butter, the 8 oz of coconut milk.

I know you avoid animal fats and dairy fats. But in a dish comprised of sprouted rices, raw cabbage, turnip, spinach and garlic--wouldn't a little bit of butter be just the thing?

Sure, we could use only olive oil and coconut milk from now on, but why?

Why not a little bit of butter?!

Mostly, Owen is upset by the butter more than anything else.

Is this wrong?

Seth Pollins said...

Hi Candy,

I agree: in certain recipes, butter is just the thing. Butter is utterly delicious. But it's alo easy, and overused in general and in specific recipes (like mashed potatoes.)

Now, your dish. The one comprised of "sprouted rices, raw cabbage, turnip, spinach and garlic?" I'm imagining it right now. I'm speechless.

Stephanie said...

Hey, have you guys heard of the Weston Price Foundation? It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring what they call "nutrient-dense foods" to the American diet. Through 10 years of researching the diets of non-industrialized societies (such as Inuits, Kitivans, Masai, Chewya and Muhima), who live on largely animal proteins and fats, they found that these people remain some of the healthiest, tallest, and most robust people in the world (with the best teeth!). In fact, heart disease and diabetes did not even exist until these cultures were introduced to sugars, grains, and processed flours. Check out their page about fats. You may also want to check out Gary Taubes book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, which completely subverts and debunks the entire fat/cholesterol myth.

All I can say is that ever since I changed my diet and cut out grains and sugars, my LDL has dropped, my HDL has gone up, and my triglycerides and glucose levels are ridiculously low. And I'm eating meat, whole eggs, full-fat dairy, and lots of saturated FAT (no trans fats though). C'mon, you thought I was kidding about the schmaltz?

Seth Pollins said...

Hi Stephanie,

I love Weston Price. Time and time again, I find the Weston Price articles to offer reasonable, nuanced information. Also, I teach a class called "Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" which is partly inspired by Gary Taube's book. Good stuff!

I'm happy to hear your health is transcendant, and your diet sounds robust. Full-fat dairy is the way to go, if you're going to eat dairy. When I do eat dairy, it's always eggs, raw full-fat milk, or raw butter...Have you been able to find a supply of raw dairy in NYC?

I've always dreamed about being an Inuit, subsisting primarly on blubber.

Anonymous said...

Now that I think about it, the food I was talking was from two separate evenings. The rice-purple cabbage-turnip-spinach thing is actually very good! It's a variation of a Peter Berley quinoa salad, substituting thick sprouted rice; we also messed around a bit with the cider vinegar, and the spices he suggested.

I think the garlic and butter was meant to go on top of a homemade beet & ricotta ravioli--very awesome. The recipe called for a butter poppyseed sauce, with something like a whole stick of butter. I used about 3 tablespoons, added garlic and olive oil--it was very good. Owen freaked out because of the butter, even though we hardly ever have butter, but the sauce on the ravioli was really perfect.

Frankly, after making homemade ravioli shells and stuffing, an "easy" ingredient like butter was exactly what I deserved!

Sorry I confused my dinners. I guess I messed up your blog.

Anonymous said...

Other than a few grams of chicken fat (let's face it: white meat chicken is not an option here), it sounds like your diet is based on very healthy fats. As you know, I am particularly fond of olive oil. I believe its health benefits as a cooking oil, marinade and condiment are absolutely unrivaled.

So, what are you doing with the olive oil for your breakfast? I like to drizzle some of that green elixir on my "low fat" cottage cheese.

Speaking of dairy, I intend to start incorporating coconut milk into my cooking more in order to better serve my lactose-intolerant wife.

Thank fucking god she tolerates olive oil and chicken.

Stephanie said...

Seth, I did find raw milk through a secret raw dairy club that I can't talk about here (it's too dangerous and my pimp might be reading this). But I'm thrilled to know that you also admire Weston Price and Gary Taubes. Actually our secret raw dairy club was started by members of the Weston Price Foundation.

Thanks for your encouragement about my health. I want you to be healthy too! I never think anyone is too thin but 155 sounds awfully thin. Maybe it's time to start incorporating that whale blubber into your diet... or, I can send Thea over with some good chopped liver (when she comes in Jan).

Karen said...

Mmmmm, butter. One of my greatest pleasures is a breakfast of rye toast with butter. Even better was the delicious white bread we would get from the ice cream truck in Glasgow and toast under my grandma's broiler. I am sure Seth would not approve of this Scottish white bread, which is likely less healthy than Wonder.

This post may have inspired me to make the trip to the farm this weekend to pick up some raw butter and raw cheese while Seth is working. Wait a second... Seth, is that why you posted this?!

Seth Pollins said...


I consume my morning olive oil with spelt bread. I lightly toast the bread and then dip it in olive oil, as the Italians do.

As far as I know, I am the only person in America who consumes bread and olive oil like this for breakfast.

Thank fucking god for olive oil.


Thea's coming?! We must get together. Liver sounds perfect.

My wife:

Yes, go to the farm. Procure the raw dairy.



Frederick said...

Hello Seth! Quite frankly, this is the first time I've read someone call coconut milk, the "sexy fat." But it totally makes sense as coconut milk/coconut oil is usually the one being referred to in the saying, Eat Fat to Lose Fat.

So why didn't I think of that?! ;-)

Your Drugstore in a Bottle

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