Hopefully by now you are realizing that eating plenty of good fats is part of a healthy, balanced real food diet. And you also know that eating fat does NOT make you fat. Our bodies actually crave fat and need it in order to function properly. Let’s take a quick look at the REAL Top 5 Healthy Fats in the Kitchen.
There has been lots of misinformation about the types of fats we should be consuming and in what amounts. Many people still believe that eating a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is healthy. The opposite is actually true.
Did you know that fat (not glucose) is your body’s preferred source of energy? Not many people do. Yes, FAT is actually the preferred fuel of human metabolism. And the increasing consumption of high carbohydrate foods like grains and sugars (particularly fructose) is a major cause of the skyrocketing obesity and diabetes epidemic. (source)
This goes against everything we are taught about nutrition, I know. But obviously the nutritional advice we have been given is not working. Diabetes is at an all time high, obesity is a national health crisis, and chronic diseases are rampant. Historically speaking, carbohydrate intake has always been quite low. And diseases associated with insulin resistance where very rare.
Another important fact about fat is that it is absolutely essential to have fat in the diet for our bodies to be able to utilize fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. So just say no to skinny vegetable. Fat also plays a part in helping us feel full by affecting our satiety hormones.
Think about it: during Paleolithic times, our ancestors ate a diet high in fat and protein consisting primarily of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and roots. There were no grains or sugar-derived carbohydrates. As we have slowly transitioned away from this way of eating and added more refined carbohydrates and sugars to our diets, we have seen an overwhelming increase in obesity and diseases associated with insulin resistance. How many of you either have diabetes or know someone who does. RIGHT??!!
5 Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats
#1 Choose fats that have a higher percentage of saturated fatty acids.
Single bond saturated fats are more stable and more resistant to rancidity than unsaturated fats because of their chemical structure. The fatty acid is saturated with hydrogens making the structure straight and rigid. This rigid structure makes it easy for the triglycerides to stack on top of each other and form a solid fat.
Food sources include animal foods like beef, lamb, chicken, pork, fish, dairy products, butter, lard, eggs and plant foods like coconut and palm oil.
#2 Reduce the consumption of fats/oil that are high in polyunsaturated fat (PUFA’s).
These types of fats contain double bonds, making them more prone to oxidation and rancidity. Rancid fats and oils are extremely unhealthy for the human body. Chris Kresser says, “It is this excess consumption of omega-6 PUFA – not cholesterol and saturated fat – that is responsible for the modern epidemics of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease and more.”
Food sources include nuts and seeds, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil.
#3 Medium-chain fatty acids are easily digested and absorbed and are nourishing to the body.
They are readily used for energy and are not stored as fat. Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. Some of the health benefits of coconut oil include: protects against heart disease, decreases inflammation, immune boosting, antiviral properties, and a main source of lauric acid- an essential fat that is a critical component of breast milk. You can read more about amazing coconut oil HERE.
#4 Choose animal fats that are grass fed and pastured.
Animals that eat what they are supposed to eat and that live in their natural environments are far more nutritious. Grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef, and the ratio of omega6 fatty acids to omega3 acids in grain-fed beef is much higher. Research also shows that grass fed beef contains considerably more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than grain-fed beef. (source)
#5 Choose plant-based fats and oils that are unprocessed and organic.
Many vegetable oils are processed using harmful chemicals and damaging processes. More chemicals are then used to improve the color. And then they are deodorized to mask the smell from the chemical processing. Nothing natural or healthy about this. Canola oil is a prime example of this horrible process.
Top 5 Healthy Fats in the Kitchen
#1 Traditional Animal Fats
I’m talking about beef tallow , duck fat, and pork lard, and bison fat here. These fats have nourished and fed people for thousands of years. With the introduction of highly processed fats like margarine and vegetable oils, these health giving fats have been pushed into quiet corners.
Did you know that lard from pasture-raising pigs is a rich source of Vitamin D, second only to cod liver oil? It is wonderful for baking, sauteing, and braising. Be sure to get your lard from a reliable, sustainable source. The lard you find in commercial stores is hydrogenated and not healthy at all. Learn to render lard HERE.
Beef tallow is rendered fat from beef. Beef tallow has actually been shown to reduce the risk of metatastic breast cancer. Grassfed beef fat has a high concentration of “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA, which is good for cholesterol levels. It has a smoke point of about 400’F so is excellent for high heat cooking. Learn to render your own beef tallow HERE or order grass fed beef tallow here.
Our family also enjoys duck fat for cooking. If you have never roasted vegetables in duck fat, you really need to. DELISH! We are all about our saturated fats around here. I order my duck fat online HERE.
Simply store these fats in the fridge and scoop out a bit when you need it. Animal fats can be used interchangeably for any meats or vegetables and all (except for bacon fat) impart a subtle flavor that will not overwhelm your recipe.
#2 Grass Fed Butter
I am not talking about commercial, grain fed, pasteurized butter here. Much of that butter is loaded with antibiotics and growth hormones. But butter made from the milk of grass fed cows is a superfood, loaded with healing properties.
Butter protects us against heart disease by giving us vitamin A, lecithin, and antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium, and cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is actually an antioxidant. (source)
Butter also protects us from cancer with it’s short and medium chain fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. Vitamin A, vitamin E , selenium, and cholesterol also have anti-cancer properties. (source)
With it’s creamy, rich flavor, it is perfect for low to medium heat cooking and for baking. The smoke point of butter is about 265’F, making it unsuitable for high heat cooking.
A common brand seen is grocery stores in Kerrygold. You can also search out raw sources from local farmers who are raising happy cows.
#3 Grass Fed Ghee
If you do not tolerate dairy very well or if you want to do more high heat cooking, check out ghee made from grass fed cows. Ghee is clarified butter, made by heating butter to remove the water and milk solids leaving the butter fat. What you are left with is an easily digestible oil that is rich with flavor. It has it’s origins in India and to this day is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine because of it’s healing properties. Many folks who do not tolerate butter dairy do well with ghee.
What’s nice about ghee is that it has a very high smoke point and is shelf stable. The smoke point is around 465’F. And you can leave ghee out on your counter without refrigeration for up to a month and up to 6 months in the fridge. This is due to the lack of moisture in the oil. Be sure to store your ghee in a sealed jar, away from heat and liquids.
Ghee is my favorite fat for baking, as well as sauteing. You can read more about it in my post 7 Reasons to Start Cooking with Ghee.
#4 Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a delicious, shelf-stable tropical oil that is loaded with saturated fatty acids. It is actually about 92% saturated fat, which is why it is solid at room temperature. Being heat stable, it is excellent for sauteing and stir frying. It is also great in baking and can be used in place of butter in most recipes.
Besides being a great cooking fat, coconut oil has been shown to increase metabolism, contains anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, and decreases inflammation.
I recommend using organic virgin coconut oil instead of the refined coconut oil you may find in stores. Read more HERE why.
#5 Olive Oil
Olive oil is the healthiest plant based oil. It contains mostly mono-unsaturated fatty acids, making a safe oil to consume. Good quality extra virgin olive oil has been shown to have protective properties for the heart, to lower inflammatory markers in the blood, to improve cognitive function, and to reduce risks of certain cancers. (source)
The one things I do say about olive oil is DON’T COOK WITH IT. It has a low smoke point and heat destroys the healing properties of olive oil. You can read more in my post 5 Reasons to Stop Cooking with Olive Oil.
Save your good quality, organic, extra virgin olive oil for dressings and cold applications. Be sure to store is a dark bottle in a cool place to reduce oxidization.
Did you know that olive oil is the most adulterated agricultural product coming out of Europe? And according to a University of California at Davis study, more than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren’t what they claim to be.
My favorite brand by far is Kasandrinos Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I have done a ton of research, and it is the only brand of olive oil that I buy. It is a small, family-owned business with high quality olive oil. Never adulterated. Always organic. Be sure to check out Kasandrinos HERE.
A few other oils that I use occasionally in my kitchen:
- Avocado Oil : Best neutral tasting oil for homemade mayonnaise. See recipes HERE.
- Macadamia Nut Oil : good for homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings.
Still confused about all of the conflicting information about fat, cholesterol, and heart disease out there?
Check out EAT THE YOLKS by Liz Wolfe. Best book on modern nutrition that I have read. Super funny. Eye-opening. And sets you straight on why we should be looking to foods and fats that have been around for a long time to nourish and feed our families. She goes into detail debunking the nutrition myths and propaganda that makes your head spin when trying to figure out what to eat and not to eat.
Click HERE to PIN THIS!
What are you favorite fats in the kitchen? And how do you use them? Leave a comment below.
photo credit: depositphoto @ eelnosiva