Are you afraid that if you eat fat you’ll gain weight? Have you been told that eating fat, mainly saturated fat, will cause heart disease? Fat has been demonized in our society since the ‘70s, and the low-fat diet craze may be one of the most harmful of diet trends. Contrary to popular belief, we do need a fair amount of fat in our diets in order to achieve optimal health. The key is to eat the right types of fat. There are some fats that can lead to inflammation and heart disease (trans fats). I’m talking about man-made fats such as margarine. But isn’t margarine supposed to be better for you than butter? Well, when it was first discovered that trans fats (by-product of hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation; ie: margarine) were to be blamed for heart disease, the vegetable oil industry (where margarine is made from) quickly turned it around and blamed it on saturated fats, such as butter. Yet, since then, heart disease rates have only skyrocketed. If eating a diet low in saturated fat didn’t stop people from getting heart disease, then clearly that wasn’t the problem.
Margarine is made from polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are highly unstable and can go rancid easily (later I will discuss the different types of fats and which are best for cooking). The following is an excerpt from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon & Mary Enig that describes the hydrogenation process:
“This is the process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature- margarine and shortening. To produce them, manufacturers begin with the cheapest oils- soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed- already rancid from the extraction process- and mix them with tiny metal particles- usually nickel oxide. The oil with its nickel catalyst is then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor. Next, soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into the mixture to give it a better consistency; the oil is yet again subjected to high temperatures when it’s steam-cleaned. This removes its unpleasant odor. Margarine’s natural color, an unappetizing gray, is removed by bleach. Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as a health food.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds horrifying to me. Let’s think about this using common sense. What is better for you? A man-made fat made using the process described above, or butter that is made by churning cow’s milk. The answer is pretty obvious to me. Like I always say- people try to outsmart nature, but nature always wins. How can a man-made concoction be healthier than a food humans have been eating for thousands of years? Butter that comes from grass-fed cows is a wonderful health food straight from nature. [Note: There are now some margarines that are made without using the hydrogenation process, however, I’d still avoid them as they’re made with unhealthy oils and other questionable ingredients]
When America’s fear of saturated fat began, the love affair with sugar also began. To make up for the loss of taste, food companies began adding sugar and artificial flavorings to their products to make them taste better. Americans began eating a ton of carbs and sugar, along with very little to no fat. This is also part of the reason for our current health crisis.
Why We Need Fat:
- Fats provide a source of long-burning energy. Instead of the burst of energy and crash we get with sugar, fats give us stable, long-lasting energy.
- Fats are building blocks for our hormones and cell membranes
- Fats stimulate the release of bile from the gallbladder during digestion. If you eat a low-fat diet, or a diet high in low-quality fats, the bile will stay in the gallbladder and harden. This leads to gallstones and/or sludgy bile.
- We need to consume fat in order to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- We need fats in order to properly absorb and utilize proteins
- Stored fat protects our organs
- Fats slow the absorption of food during digestion, keeping us full & satisfied longer
- Fats make food taste good
- Fats are a great brain food
The Good Fats: [Keep in mind that all fats contain each type of fat (saturated, monounsaturated, & polyunsaturated). This table goes by which type it has the most of.]
|Name||Type of Fat||Stable?||Uses||Benefits|
|Cocoa Butter||Saturated||Yes- does not go rancid easily||Used mainly for making chocolate bars||Contains antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, & healthy fats|
|Coconut Oil||Saturated||Yes- does not go rancid easily; great for cooking||Can be used for cooking, baking, mixed in smoothies & coffee, and used topically for body care||Made of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which are known to promote fat burning, may be helpful in memory as well|
|Palm Oil||Saturated||Yes- does not go rancid easily; great for cooking||Cooking fat||Contains high levels of beta-carotene (pre-cursor to Vitamin A), Vitamin E, and antioxidants|
|Butter||Saturated||Yes- does not go rancid easily; great for cooking||Cooking, baking, as a spread||(Grass-fed) contains CLA which promotes fat burning and high levels of Vitamin A (promotes good vision & skin)|
|Animal Fats||Saturated||Yes- do not go rancid easily; great for cooking||Cooking and baking||Has antimicrobial properties, brain food|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil||Monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used at low heat||Sautéing, salad dressings, drizzling on top of cooked food, body care||Contains antioxidants, Vitamins E and K|
|Peanut Oil (not considered paleo)||Monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used for cooking||Cooking||Contains antioxidants, Omega 6 (should be consumed in equal quantity with Omega 3’s)|
|Almond Oil||Monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used at low heat||Sautéing, salad dressings, baking, body care||Contains vitamins E and K, promotes skin health|
|Sesame Oil||Mostly Polyunsaturated but almost even amount of monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used at low heat||Sautéing, salad dressings, drizzling over cooked foods, body care||Has antibacterial properties, anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, good for skin & joints|
|Avocado Oil||Monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used at low heat||Sautéing, salad dressing, body care (avocados can be used for many things)||Contains vitamins A, D, and E, potassium, and antioxidants, promotes skin health|
|Hazelnut Oil||Monounsaturated||Relatively stable- can be used at low heat||Sautéing, baking, salad dressing, body care||Anti-inflammatory, helps with acne, hair & skin care|
|Walnut Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- better used unheated||Salad dressing, drizzling over cooked foods, body care||Anti-inflammatory, Omega 3, contains antioxidants|
|Cod Liver Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Used as a supplement in liquid or pill form, can be used topically for skincare||High concentrations of Vitamins A and D, Omega 3, great for skin and clearing acne, anti-inflammatory|
|Black Currant Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Typically used as a supplement or for body care||Anti-inflammatory, omega 6, may be helpful with PMS, boosts immunity|
|Borage Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Salad dressing, soups, skincare products||Anti-inflammatory, omega 6, promotes skin health, helps with stress|
|Evening Primrose Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Usually used as a supplement||Anti-inflammatory, omega 6, promotes skin health, helpful for PMS, & IBS|
|Flaxseed Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Salad dressing, drizzling over cooked foods||Anti-inflammatory, omega 3, may be helpful in menopause|
|Hemp Oil||Polyunsaturated||Relatively unstable- do not heat||Salad dressing, drizzling over cooked foods, body care||Anti-inflammatory, improve immunity, omega 3, omega 6, helps with anxiety, improves skin|
Fats to Avoid:
|Name||Type of Fat||Uses||Why to Avoid It|
|Canola Oil||Polyunsaturated||Cooking, baking, margarine||Highly likely to be genetically modified, it’s highly refined and processed, is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in many products|
|Corn Oil||Polyunsaturated||Salad dressing, cooking, margarine||Highly likely to be genetically modified, it’s highly refined and processed|
|Cottonseed Oil||Polyunsaturated||Salad dressing, cooking, margarine||Highly refined and processed, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in many products|
|Soybean Oil||Polyunsaturated||Salad dressing, margarine, shortening, cooking||Highly likely to be genetically modified, highly processed and refined, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in many products|
- These fats are the ones that contribute to heart disease, weight gain, obesity, and other chronic modern diseases
- Avoid all hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats)
- Avoid deep-fried foods
As a general rule, if it’s made in nature and has been a food for thousands of years- eat it; if it was manufactured in a factory by food chemists- don’t. It was not until these food-like products came on the market that we’ve started seeing such huge increases in modern chronic diseases. Don’t be fooled by their marketing, use logic and common sense. Saturated fats have been unfairly demonized, which is such a shame because they’re really a wonderful health food. Don’t deprive your body of this essential nutrient. Now go make some bacon because you deserve it! 😉
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