I was watching Sara Moulton (Sara’s Secrets) on the Foodnework the other day on a show devoted to simple brunches Dads and kids could do for Mom for her day. All three brunches, naturally enough, involved some sort of egg-based entree. While beating up a cluster of eggs, Ms. Moulton made the following remark (paraphrased from my memory):

I realize that we’re using a lot of eggs here, and although we used to worry about the cholesterol in eggs, we now understand that it’s not dietary cholesterol we need to be worried about…

I sat on the edge of my seat. Was this utterly mainstream culinary maven, executive chef of Gourmet magazine, going to say the unthinkable–i.e., that we understand now that it’s not the dietary cholesterol that causes elevated blood cholesterol, but rather that it’s the carbs that drive up insulin that, in turn, drives the liver to make more cholesterol that is the real problem? My fleeting hopes were dashed when she completed her inane thought with:

it’s the saturated fat in our diet that elevates cholesterol.

Oh posh, piffle, and balderdash!!

Her statement grated on two fronts: first, because it’s patently false. In the absence of excess carbs and elevated insulin, neither cholesterol nor saturated fats causes a worsening of the lipid profile in humans. In fact, stearic acid, one of those “dangerous saturated fats” found richly in beef, has been clinically shown to lower cholesterol levels.

On the second front, what possible basis has an executive chef got for dispensing nutritional/metabolic information? Granted, she knows food and without doubt she’s had more training than I on how to make a souffle rise properly or how to make a bernaise turn out light and fluffy, but she hasn’t (to my knowledge) got the teensiest tidbit of training in how human biochemistry works. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from spouting misinformation by polly-parroting the received wisdom that saturated fat is bad for health. I shuddered to think of all the millions of people watching, absorbing this off-the-cuff nutritional nonsense as fact.

Honestly, she should limit her ‘secrets’ to food and cooking tips.

Then to pile insult onto injury, in the wrap up, Ms. Moulton suggested paring her egg dishes with some fruit salad and a side dish of country fried potatoes, which would, of course, be delicious, but would be the very thing that would insure that which she fears most: driving cholesterol up. Instead, we’d suggest substituting celery root for potatoes in the home fries or ditching the potato concept altogether and substituting sauteed spinach. Interested readers can check out our recipe for Hash Browned Fauxtatoes on our Low Carb CookwoRx website or in the companion cookbook to our PBS tv show, the Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook.

Afterall, as Ms. Moulton says: it’s not the cholesterol in the eggs that drives up cholesterol in your blood. At least she was right about something.


  1. Ok, one of these days someone will have to explain to me why potatoes have so much allure to people. I never could stand them and they always left me feeling like I had cement sitting in my gut when my mom insisted that I eat them. Needless to say, those ads that Denise Austin does for Idaho potatoes really get my ire up (“Not healthy to cut out an entire food group blah blah blah…”) One of the best things in my book about the LC way of life is faux mashed potatoes made with cauliflower. Now, those I love. I’ll have to give your Hashed Brown Fauxtatoes as they do sound delicious.

    As for the whole saturated fat issue, I’ve just about given up trying to convince people that it doesn’t have any sort of validity whatsoever. My friend’s mom had a heart attack recently and she was telling me how her mom needed to cut all the saturated fat out of her diet. I just sighed. BTW, her mom is a tiny, skinny woman, not at all like what is currently pictured as the perfect heart attack candidate.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I have to say I fall into the category of those who really like potatoes; if they weren’t so carby, I would eat them, especially stuffed potato skins or country fried ones, often. But facts are facts and I mostly do without them. Both of our cookbooks also have recipes for taux mashed ‘potatoes’ made with either celery root or cauliflower, both of which I love and actually prefer to mashed potatoes.

    Your friend’s mother is the picture of the “normal weight metabolically obese” individual. Heart disease isn’t about cholesterol or, as you point out, saturated fat. It’s about inflammation and insulin resistance, which most often occurs in lockstep with obesity, but not always. Some people are blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) with a fat mass that resists insulin’s urging to store; thus they can become quite insulin resistant, with all it’s potential health risks, but not become obese.

  2. Consider it a small step in the right direction. Someday the vegetable polyunsats will rightfully be reported to be the fats to avoid!

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