The Good in Fat, the Bad in Fat: We Need Fat Part 1
Updated: Jan 31
News Alert! The low-fat craze was a misleading movement and it is over.
There is more than a huge misunderstanding of FAT! We need fat—yes, we need fat. Even today, in the year 2020, I listen to so many conversations (in disbelief) in which people say they are avoiding fat, or even scared of fat. At the baseline, many people and health organizations are severely misinformed about fat!
I am here to tell you that fat does not make you fat. I will repeat this again: fat does not make you fat. Fat does not kill you; the right kind of fat is not the cause of disease. Let me be clear: healthy fats are essential to good health, a functioning brain, a healthy beating heart, and a thriving endocrine system. We need fat in order to be healthy. The low-fat movement was based on institutionalized, falsely adopted research that caused more bad than good. Due to the increase of low fat foods there was also an increase in sugar intake and processed foods. I find that the low-fat mentality still lingers around health and nutrition today. This is why I want to educate and guide people on the importance of good, healthy fats in the diet.
Watch the Oiling of America by Sally Fallon Morell.
Fats are a major source of energy in the body. Fats provide a slow-burning type of energy that we need in order to maintain stable and constant energy. On the other hand, carbs contain less calories (or less energy) per gram, so they burn much faster. We actually need a high percentage of fat to maintain good health and energy in the body.
Roles of Fat in the Human Body:
Here are a few very critical roles of fat in the human body.
Provides a source of energy
Building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
Aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
Aid the body in digesting and assimilating protein
Serves as protective lining for organs in the body
Helps to regulate energy intake by slowing the absorption of food
Makes food taste really, really good
The Right Kind of Fat
The best fats to consume are those that have little to no processing. There are particular fats that are safe at high heats to cook with, and then there are fats that require little to no heat to be considered safe to eat and to retain nutrients. Here is a list of good fats and how to use them. Remember, not all fats are good fats, but this list should clear up some misconceptions around fat. The best fat is in its natural state and has had no processing whatsoever besides being bottled or packaged.
Saturated Fats are highly stable for consumption, they do not go rancid easily, they are non-essential because the body makes them, and they are found in animal fats and tropical oils. Some examples are:
Best for cooking at high temps: Preferably organic, grass-fed and/or pasture raised:
Chicken, Duck and Goose Fat (you can find it at a local butcher or online)
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (must be extra virgin and preferably organic)
Lard (yes lard from pastured pigs from a local butcher shop or online)
Red Palm Oil (I recommend Nutiva )
Before the low fat and vegetarian movement many American restaurants would use heat stable oils to fry foods such, as beef tallow, lard, and red palm oil.
Monounsaturated Fats are medium stable, they do not rancidify easily, they are liquid at room temperature, and they are non-essential because the body can make these. Some examples are:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Macadamia Nut oil
These oils can be heated but must be kept at low heats so that they remain stable in the body and provide nutrient benefits. These oils are commonly used for frying and other high-heat cooking processes, but this is a mistake because at high heat not only do these oils lose their nutritional value but they also may cause free radicals in the body. They can be consumed raw, such as drizzled or blended in salad dressings. Note: extra virgin and cold pressed oils are preferred for optimal nutrients.
Polyunsaturated Fats-are mostly unstable and are not to be heated. These fats should be stored in dark jars and away from light exposure, and in the refrigerator. These fats should be consumed raw, and keep in mind they go rancid easily. The two essential polyunsaturated fats that we cannot live without are Omega 3 and Omega 6. Some examples are:
Flax Seed Oil
Pine Nut Oil
Fish Oil (to be taken as a supplement)
There are other oils in this category. I find the ones listed are amongst some of the healthiest and easiest in flavor to use in day-to-day cooking. The polyunsaturated oils can be used in salad dressings, drizzled on foods for a finishing oil for good fatty acid support, as well as taken as a daily supplement.
Butter is a separate nutrient-dense entity!
Raw, grass-fed butter is essential in the human diet, if tolerated. Butter is so high in nutrients and essential to good health; butter eaten raw is best, but a very light sauté without browning offers a nutrient-dense way of consuming it. Letting it melt over hot steamed foods can be beneficial, especially vegetables that contain fat-soluble vitamins, as this will help your body to absorb the vitamins. Do not be afraid of butter! Slather it on thick and heavy, and enjoy every drop of it.
The Wrong Kind of Fat
There are a lot of very unhealthy fats that are the cause of many health problems, including heart disease, endocrine dysfunction, and much more. There are fats that should be avoided because they are not naturally made for human consumption. It is critical to be aware of the wrong fats and to avoid them as much as possible. Read this article by the Weston A. Price Foundation: Know Your Fats
Fats to Avoid
The following is a list of hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils that are highly processed and should be avoided completely. The hydrogenation process alters the chemical bonds in these oils, creating trans fats. Your body does not know how to digest trans fats, so they stick around in the cells of the human body and alter cell structures and processes, which can cause disease. Avoid these, and keep in mind that traditionally these fats are not natural for human consumption. They are relatively new fats to the human diet, and they are not what our ancestors consumed.
cotton seed oil
We must choose our fats wisely. Working with a nutritional therapy practitioner can help to determine which fats are best for your own bio-individual makeup. It is critical to consume a variety of good, healthy fats. I encourage people to explore fat, to let go of the fear around fat and embrace the healthful benefits of fat. Your body, your brain and your heart will thank you for it.