News Flash: FAT IS HEALTHY.
It's okay if your skeptical.
I don't blame you.
Obviously there's a twist, we have to be eating the right kinds of fats for this to be completely true. We've grown up in an era where everything should be "low-fat", "fat-free" or "50% less fat!". Our government failed us big time when they started to push propaganda on nutrition that was rooted in weak science and faulty reports. Food, health officials and the media began demonizing naturally occurring fats like butter, lard, and full-fat milk products, while at the same time pushed the "new" and "healthier" alternatives like margarine and canola oil onto the unsuspecting public. (Seriously, if you still have a tub of margarine sitting in your fridge, throw that sh*t out!). These Franken-Oils are what's really harmful to our health, causing cardiovascular disease, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, etc. Fats found in their natural state or minimally processed like coconut or lard are not the culprits! We've been fooled for years, being fed (literally) the wrong information about the important role of healthy fats in our diet.
There's so much to be said on the benefits of fat and the science behind all of the different kinds; saturated, unsaturated, trans, and cholesterol. To save your brain from having to work extra hard (the brain LOVES fat by the way!), I'm simply going to cover the fats needed to complement a whole foods diet and promote health, which fats to avoid whenever possible and then cover some shades of gray. I'd like to emphasize the above statement one more time; these fats are needed to complement a whole foods diet. Our diet should consist mainly of vegetables and fruits and then rounded out by adding in sources of healthy fats such as the ones listed below. If your diet still consists of mainly processed foods, refined sugars and carbohydrates, adding extra fat on top of that will not benefit you. I'll do another blog post later to get really down and dirty with the science behind it all but for now just TRUST ME and the fats.
Healthy Fats: Include These
The following fats occur naturally, are minimally processed/refined and are valued for their many health promoting qualities. Aim to keep your pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with your favorites at all times and remember to eat a variety of different fats just like you would fruits and vegetables.
Use these saturated fats for high temperature applications such as sauteing, frying and baking. Saturated fats remain stable at high temperatures and will therefore not go rancid (and become damaging to our bodies) like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can.
Quality is super important here! I seriously can't stress that enough, you're just not going to reap all the health benefits possible unless you are sourcing quality ingredients.
Coconut and palm oil should be ORGANIC, VIRGIN AND/OR UNREFINED, while all other fats here should be ORGANIC, PASTURE-RAISED, GRASS-FED AND/OR WILD-CAUGHT.
Coconut Oil and Palm Oil
This includes lard/bacon grease (pork fat), tallow (beef fat), duck fat and lamb fat. Check out Epic for a trustworthy source of these animal fats, render your own or find a local source.
Eggs, Meat & Seafood
My top choices are salmon, scallops, shrimp, oysters, trout, sardines, anchovies, liver (chicken or beef), chicken, turkey, duck, bison, beef, lamb and pork (yes silly, of course this includes bacon!) If you can afford to buy in bulk or need a more reliable source of quality seafood, check out Vital Choice for online ordering or Pride of Bristol Bay for ridiculously fresh salmon shares, harvested each summer and sold early fall at specific drop-off locations around the country.
Common brands for pastured or cultured butter you should be able to find in your local grocery store include Kerrygold or Organic Valley. Kerrygold is often kept near the specialty cheeses and fresh olives (which would be great to pick up while you're there too!)
Tin Star Foods makes a great, high quality, 100% lactose and casein free tested ghee. Organic Valley also makes a quality ghee or you can pretty easily make your own at home.
This includes raw milk and cheese products if you're able to access them. Check out this website, that's in partnership with the Weston A. Price Foundation, to find out where you can buy raw milk near you. Other dairy products you may consider include yogurt, sour cream, or cultured cream cheese.
Only use unsaturated fats for cold or very low heat applications, such salads or drizzling over cooked veggies. Unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are more unstable than saturated fats and are therefore at a greater risk of becoming rancid through poor extraction processes, storage, and cooking applications. Proper knowledge and use of these fats is key to promoting our health and rather than damaging it.
The most important factor to consider here is quality. ALWAYS buy ORGANIC, EXTRA-VIRGIN AND COLD-PRESSED varieties of the following fats:
Raw Nuts and Seeds (including nut/seed butters)**
Well cared for raw nuts and seeds will be kept refrigerated in the grocery store and should continue to be refrigerated when you bring them home to preserve the quality of their unstable unsaturated fatty acids. Nuts and seeds should also be soaked before eating for optimal nutrition. Check out this blog post by Wellness Mama for more information on the how and the whys.
Finding a quality olive oil can be tricky. Look for the key words mentioned above, but also look on the back of the bottle for a harvest date, expiration date and specific vineyard if possible. The less information, the less trustworthy I would be. Also make sure it's packaged in a dark, glass bottle to prevent light penetration (rancidity). I have not personally purchased Kasandrino's Olive Oil yet, but I have it on good authority that his oil is VERY high quality and well taken care of, plant to package.
On top of the health benefits, avocado oil is also awesome because it can easily be used as a substitute for nasty canola oil in mayonnaise and dressings. Primal Kitchen sells a high quality extra virgin avocado oil that I like and trust, as well as a variety of other trustworthy products. Sir Kensington's brand has also recently put out an avocado mayo that's delicious and easier to come by than Primal Kitchen.
Macadamia Nut Oil
*Use sparingly. Do not supplement with or exceed doses of 1-2 tablespoons per day.
**Peanuts are a legume, not a nut. Also be sure to read the labels of prepackaged nut and seeds butters as extra sugar and hydrogenated oils are often added. If you can, get freshly ground nut butters or grind your own.
Unhealthy Fats: Avoid These
These oils are highly processed, refined and chemically engineered to look and taste like the real deal (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter? How about just eat real butter!). These oils oxidize and go rancid quickly via processing methods, exposure to air, light and heat. Even terms like "expeller pressed" don't hold very much value since the pressure needed to extract the oil can reach high temperatures as well. These terms are generally thrown on packaging to mislead the consumer into thinking they're making a "healthier choice".
Margarine/buttery spreads (Earth Balance, I Can't Believe It's not Butter, etc)
Canola Oil (aka rapeseed oil)
Rice bran oil
Oil blends of any of the above
Shortenings made from any of the above
Use Your Best Judgement
With all of this being said, what it really comes down to is using your best judgement. If you have any hopes of eating out at a restaurant again or attending social events where food is being served, you may have to make exceptions to the rule. And that's OK!
Remember, it's all about balance. If you want to go out and have fries on date night or you're on a vacation where it's harder to control all of your food choices, don't let the stress of needing to know what fats are going into your body ruin your good time. If the majority of the time you're doing your best to be aware and make smarter choices, you're doing just great in my opinion.
The exception to this above statement may be if you're struggling with a health condition that you know is negatively effected by consuming these Franken-Oils. You'll have to come to a decision based off of what you know to be true about you and your body. Your health is ultimately in your hands and your responsibility. Sometimes it can take some trial and error to really get to know yourself, but be sure that while you're testing the waters, to stay in communication with your body so you can respond accordingly in the future.
Listen to your body and you will thrive!