When it comes to dietary fat, do you know the differences, what to look for, what to choose for a healthy vibrant life and what to avoid like the plague?
Here is a quick bullet reference of the heavy hitters and a little about each to give you a boost of confidence when choosing the best fats as well as a few tips for when to use each.
To begin, lets get a little reference as to the classification of fats.
One form of classification is by their saturation.
- Highly Stable and do not normally go rancid even when heated or cooked
- Solid or semisolid at room temperature
- Found mostly in animal fats, tropical oils and our bodies can make them from carbs
- Liquid at room temperature
- Relatively stable
- Do not go rancid easily and can therefore be used in cooking
- Most common form found in food is oleic acid, as in olive oil as well as from the oils of almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, avocados
- Two forms most frequently found in our foods are omega 6 and omega 3. Our bodies cannot make these fatty acids and therefore they are termed “essential.”
- Remain liquid at all times
- Highly reactive, go rancid easy and should never be heated or used in cooking
Another form of classification for fats is by their length.
- Always saturated
- Found mostly in butterfat from goats
- Possess antimicrobial properties, contribute to the health of our immune system
- Directly absorbed for quick energy and therefore less likely to generate weight gain
- Found mostly in butterfat and tropical oils
- Also possess antimicrobial properties, are absorbed directly for quick energy and contribute to the health of our immune system
- May be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated
- Some worth mentioning: steric acid found in beef, oleic acid found in olive oil, palmitoleic acid found near exclusively in animal fats and has strong antimicrobial benefits, Omega 6 and 3, GLA found in evening primrose, borage and black currant oils and is used in the production of prostaglandins (localized tissue hormones which regulate several processes at the cellular level).
Very Long Chain
- Highly unsaturated
- Amongst others, a couple of the most important are your EPA and DHA
- Minus the DHA, all very long chain fatty acids are used in the production of prostaglandins. DHA plays an important role in the function of the nervous system
Now that we have a general grasp of the classifications and what they constitute, lets get some background on the good and the bad!
The Good: Saturated Fats
- Constitute at least 50% of our cell membranes, giving them necessary stiffness and integrity for proper function
- Play vital role in the health of our bones (for calcium to effectively integrated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of our dietary fats must be saturated)
- Lowers Lp(a), a substance in the blood indicating propensity of heart disease
- Protects liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as NSAIDs
- Enhance immune system
- Needed for proper utilization and retention of essential fatty acids
- Preferred fat source of the heart
- Short and medium chain versions protect us from harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract through powerful antimicrobial properties
The Bad: Polyunsaturated Fats
- Native consumption hit around 4% of our caloric intake.
- Our modern day over consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been proven to contribute to increased cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, cause digestive disorders, depress learning ability, impair growth and spike weight gain
- Most of the above conditions are due to this fats tendency to oxidize and go rancid characterized by free radicals which are extremely reactive chemically
- Free radials attack cell membranes and red blood cells, causing damage to DNA/RNA strands which in turn can trigger mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radical damage to the skin causes premature aging. Free radical damage to tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors. Free radical damage to blood vessels causes buildup of plaque.
So, what do we stock our kitchens with and how do we decipher the best fat for our needs? Not to fret friends. Here is the last list of usefulness in food preparation.
Duck and Goose Fat
- Semisolid at room temperature
- 35% saturated, 52% mono, 13% poly
- Quite stable and good for cooking
- 31% saturated, 49% mono, 20% poly
- Can be used for cooking, although inferior to duck and goose
Lard (pork fat)
- 40% saturated, 48% mono, 12% poly
- Stable and preferred for cooking
- Good source of Vitamin D
Beef and Mutton Tallows
- 50-55% saturated, 40% mono, usually <3% poly
- Good sources of fat for cooking
- 75% oleic acid (stable mono), 13% saturated, 10% omega 6 and 2% omega 3
- Ideal for salads and some cooking at low temperatures
- Rich in antioxidants
- You want oil to be cloudy, golden yellow and in dark bottle
- Do not overdo. The longer chain fatty acids are more likely to contribute to body fat than the short and medium chain fatty acids in butter and coconut oil.
- 48% oleic acid, 18% saturated, 34% omega 6
- Relatively stable and okay for the occasional stir-frys, however the high percentage of omega 6 presents potential danger so strictly limit use
- 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated, 43% omega 6
- Similar to peanut oil
- Does contain unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat making it better for cooking, however, the high omega 6 still suggests strictly limited use
Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean, Cottonseed Oil
- All over 50% omega 6
- Limit extremely and never consume after heated
- 5% saturated, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega 6, 10-15% omega 3
- Developed from rape seed which is considered unsuited for human intake because it contains erucic acid, a long chain fatty acid which under some circumstances has been associated with heart lesions.
- High sulphur content and goes rancid easy
- Can cause mold in baked goods
- During the deodorizing process, the omega 3s are transformed into trans fats
- Creates deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system
- 9% saturated, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega 6, 57% omega 3
- High omega 3 is great for balancing the over prevalence of omega 6 in todays traditional diet
- Keep refrigerated
- Never heat
- Consume in small amours in salads, spreads, etc
- Most saturated with coconut containing 92% and over 2/3 of those saturated fats are medium chain
- Lauric acid, found in large quantities in both coconut oil and mother’s milk, possesses strong anti fungal and antimicrobial properties
- Stable and can be kept at room temperature
- Good for cooking, baking or straight from the jar
With all of this information be aware sourcing and quality control are of dramatic importance. Ensure your animal fats are from animals treated humanly, kept as close to their natural living conditions as possible and were fed a diet rich in grasses and/or whatever they would normally feed on. Everything our food experiences we experience and eventually, either positive or negative, those experiences will be assimilated through our health.
In short, refrain from all processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Opt for traditional oils such as extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Choose coconut oil for baking along with animal fats for cooking. Eat quality egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins they naturally come with. Lastly, use good quality butter from grass-fed cows knowing it is wholesome, even necessary, for your health and vitality!