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Deliciously Organic: Hashed Browns

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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 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 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)
Fat and Cholesterol are Good For You
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
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Serves 4

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 sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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

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Blogger Maria said...

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:)

August 24, 2010 at 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

Excellent post and incredible photos.
It is interesting to see how things have changed for you since re-introducing the healthy fats into your diet!

August 24, 2010 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

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!

August 24, 2010 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger WillyP & me said...

I really needed to read this post - thank you - and thanks for the links to additional reading!


August 24, 2010 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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!

August 24, 2010 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Esi said...

Great post Carrie! I also used to try and follow a "nonfat" diet and quickly realized that healthy fats are essential. Your posts have been so informative lately. I love it!

August 24, 2010 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger LA said...

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......

August 24, 2010 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Carli said...

Seriously, you are a genius! Thanks for doing all the hard work and posting it for us to read! This is so interesting!

August 24, 2010 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous marla {family fresh cooking} said...

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 those 5 tbs of butter :) xo

August 25, 2010 at 3:59 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Thank you for the information I have got to try this. I need to lose some cellulite.
I know I am probably dumb as a box of hammers, but could you tell me what pastured is?
Thank you.

August 25, 2010 at 5:23 AM  
Anonymous Cooking in Mexico said...

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:


August 25, 2010 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

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!

August 25, 2010 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Deliciously Organic said...

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.

August 25, 2010 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Easy peasy organic said...

This article is so good! Emailing to my family members now. Thanks :)

August 26, 2010 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

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!

August 30, 2010 at 6:38 PM  

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