Food Is Not Your Enemy


Don’t Fear the Fat
November 12, 2010, 9:59 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Meat, Oils | Tags: , , ,

Not all oils and fats are created equal. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, trans-fats and oils that are used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. However, fats and oils from whole foods and other high-quality sources can steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning properly. Our bodies also need fat for insulation and to protect and hold our organs in place.

A healthy percentage of high-quality fat in a meal satisfies and leaves feelings of energy, satiety, and warmth. When there are excess fats and oils in the diet, however, especially heavily processed fats, symptoms can include weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, liver strain, and an overall feeling of mental, physical, and emotional heaviness. Signs of insufficient high-quality fats are brittle hair and nails, dry skin, hunger after meals, and feeling cold.

There are many sources of healthy fats and oils. For sautéing and baking, try butter (organic is best), ghee (clarified butter), or coconut oil because they do not break down when used at high temperatures. When sautéing foods at moderate temperatures, try organic extra virgin olive oil. Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed are best used unheated in sauces or dressings on top of salads, veggies, or grains. Other healthy fats are found in whole nuts and seeds and in their butters like almond butter or tahini. Whole foods such as avocados, olives, and coconuts are great sources of healthy fat, along with wild salmon and other small, non-predatory fish like sardines, sole, cod, black cod, and herring. Experiment with these healthy fat sources and see which work best for you and leave you satisfied.

When selecting oils, buy the highest-quality organic products you can afford, since cooking oils are the backbone of so many dishes. Good words to look for on the label are organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and unrefined. Products to avoid are ones called “refined” and “solvent extracted.” And definitely pass by anything containing trans-fats, which are called “partially hydrogenated oil” on ingredient labels. Trans-fats will raise your risk of heart disease way more (about 30% more, according to the Harvard School of Public Health) than lard and other animal fats. Speaking of which, you should feel okay about including some animal fat in your diet, especially if it’s coming from organic and/or pasture-raised meat that isn’t shot up with hormones or antibiotics.

So don’t fear the fat. Total fear of fat led to the production of a spate of bogus, low-fat and no-fat junk foods over the past couple of decades, foods that were high in sugar and calories and ended up actually causing weight gain rather than preventing it. As far as healthy foods go, no-fat cookies are no match for a nice fatty, filling, and nutrient-dense avocado.

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