We have been told for years to reduce fat, consume cholesterol free foods and use highly processed vegetable oils to promote health. The truth is these things are leading to the decline of our health. As Americans our diet is far too low in healthy fats, and too high in sugar and omega 6 fats due to the over-consumption of processed foods and vegetable oils.
The high consumption of omega 6 fats upset the delicate balance of omega 3’s to omega 6’s in our body, which increases inflammation, slows healing, causes skin issues, and is linked to depression. Ideally, we should be eating a 1:1 ration of omega 3’s to omega 6’s, but the typical American diet is between 1:20 and 1:50. Omega 6 fats, in excess, tend to be inflammatory while omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory. When they are in balance it is a beautiful thing. When they become out of balance the body can begin to experience disorder. It is important to know, omega 6 fats are not the villain, it is only when they are consumed in excess and in the form of highly processed, rancid fat, that they become a problem.
Before we dig deeper into fat let’s dispel some common beliefs.
- Refined vegetable oils are not healthy, think canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil…They are highly processed, most often rancid when consumed, increase inflammation in the body and have been linked to many other health problems.
- Consuming dietary cholesterol has little to no effect of cholesterol circulating in the body and it is not linked to heart disease.
- Consuming fats and oils do not necessarily make you fat. Eating the correct kind will protect you from weight gain, boost your metabolism, and improve your cholesterol numbers. Healthy fats are the main source of fuel for your brain and are the building blocks of all cells membranes.
Healthy fats play an important role in your health, but not all healthy fats remain healthy in all cooking methods. What are healthy fats? And what methods should they be used in?
Healthy Saturated Fats consist of coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, lard, bacon grease, tallow, duck fat, full fat dairy, eggs, meat and seafood. These fats should ideally be purchased as unrefined, or from pasture raised, grass fed and organic sources. Saturated fats are more stable due to their molecular structure than unsaturated fats and should be used when heating the fat- stove top, baking and roasting. They are not chemically altered by heat and do not oxidize easily.
Healthy Unsaturated Fats consist of avocado oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, and nuts and seeds – including butters. These fats should ideally be purchased as organic, extra-virgin and cold pressed. They are for cold use with the exception of avocado oil which is heat stable and can be used for cooking, baking, frying and grilling. Avocado oil is one of my favorite oils. Chosen foods and Primal Kitchen are my favorite brands. Chosen foods has a very mild taste making it perfect for when you are making a delicate dish or dessert.
Hydrogenated, Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Trans Fats along with man-made fats and artificial buttery spreads are fats which should be avoided. They are highly processed. These oils are created by injecting a catalyst into the oil which changes the molecular structure making the new product closer to plastic than the original product. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol. They increase inflammation which often manifests as swelling, aches and pains, and are associated with cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, low birth weight babies, immune system disfunction, altered gut bacteria and obesity.