Christa Crawford, M.A.
I love eating real food. It’s satisfying. It’s healthful. It tastes amazing. And, eating this way means that I get to enjoy delicious Cobb salads, which had previously always been off limits. You know what I mean… Who hasn’t read all those news articles that warn of the hidden dangers and fattening effects of heavy salads? Cobb salads are full of fatty goodness. Sure, there’s some lettuce in there, but the real stars of the Cobb show are the bacon, avocado, blue cheese, eggs (with yolks), and oil-based dressing. The fat content of a good Cobb salad is enough to make any decent, well-meaning, USDA-compliant nutritionist pass out.
Speaking of fat, let’s discuss. I’m not interested in writing the ultimate fat handbook. I’m not a scientist, and I’m no Mark Sisson. I’d just like to share a little bit of what I’ve learned about my favorite macronutrient, fat. I’ll also share my version of Cobb salad with you.
We all know that trans fats are no good. Just avoid them altogether. We probably also agree that monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados and olive oil, offer benefits for our hearts and other organs. The world of polyunsaturated fats is not as easy to navigate. The omega fatty acids, such as those in fish oil, get a lot of attention from the media. Unfortunately, optimizing your intake of omega fatty acids is not as easy as just taking an omega 3-6-9 pill everyday. Even omega fatty acids can cause more harm than good if the balance is off.
I’ve briefly touched on the idea of balancing your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, but here’s a little refresher. In order to keep inflammation down, it’s important to maintain a 1:1, or at most, a 2:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Unfortunately, thanks to processed seed and vegetable oils, it’s all too easy and common for Americans to throw this balance way off. It’s not uncommon to eat a 10:1 or even 20:1 ratio of omega 6 to 3. Although a few servings of salmon each week might help negate the effects of junky, neolithic foods, the heavy doses of omega 6 really need to be eliminated in order to maintain a consistent balance between the omega fatty acids.
For this reason, Craig and I choose to avoid oils like grapeseed, canola, corn, safflower, and others that are made from processed seeds and vegetables. We also try to avoid eating too much poultry or too many nuts. Yep. Although I use some chicken in my Cobb salad, it’s no longer on my health food pedestal, which is where it once sat. It turned out that all the chicken and nuts were causing me more inflammation than good. When you add in the fact that most roasted nuts are cooked in canola oil, which is brimming with omega-6, you’re looking at a fatty acid discrepancy the size of the Grand Canyon. (I did have a hefty handful of macadamia nuts during my meetings today; but those are comprised mostly of monounsaturated fats, and I see them as much less risky than some of the more common omega 6 culprits.)
So, if trans fats are out, and most modern oils are out, and you can’t eat nuts all day long, and chicken is too heavy in omega-6, then what kind of fats are you supposed to eat? Everyone knows that saturated fats are bad. The government told us so, over and over again! That basically leaves you with nothing but avocado, salmon, and olive oil, right?
Not so fast. Saturated fat is not the villain that we once thought it was. In fact, in the absence of excess fructose and sugary carbohydrates, high quality saturated fat is used by the body as a great source of fuel (coconut oil, egg yolks, grass-fed meats, etc.). I’m going to leave the heavy duty job of explaining this concept to experts like Peter Attia and Gary Taubes, and I highly recommend that you check out their work. What I do know is that my bloodwork and health have shown nothing but improvements ever since I cut out the carbs and significantly increased my intake of saturated fat.
My point here is that Cobb salad is a great source of fats. The avocado and olive oil are satisfying, and they’re full of good, monounsaturated fat. Local eggs and grass-fed bacon from Da-Le Ranch are nutrient-dense and, well, delicious. As for the blue cheese, it’s a rare treat for us. Craig and I don’t eat dairy very often. But once in a while, we’ll sneak a taste of Castello blue cheese. You can get it at Trader Joes. It’s creamier than a lot of other blue cheeses, and I think it’s divine.
So go ahead and enjoy your Cobb salad, saturated fat and all. Maybe you can even splurge and add the blue cheese.
Christa’s Cobb Salad
These amounts are just estimates. You, as always, are responsible for adjusting the quantities of each ingredient so that the salad suits your taste. Some of the ingredients are less important than others, and the salad will work just as well without them; for that reason, I decided they are optional. I prefer purple onions to the traditional chives, but you can use whatever kind of onion makes you happy.
Seared Chicken Breasts
- 2 chicken breasts
- coconut oil or bacon fat
- garlic powder
Season the chicken breasts. Sear them in some fat in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Finish them in the oven at 350°. It takes about 15 minutes for the chicken to reach 165°. Let the chicken cool. Cut into slices.
Put the eggs into a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Cover the pot. Let the eggs sit for 15 minutes. Immediately transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Peel and slice them before adding them to the salad.
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 1 squirt dijon mustard
- big pinch of salt
- black pepper
Start with a 1:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Put everything in a jar. Seal it and shake it. Taste the dressing and adjust the ingredients as needed.
Other Things You’ll Need
- 1 bag or 1 head of romaine lettuce
- 1 cup endive (optional)
- 1 cup watercress (optional)
- 1 purple onion, sliced very thinly
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 avocados, sliced
- 4-6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1/4-1/2 cup blue cheese (Castello is yummy)
Put everything in a salad bowl and toss it all together. As my second graders would say, “Easy peezy, lemon squeezy!”