It is no secret that over the past several decades fat has developed quite a bad reputation. Nowadays, you can find just about low-fat anything in the store, and if a food is naturally low fat or fat free, you bet it will be advertised across the label.
The initial demonization of fat primarily stemmed from one study – the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study examined the association between diet and heart disease. It concluded that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, it was later discovered that only the countries that supported this theory were included in the study.
Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, fat is not only an important, but an essential component of our diet. It is needed for normal growth and development, hormone production, fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K), energy, healthy skin and nails, and proper cell function. With that being said, some fats are more healthy than others, while some aren’t healthy at all.
Found in foods such as animal meats, butter, ghee and coconut. This group of fats tends to be the most demonized from low-fat supporters. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are best for cooking at high temperatures as they are the most chemically stable and will not oxidize or become rancid. This is because all of the bonds in this fat molecule are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds so there is no room for free radicals to enter and oxidize the fat.
This group deserves every bit of heat it has been getting! Trans fats are the worst types of fats. They have been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Avoid foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. These oils are frequently found in peanut butter, baked goods, fast food, margarine, shortening, non-dairy creamers, and crackers.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, but not quite as stable as saturated fats. In this type of fat molecule, “mono” indicates there is one space for a free radical to enter. This group is found in various oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax, macadamia, walnut, and hemp. These oils should be unrefined, expeller-pressed or cold-pressed to avoid high heat and chemical processing that will damage the oils. With that being said, these oils should not be used for cooking. Instead, use them in cold salads, condiments, etc.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
These types of fats have the multiple binding sites exposed, making them the least stable type of fat. However, this does not mean that this type of fat can not still be healthy. In fact, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs that are essential for our health. Our body is unable to make them so it is essential we obtain them though our diet. However, since they are the least stable, it is important to avoid ones that have been heavily processed or exposed to high heat. Oils that have been oxidized can cause inflammation in the body. Highly processed oils to avoid include vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.
FATS AND OILS SAFE
FATS AND OILS SAFE FOR
Ghee or clarified butter
Lard (pork fat)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Nut Oils (Macadamia, Walnut)
Seed Oils (Sesame, Flax, Hemp)
*High quality extra virgin olive oil may also be used for cooking or roasting at lower temperatures.
FATS AND OILS TO AVOID
HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES OF FAT
Fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
Egg yolks from pastured eggs
Nuts (raw is best)