Healthy Fats and Oils
Are you confused about fats and oils in your diet?
There has been a trend to eliminate fats to lose weight and try to be healthy. Eliminating dietary fats is not good for the body.
We need dietary fats. It is impossible to eliminate them totally as fat is found in most foods; even green peas and carrots have small amounts of fat in them.
Dietary fats help with many basic functions in the body:
- Protects your organs
- Helps keep your body warm.
- Fats help your body absorb “fat-soluble” vitamins A, D, E and K and stores them in the liver and in fatty tissues for future use.
- Cholesterol which is created by fat produces important hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
Yes, we need fat but usually not as much as we usually eat.
There are three main dietary fats. Each fat has different chemical structures and physical properties.
- Unsaturated Fats (called the good fats) can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation and stabilize heart rhythms. They are liquids at room temperature.
Two types of unsaturated fats:
- Monosaturated Fats are found in high concentrations in olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
- Polyunsaturated Fats are found in high concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, walnuts, flax seeds, and fish. Omega-3 fats are one important type of polyunsaturated fat. The body can’t make these, so they must come from food.
Liquid oils (polyunsaturated) go rancid quickly.
Most of us don’t get enough of these healthy unsaturated fats. The traditional Greek diet gets up to 30 percent of its calories from monounsaturated fats, mostly from olive oil.
- Trans Fats raises bad cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Even worse they lower good cholesterol! The American Heart Association advises to limit trans fat daily consumption to less than 1%.
Scientists have now established that trans fats found in many fast foods, bakery products, and margarines—increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through inflammatory processes.
- Saturated Fats according to old research raises blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Foods containing saturated fat include: Lard, pork, regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, full-fat cheese, ice cream, whole milk, sour cream, butter, palm oil, coconut oil, chicken and turkey skin.
Butter IS Better! Butter and other saturated fats don’t have the health risks we once thought they did.
The Cholesterol Myth
Cholesterol is a natural part of our body; we have between 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams of cholesterol in our body at any time depending on our body size. Three quarters of it is produced our body’s liver and a one quarter comes from our diet and much of that is unable to be absorbed by our body. We have a sophisticated control system that controls the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production. When there is not enough cholesterol coming in – your body makes more. When there is too much coming in our body makes less.
Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil have a bad public image. Research studies in both animals and humans more than half a century ago has said it raises blood cholesterol and causes heart disease. Coconut oil research used hydrogenated coconut oil which is a trans fat. Also, these studies were for only a few weeks, not long term. There are recent studies of a higher quality that does not support it.
- Data from 21 studies with nearly 348,000 adults found no difference in the risks of heart disease and stroke between people with the lowest and highest intakes of saturated fat.
Unsaturated Oil is Not as Good as We Thought!
Unsaturated oils in cooked foods become rancid within a few hours, even in the refrigerator. Once fresh unsaturated fats are inside the body, they oxidize (turn rancid). Coconut oil does not go rancid even after one year at room temperature. Even ghee, made from butter, will last for 3 to 6 months at room temperature. Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is easy to digest and converts into quick energy so people are less likely to become obese, as the fat is not stored.
To quote Dr. Mary Enig: “The research over four decades concerning coconut oil in the diet and heart disease is quite clear: coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial.” Coconut oil has been used as cooking oil for thousands of years.
Stay Away From Trans Fats!
Remember when they told us to eat margarine instead of butter? It turns out that most margarine is filled with trans fats and butter is fine when used in moderation.
The real problem-fats in our diets are the trans fats also known as hydrogenated oils; they are found in most processed food, including margarine, potato chips, baked goods etc. They are toxic, blocking absorption of essential fatty acids and raising blood cholesterol.
All Fat Have Calories!
Also, whether it is olive oil, ghee, butter or coconut oil … they are all 100 percent fat! No matter how good the oil sounds…..remember that it is still a fat, with 120 calories per tablespoon. Consuming a high fat diet may lead to becoming overweight and that is not healthy!
What I Use in My Kitchen
Check out the Five Fats and Oils I Use in My Kitchen. There is detailed descriptions why I use each one – some related to health – some related to the cooking process.