After years of being vilified as the culprit behind heart disease and weight gain, the current research on dietary fat is changing this ideology. Advancing research continues to reveal the many benefits to consuming fats, along with new evidence on what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats.
Your body needs fat, both saturated and unsaturated. Without adequate fat consumption many bodily functions begin to suffer. Fat facilitates the creation and maintenance of cell membrane integrity, hormonal health, vitamin/nutrient absorption, and optimal neural transmissions and nerve functions. Furthermore, eating fat with a meal improves satiety, meaning you will feel full and satisfied from what you have just eaten, and curbs the insulin response leading to less of a post-meal energy slump.
The good fats can be considered those which occur naturally and can be eaten with minimum processing necessary. They can be both saturated (are solid at room temperature – think coconut oil, butter, animal fats) and unsaturated (are liquid at room temperature – think cold pressed olive and nut oils). They include essential fatty acids or EFA’s, the fats you must consume as your body is incapable of producing them. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential for this reason.
Typically, the modern diet has skewed the ratio on omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids from an ideal ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 to one that reads 1:20 or higher. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in safflower, sunflower, corn, canola and soybean oil. Not only do these fats provide abnormally high levels of the pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids, they are often GMO, highly industrialized and processed leaving a rancid, nutritionally devoid product that your body cannot recognize as a good source of nutrients.
The bad fats have been chemically altered and have gone through multiple manufacturing processes to make them seem fit for human consumption. Man-made trans-fats were engineered to remain solid at room temperature. These differ markedly to the naturally occurring trans-fats in found in animal products. The manufactured trans-fats wreak havoc on the human body. They have been linked to an increase in LDL (the less favourable) cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, along with increased incidences of diabetes, obesity and degenerative cognitive disorders (Alzheimer’s and dementia). Although commercially produces tran-fats appear to have been removed from food products, are still found in small amounts in many foods including margarine, fried foods, processed cereals and even healthy-looking granola bars. Any ingredients labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated implies the product contains trans-fats. No amount of these man-made trans-fats, no matter how minute is a wise amount to ingest.
Some of my best fats to consume include:
Virgin Coconut Oil
· Has a high smoke point (oxidizes at a high temperature), making it ideal to cook with
· Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are the molecules predominant in coconut oil. MCT’s are both the brain, and the body’s preferred source of fuel. Studies have shown a direct correlation between MCT’s on cognition and memory in the elderly and patients with diabetes, especially when in combination with reduced carbohydrate load diet.
· Coconut oil improves satiety and has an impact on weight loss
· Coconut oil is beneficial for the the skin as an emollient or moisturizer as it helps to draw moisture to the skin, rather than repel it, as with most other oils.
· Switch to cooking with coconut oil, especially for higher f temperatures and frying or sautéing at high heat
· Use in baking for as an alternative to butter, and for greasing baking pans
· Include a tablespoon or two into a smoothie
· Add it to coarse salt or sugar with a few drops of essential oil for a moisturizing and exfoliating DIY body scrub
· Use as a moisturizer post-shower on warm, wet skin
Grass Fed Butter
· Contains a unique fatty acid known as butyric acid, which has been shown to be protective against inflammation, boost immunity, aid in digestion, and promote the growth of good bacteria
· Contains the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K - Vitamins A and D help with the immune system, and vitamin D also has a positive impact on mood
· Can be used in baking and lower temperature cooking. High heat will burn the milk solids still present in butter.
· Butter makes a great spread or base for dips and spreads
Ghee (Clarified Butter)
· Clarified butter has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to heal the body, promote detoxification, and increase moisture, internally and externally.
· Clarified butter is devoid of the milk solids that many are intolerant too. Those that are lactose or casein intolerant often have little to no reaction when ingresting butter that has been treated in this way.
· With the milk solids removed, this saturated fat has a high smoke point and is thus a good choice for high heat cooking, frying and sautéing.
· A tasty addition to a smoothie
· Take a spoonful or two in the morning followed by warm water to help relieve constipation
Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· Studies have shown that daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil has numerous health benefits including
o Modulating healthy cholesterol levels at a dose of 2 Tbsp/day
o Aiding in hypertension (high blood pressure) management as well as preventing hypertension.
· Extra Virgin Olive Oil from a reputable source is best. It should always be packaged in dark, glass bottle for preservation and avoid contamination.
· Raw on salads and over steamed vegetables
· Cooking with olive oil at high temperatures causes oxidation and destruction of the valuable compounds that make it healthy
Avocado or Cold-Pressed Avocado Oil
· Avocado oil is considered a saturated fat, meaning you can cook with the oil without fear of destroying the health benefits
· Both the fruit and the oil are high in potassium, a heart healthy electrolyte needed for proper muscle contraction and nerve transmission
· Frying or sautéing
· Use as an alternate flavour in salad dressings, home-made mayonnaise and sauces.
· Half an avocado added to a smoothie creates a creamy texture
· Avocados are great substitutes in chocolate flavoured deserts.
Cold-Pressed Flax Oil or Flaxseeds
· High in essential omega 3 fatty acids, flax is considered an anti-inflammatory food
· Flaxseeds are high in fibre – a key in optimal digestive health and hormonal function
· Flax is highly unstable and can oxidize (go rancid) very quickly. Oil and seeds should always be kept in a cool, dark area and consumed over a short time period.
· Flaxseed oil should always be consumed raw, as high heat can destroy the health benefits
· The oil can be used as a substitute in salad dressings
· Ground seeds can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute in baking recipes
· Ground flaxseeds can be blended into a smoothie.
· Seeds need to be ground or milled to allow for digestion to occur
Cold-Pressed Hempseed Oil
· Provides the ideal ratio of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids
· Hempseed oil is high in chlorophyll which is a powerful anti-oxidant
· Like flax oil, hempseed oil is highly unstable and oxidizes easily. It should thus never be heated and always refrigerated.
· Hemp oil has a mild nutty flavour and is useful for salad dressings
Cold-Pressed Sesame Oil
· A good source of the essential fatty acid known as linoleic acid. This is an omega-6 fat which needs to be consumed in balance with other omega-3 fats.
· Cold pressed sesame oil is high in many antioxidants (such as vitamin E), which naturally help minimize heat oxidation
· Best used raw or towards the end of cooking
· Provides Asian flare and flavour to marinades, salad dressings and cooked dishes.
· Ground sesame paste (tahini) also provides a nutty flavoured alternative to those who are avoiding or have allergies to tree nuts.
Enjoy a variety of fats with each of your meals throughout the day. Moderate amounts of ‘good’ fats will ensure you are left feeling satiated after and between meals, improve your digestion and provide your brain and body with sufficient fuel and nutrients to help you optimize your day.