Since the 1950’s, fat has had a bad reputation as a killer. But just because “every knows it,” doesn’t make it the truth. Actually, I used to believe that fat was bad, but then I learned things like this:
- About 60 percent of your brain is fat (hmm, you’ve got my attention with that!)
- Fats help with brain function, absorbing vitamins and antioxidants, clotting blood, and building cells.
- Fats have other surprising functions: for example, coconut oil has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- Trans fats, not saturated fats, are linked to heart disease and cancer.
- In those African and arctic populations where the diet is primarily fat, meat, and milk, people are actually quite healthy!
- Americans eat more fat-free, low-fat foods than any other country, but we are the world’s fattest population (because of all the low-fat, high-sugar foods).
Good fats are the most lacking nutrient in the American diet. These include the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are “essential” fatty acids, which means that our bodies can’t make them from other sources, but need to ingest them directly. EPA and DHA are the key components of “fish oil,” but if the product label doesn’t specify the amount of EPA and DHA, don’t buy it – look for a manufacturer with better standards. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is another omega-3 fatty acid that has fewer functions in the human body, but the body can only convert about 5% of ALA into DHA or EPA. This is why vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed or chia, are not the best choice. Speaking as a former vegetarian (or pasta-tarian), I know some people don’t like to hear that, but it’s the honest truth.
We should avoid the cheap, popular seed oils like canola and soybean oils. These are oxidized and harmful by the time they get to the store shelves. PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) are healthful in their natural state, when they are protected by the plant or seed that contains them. When PUFAs are isolated in a bottle, they are easily oxidized by light and heat, so storage and cooking make them unhealthy. Oxidized fats (just think of them like metal – oxidized metal is rust) are linked to chronic inflammatory conditions like joint pain, chronic fatigue, heart disease, diabetes, weakened immunity, even cancer.
Cooking with fats requires using them at the right temperatures to minimize oxidation. For frying at high heat, use coconut oil, expeller-pressed naturally refined grapeseed oil, high oleic naturally refined peanut oil, high oleic naturally refined safflower oil, and naturally refined sesame oil. Medium-heat fats include butter, ghee, extra virgin naturally refined olive oil, naturally refined walnut oil, and expeller-pressed naturally refined peanut oil. Oils from fish, flaxseed, hemp, and unrefined EVOO/safflower/sesame should not be heated.
The truth is not always convenient, but think of this: your family’s health is worth taking the time to read labels. Make the switch from bad fats to good fats over the next 60 days.