Choosing Healthy Fats & Oils
Tags: wellness (19), healthy (17), nutrition (13), weight loss (8)
Fats and oils are made of building blocks called fatty acids and are essential for our health. Fats are necessary for the maintenance of healthy cell membranes, building healthy brains, are rich sources of energy, and are needed for hormone production. I do not recommend eating a low fat diet as fat (including cholesterol) is essential to our health. In fact, low fat diets have been shown to cause more health problems and weight gain than a higher fat diet. The key is to consume smaller amounts of the less healthy fats such as saturated fat from dairy and animal meats and emphasize the healthier fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids – rich sources include olive oil, canola oil, avocado, almonds, pecans, cashews. Olive oil is high in the fatty acid oleic acid and has been thoroughly studied to prove its many health benefits including reducing risk of heart disease, elevated cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Olive oil is a great staple oil for a healthy diet. Canola oil is generally highly processed and is high in erucic acid which has been shown to lead to hardening of the arteries, and therefore should be avoided.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – these polyunsaturated fats are found in oils of cold water fish such as salmon (wild Alaskan), trout, mackerel, sardines, flaxseed oil, and chia. Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits including reduction of inflammation in the body and protection from many degenerative diseases including heart disease. Most North Americans consume insufficient Omega-3 foods and eat excessive amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats from animal sources. Adding more Omega-3 oils to your diet is essential!
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids – these polyunsaturated fats are found in many vegetable oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil and many nut and seed oils. While Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for our health and not bad for us in and of themselves, we consume over 6 times as much as we need. For this reason, it is necessary to reduce omega-6 sources and focus on consuming more omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids. A diet with excess omega-6 acids is associated with inflammation in the body and increased risk of several chronic diseases.
- Saturated Fats - this includes red meat, wild game, poultry, dairy, butter, lard, peanuts, coconut oil, palm oil. Too much saturated fat has been associated with inflammation and increased incidence of heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol and other chronic diseases. In general, many of us just eat too much saturated fat and not enough of the other health beneficial fats. However, when consumed in appropriate amounts (< 10% of daily caloric intake) and from the right sources, saturated fats actually have several health benefits and are essential to the body’s functioning. Saturated fat should not be feared and does not need to be avoided all together. Feel free to consume healthy sources of saturated fat from organic and grass fed animal meats, organic butter, ghee, and coconut oil.
- Hydrogenated oils and trans-fats - these harmful fats result from the high processing and heating of oils. The research is clear, these types of fats have several harmful health effects and should always be avoided. Margarine and shortening contain the synthetic trans-fats. Read labels and avoid anything with the words partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated on the ingredient list.
Tips for a Diet with Healthy Fats
- Focus on healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, flax oil, and oily fish such as salmon and sardines, mackerel and trout.
- Consume healthy sources of saturated fats in smaller amounts – unrefined coconut oil, organic butter and organic grass-fed animal meats. Avoid dairy and animal fats - consume in limited amounts.
- Reduce/Avoid consumption of vegetable oils and omega-6 fatty acids. See the Avoid list in the quick guide below. These oils are commonly found in packaged and processed foods (i.e. canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil).
- Make nuts and seeds a part of your daily diet. These are great sources of fat, antioxidants and protein. It is preferable to eat the whole nut/seed than to consume the oil in most cases. Raw is best.
- Consume organic omega-3 eggs instead of regular eggs.
- Season vegetables with herbs and spices rather than in cream sauces or with margarine.
- Avoid all fried foods and most fast foods as these are often prepared with unhealthy oils.
- In place of margarine or shortening, use olive oil or small amounts of organic butter. Avoid using shortening products in baked goods, instead use coconut oil, olive oil or butter for baking.
Cooking with oils
Low heat sautéing and steaming is the best way to cook with most oils. Every oil has a smoke point, the temperature at which it begins to smoke. Oil should never be allowed to smoke as it compromises nutritional value and releases free radicals and damages the flavors.
For high heat cooking:
Frying and deep frying destroys all oils to some degree but some oils are more resistant to heat. Avoid using all unrefined oils for frying and high heat. Refined oils are more resistant to heat. If frying, baking or cooking at high temp use the following: refined coconut oil, ghee, butter, and animal fats such as beef/lamb tallow. See quick guide below.
When sautéing or frying add water to the pan to keep the temperature cooler. Do not pour the oil into an already heated pan. Adding water will help protect the oils. To preserve the nutritious properties and the flavor of unrefined oils, try the "wet-sauté," a technique that is practiced by gourmet chefs – pour around one-fourth of a cup of water in the stir fry pan and heat just below boiling. Then add the food and cook it a bit before adding the oil. Wet-sauté shortens the time an oil is in contact with a hot pan. Stir frequently to further reduce the time the oil is in contact with the hot metal
Butter, coconut oil and olive oil are good choices for baked goods. Refined high oleic safflower or sunflower oil and organic canola oil (spectrum brand) also withstand high heat and have a neutral taste but are not ideal oils for health.
For a Quick Guide Chart to Fats & oils click here.
To learn more:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes
Dr. Joanne Aponte is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor & Holistic Wellness Expert. She is available in the store every Tuesday & Thursday from 12-7 to help answer your questions regarding natural wellness.
Disclaimer: The information contained in the GHM Wellness Blog is intended for educational purposes only. The information is not intended to be used for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any medical condition. Always consult with your personal physician or other qualified health care provider before making any changes to your health care