Lettuce: The Silent Killer/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I know what it was that set me off today. A random article, out of the blue, I shouldn’t even have read it. It referred to great food cooked with rendered fat as “early-grave food heaven.” Why do people say stupid things like this?

Because the media bombards us with the simplistic message that Fat Is Bad For You, and it pisses me off.

Why? Because it’s not true.  Fat is good for you.  Fat is good for your body.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Fat doesn’t make you fat, EATING TOO MUCH MAKES YOU FAT! Eating every morsel of your mile high Cheesecake Factory plate is what makes you fat.  Eating a whole bag of Doritos is what makes you fat.  Eating when you’re not hungry makes you fat!

To argue that fat is bad for you is akin to arguing that homemade chocolate chip cookies or apple pie is bad for you. Is ice cream bad for you? Of course not. Putting away a couple of pints of Rocky Road every night, that probably is. Obviously too much ice cream and too much fat is bad for you.  If all you ate was lettuce, lettuce would be bad for you.

When was last time you heard a nutritionist warning you about the dangers of lettuce? Well, I’m here to make you wise. If lettuce is the only thing you eat, you will get sick, you’re going to have serious health issues. It can lead to dangerous malnutrition, grave weight loss, and in women, infertility.

Fat is dangerous only insofar as it’s good, because it’s so much more fun to eat than lettuce and we want to eat lots and lots of it. Yes, it’s calorie dense and yes, for some people, eating a lot of fat can raise their blood cholesterol—not me apparently, thank you mom and dad, grandpa and grandma—which is linked to some serious stuff, heart attacks and strokes.

But good health is not about being fat-free! It’s about BALANCE!  Lots of vegetables, plenty of exercise, moderate consumption of meat, dairy and grains, cooked—and this is really really important—cooked by you or by someone you know, preferably where you or they live.

Please, let’s stop repeating the thoughtless mantra that fat is bad.  Because fat is good.  And don’t get me started on the fat-free labels processed food companies put on their packages that imply, everywhere we look, the falsehood that fat is bad.

You see food in the grocery store labeled fat-free? My advice is go in the opposite direction.  Because they’ve either done something to it to make up for the fat, like putting sugars in “fat-free” half-and-half, or it’s a product that is naturally fat-free, like Kraft granola bars—there’s not supposed to be fat in them (it’s the sugar overload that’s bad)! Which means the company is pulling one over on you. Don’t let them.

Fat isn’t bad, stupid is bad.

Think for yourself. Use your common sense.

God this shit drives me crazy.

That does it, next up: Fried chicken.  That’s right.  DEEP FRIED CHICKEN! Who want’s to talk about DEEP-FRIED CHICKEN?!


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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


118 Wonderful responses to “The Hidden Health Hazards of Lettuce”

  • Mike

    Michael,thank you! I have in recent years come to the revelation that eating FAT IS NOT BAD. At age 40, I maintain 10% body fat, exercise 3x/week, and don’t over eat. I cook foods in butter, drink whole milk, and never trim the fat off steak. I feel great and enjoy food! The fallacies of the ‘lipid hypothesis’ have been revealed and the public is slowly catching on.

  • Annette

    You’re right Michael, too much lettuce can be bad for you. My grandmother loved salads and beets, and ate them almost exclusively at one point, until she turned yellow and the doc told her she’d given herself Vitamin A poisoning.

  • CM

    I get lost in this rant…and does anyone else see the basic flaw? Lettuce is a food item while fat is a nutrient in food items.

  • Rob

    Yup, ‘Anything will make you sick’ if you eat enough of it. I remember when I first moved out of the house and ate nothing but canned Ranch-style beans, flour tortillas and cracklin’s for a month. *shiver*

  • Shannon

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I just needed to read something that made me feel sane again. You are SO right. Balance is the target, our bodies are designed to work for it, heeeeeeeeeelloooo…anyone every hear of homeostasis? I read Real Food about 6 years ago, but recently I saw a documentary that made me start to doubt my well rounded diet. The film was called A Beautiful Truth. It promotes a vegan diet as a cure for disease and I asked myself, “Wait a sec. So, do I need to give up my grassfed beef now?” I had to remind myself that is probably only a detox diet that is not meant to be a way of life.

  • Lisa Petrie

    Most fats are fine. Lard…? Go for it. Fry up that chicken, and enjoy! But leave off the flour-battered coating! NOT good for you. Nor are any carbs that aren’t bound up in a significant amount of fiber. Processed flour, grains and sugars trigger an insulin response that leads to triglyceride formation in fat cells. It’s these carbs that are fattening (not butter or coconut oil), and eventually lead to obesity and diabetes. So, go ahead and sear that chicken skin-on in bacon grease, but leave off the breading. And stay away from the fritters! And the ice cream! The rest — moderate exercise, whole foods, cooking at home — all good! It’s just not scientifically accurate to imply that all things are okay in moderation, especially if that diet includes processed grains and sugars.

  • Joan Bishop

    Hell yes! When we lived in the UK (tiny island off France called Jersey), my local grocery store sold bricks of lard and jars of goose fat right next to the butter. Then we move back to a burb of Chicago, and I had to drive an hour to an ethnic market to find my lard! How am supposed to make a pie crust or roast potatoes without lard??! Stupid mainstream grocery stores. Thankfully here in Cleveland, my local carries lard. Keep up the great work spreading the gospel-natural fat is GOOD!! 🙂

  • chefintraining

    When it comes down to it, the fact makes the food richer. Which might explain while I can only eat 1 cupcake if I used butter in the recipe, whereas if the recipe is low fat, I can put down…more than I’ll admit. And low-fat doesn’t mean I don’t absorb all those extra calories…

  • EB

    Nicely done, MR! Yes, it is about balance and about the discipline to eat a balanced diet. I maintain that there are no foods that are either good bad (exceptions for allergies), but for any food there amounts that are good and amounts that are bad.

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