by Dr. Will Cole
For 50 years, we’ve been told that fat is bad – it causes heart disease, obesity, even cancer, or so the public health message goes. Although old belief systems die hard, we now know that cholesterol and saturated fats do not actually cause heart disease, are not the driving force behind obesity, and are not carcinogenic. Instead, they are necessary components for vibrant health and proper functioning – as long as you are choosing fat in its natural forms. Intrigued? Let’s blow the lid off the myths about fat and set the record straight once and for all!
First and foremost, know this: There is no good solid scientific evidence that natural foods containing saturated fat cause heart disease or cancer. In fact, a study conducted by Harvard University showed that eating more saturated fats prevented the progression of heart disease. Additionally, a second Harvard study showed a high-fat diet consisting of saturated fats in meat and dairy products actually had a threefold decrease in type II diabetes! There’s no doubt that good saturated fats are lacking in the standard Western diet. These good fats are essential for our overall health.
Second of all, the so-called “heart-healthy” but industrially produced vegetable fats are anything but healthy! Fats like canola, vegetable, soybean, and corn oil are actually inflammatory, and far from their natural form.
But the issue is even more complicated once you bring cooking into the mix, because good fats can turn into bad fats when exposed to oxidizing high heat, causing inflammation in the body. For example, this happens to olive oil, which is normally an excellent whole-food fat, when it is used for frying. When choosing fat to cook with, it’s important to find out the smoking points of the oils you are using. Here are some guidelines:
Use saturated fat for high heat cooking.
These fats can tolerate higher heat temperatures without becoming oxidized. Buy organic, unrefined forms, from grass-fed sources if animal based, whenever possible:
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
- Animal fat (from beef, lamb, chicken, or pork)
Use unsaturated fat for dressings and dips.
Unsaturated fats can be easily damaged and oxidized when heated, but are supremely healthy in their organic, extra virgin, cold-pressed form:
- Avocado oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
Healthful whole food fats:
Aside from added fats, some whole foods are naturally high in fat, and these can be excellent additions to your diet when they are organic and come from pastured or grass-fed sources:
- Whole eggs
- Higher fat meat like beef and dark-meat poultry
- Seafood, like shellfish and cold-water fatty fish
- Full-fat dairy products, especially raw or fermented
- Raw nuts and seeds
Never choose these: I never recommend eating industrially produced fats and refined seed oils due to their highly processed and highly inflammatory nature. These are never good choices in any circumstance, and will also oxidize easily with light, air, or heat exposure:
- Margarine or “buttery spreads”
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Rice bran oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Vegetable oil
- Anything that has the term “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients
Bottom line? Stop fearing fat! If you make smart choices, fat can help you feel great and prime your hormones and brain for optimal functioning.
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