Many health-conscious people believe they're doing themselves a big favor when they trim the fat off their meat, avoid butter and eggs and insist on nonfat dairy products.

Many health-conscious people believe they're doing themselves a big favor when they trim the fat off their meat, avoid butter and eggs and insist on nonfat dairy products.

Medford chemist and nutrition author Ira Edwards has a word for them: Don't.

The "fat is bad" mandate of recent decades is off-track and can lead to poor health for one simple reason, says Edwards: Our bodies evolved to handle the fats found in nature and we need them. If we don't eat them, we'll eat more carbs — and guess what carbs end up as? Fat.

Edwards, author of "Honest Nutrition," will speak at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 17, at the Talent library on "Transfats are Not the Problem: The Problem is in the Ingredient Box." It's free and open to the public.

His prescription is fairly simple: You hanker for that butter, egg yolk, fat-rich chicken skin and full-fat yogurt because they're good for you. What's not good for you are chemically altered, overheated, interesterified or hydrogenated fats and oils. (Interesterified fats are used by some food manufacturers as a substitute for trans fat, and some researchers believe they may be even more harmful than trans fats.)

"The truth is elusive, because there's so much unreliable information and hype out there," says Edwards, "but the fact is, no chemically altered fat has proved helpful to the body, and no natural fat has proved unhelpful, except in excess."

So, take that big step: Sit there in front of your health-conscious friends and wolf down the chicken leg, skin and all — and, he adds, keep in mind that grass-fed poultry and livestock are a lot better for you than grain-fed animals.

Nutritional therapy practitioner Jack Leishman of Talent puts it this way: "It's a simple bottom line. We need protein, carbs and fat. If you take away fats, you have to replace them with the other two. Protein is expensive so food manufacturers replace fat with carbs, and that's the primary reason for so much obesity and Type 2 diabetes — poorly made, carb-heavy foods."

Our pre-agricultural ancestors depended on fat, but with the coming of grains, we adapted to carbs, which are a big strain on our bodies, especially the pancreas and liver — and the high amounts of glucose and carbs get stored as fat, notes Leishman, who directs the Rogue Valley Nutritional Community, which is presenting Edwards and other health authorities.

"When I work with clients," says Lieshman, "I almost always ask them to look at the fats they are not putting in their bodies because of the low-fat craze of the last 40 years. I suggest farm-fresh eggs, meat, chicken skin. I ask them to balance carbs and good quality fats."

One good rule of thumb, says Edwards, is "if it's low fat, it's high carb and if it's high carb, it's low fat ... In general, anything with a health claim will not be valid. Adding carbs is how they make their money."

Some healthy fats are butter, which has hard-to-find short-chain fatty acids, and coconut oil, which has medium-chain triglycerides and antibiotic qualities, Edwards says.

The more you avoid natural fats, the more you are left with chemically-altered fats — and these "do not serve nutrition," Edwards says. "They're strange to the body and don't function as fat. The body is adapted to natural fat. It's good for cell membranes, especially in the brain. Without them, the brain doesn't function as fully."

Edwards earned a master's degree in biology and education from University of Oregon, and was an assistant in the Biology Department at Southern Oregon State College for 28 years. He has been retired 14 years, studying orthomolecular nutrition.

His books are "Honest Nutrition: a Descent Into the Ocean of Nutritional Prattle and Coming Up for Air" ($22 on Amazon) and "Pre-Pain," which is about preventing the pain of chronic diseases in old age. It can be purchased in Medford at Food 4 Less.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at