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Good fats are great! I love good fats! They make your food taste better, they help you feel full, they energize you, they help with hormonal balance, they help our brain function better, they help you maintain a healthy weight and they help with glowing skin. I’m pretty passionate about good fats! You should definitely be eating more good fat.
If you’re from the 80s or 90s then you probably grew up with the low fat craze. As a young girl coming of age in the 90s, I remember how fat was the enemy. I would help my mom cook recipes from a low fat cookbook Oprah swore by. I ate my cornflakes with 0% milk and we used the low fat margarine. Eventually we stopped using any butter. No wonder I was suffering from gut imbalance and acne. Even when I started eating healthier I didn’t see much improvement right away because I was still pretty much ignorant about the benefits of eating good fats.
With low fat came a big push for using vegetable oils and avoiding saturated fats. Vegetable oils is actually a misnomer since these fats are not derived from vegetables. Plant-based oils is a much better term as they are mostly derived from grains and seeds. Corn, soy, canola and sunflower oil are some examples.
What To Do!
Now as you might have noticed if you’ve been reading my blog, I like to focus mainly on what to do. I think there’s already a large emphasis on what you should avoid and what’s bad for you. A lot of times that left me feeling pretty powerless and clueless about what’s left. My goal is the opposite, to empower you. I’m going to deviate a bit from my usual stance by telling you to lay off the vegetable oils and artificial trans fats. After that I will spend the bulk of this post talking about which fats you should start falling in love with.
Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are the chemically altered fats you find in processed foods. Usually the label of things like crackers, cookies, fast food, frozen foods, snack foods and the like will contain an ingredient called ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ also known as artificial trans fats. You want to avoid these fats since they increase the bad cholesterol in your body and have an inflammatory effect.
Refined Vegetable Oils
In order to get from a grain or seed to the actual oil, a lot of industrial processing like for instance bleaching is necessary to make it profitable. These plant-based fats get chemically altered and refined. As you’d suspect the chemicals used to make these ‘heart healthy’ fats are not very healthy. Despite being removed, tests have shown that residues remain. There are unrefined versions available of these vegetable or plant-based oils, but they’re less suitable for cooking.
Vegetable oils are inflammatory oils. You have probably heard of omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9. Omega with a number behind is biochemistry speak for the location and type of chemical bond. Having different omega’s resembles having different b-vitamins. All part of a family, but with different members and as such different properties. Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential because your body’s unable to make these on its own and depends on your diet.
Most plant-based oils are high in omega 6. It has an inflammatory effect in our bodies, which when eaten in moderation is desirable. But since we are consuming it in large amounts through these ‘heart healthy’ oils in our cooking and also in a lot of processed foods, the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 has been lost. You should be consuming equal amounts of omega 3 and omega 6. What happens nowadays is that the ratio is estimated to be 16:1 in the favor of omega 6. Basically, that means by consuming these oils we’re contributing to inflammation in our bodies.
Inflammation is at the basis of most modern day diseases. A little inflammation is part of life and shouldn’t be any cause of concern. But the low grade inflammation, which becomes chronic is below our pain thresholds, leaving it go unnoticed for long periods of time. Inflammation will cause damage to our arteries, organs, brain and tissues leading to diseases like arthritis, heart disease, cognitive decline, diabetes, asthma, obesity and cancer.
Omega 3 and omega 6 have opposing effects. Where omega 6 causes inflammation, omega 3 will reduce it. What’s worrisome here is that omega 6 competes with Omega 3 for resources in the body. So when the balance is off, it’s even harder to get the ratio back to health. And when you’re overweight you have a compounding problem because fat cells have an inflammatory effect in your body.
Hopefully, you get how important omega 3 is now for its anti-inflammatory effects. For moms the omega 3 is even more important. Since in the third trimester your baby uses up your stores as building block for its brain. This explains why postnatally you might have had issues with a ‘baby brain’; being forgetful, not as sharp as you used to be and in a bit of a brain fog.
In this case to get the ratio back under control you need a supplement. If you’re not a vegetarian I would advise you to invest in a quality krill oil, which is an Antarctic crustacean. Since it’s low in the food chain, the mercury levels are not a concern and the structure of the oil is very easily absorbed by your cells. The recommended dosage varies from 1-4 grams a day. As a depleted mother you are allowed to lean towards the higher end of dosage especially if you’re not consuming any of the foods listed below under ‘eat omega 3’.
Vegans & Vegetarians
A lot of times you hear using flax seeds and hemp seeds as an alternative. The problem with this is that the form of omega 3 found is insufficient to act as a supplement by itself. Also your body needs to convert it to a usable form. That conversion is really poor, somewhere between 5-15%. Flax and hemp oil are great additions to a salad, but not as omega 3 supplements. Algae oil would be a good alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
Eat Omega 3
Preferably sustainably caught (sockeye) salmon, herring, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, snack on lots of raw walnuts, egg yolks (don’t overcook them) and natto, which is a fermented soy product. Natto resembles miso if you’re in a more adventurous mood. You can add a bit to your sauces, dressing, broth to name a few options.
Omega-3-6-9 combinations. As we’ve discussed omega 6 is inflammatory and omega 9 is not an essential fat. You don’t need a supplement for either omega 6 or 9.
Fats To Indulge In
When it comes to good fats I’m never stingy because I know my body needs them to thrive. I’m supportive of the avocado craze, I use cacao butter in baking and I add nut butters to everything. Seriously, the world beyond peanut butter is pretty amazing.
My favorite fats to cook with have a high smoking point. When you’re cooking and you notice a lot of smoke coming from the pan then you know you’ve reached that point. This is when the fat changes structure and free radicals are formed. You don’t want to eat these since they cause damage to your cells, increase bad cholesterol and are carcinogenic. Unrefined vegetable oils have fairly low smoking points causing them not to be a great option for cooking. That’s why the industrial processing is necessary, to make them suitable for cooking.
Eating Good Fat
1. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
I absolutely love coconut oil, the smell, the texture and how versatile it is in smoothies, baking, sautéing and to rub on your skin and hair! Why? This amazing saturated oil is a bacteria, virus, fungi fighting powerhouse. Due to its structure of having short chain fatty acids our bodies can turn coconut oil into energy really quickly. It also contributes to that healthy glow, improving skin and hair. It’s liquid when temperatures are high and will become more solid when below room temperature.
Avoid processed coconut oils, buy an extra virgin coconut oil. If you dislike the taste and/or smell there are extra virgin coconut oils available that are odorless. Eat fresh coconuts if they’re availabe. Use coconut oil for cooking by substituting it for your normal vegetable oil. Add a tablespoon in your smoothies and use it for baking. Leftovers can be smeared all over your face.
Dissolving facial oil with an anti-bacterial oil like coconut oil is the best way to cleanse and nourish your face. I use this instead of water since oil and water don’t mix that well, making this oily substitution a great facial cleanser.
2. Grass-Fed Butter (Saturated Fat)
The other day there was a so-called expert telling people how they should NOT consume butter and opt for margarine instead. Margarine, which is so highly processed, it has been likened to plastic! It makes me so mad since this person makes things very confusing for everyone. There are few things I get mad about, but the vilification of good fats like (grass-fed) butter is one of them. I think it’s because my fight against fat caused me so many problems in my teenage years and beyond.
In my opinion the research is pretty conclusive on this matter. There’s a collection of 21 studies, which includes almost 350,000 people and followed these people around for 14 years on average. They found no relationship between saturated fat and heart disease! If you want I can give you the references.
Butter is excellent to cook in since it has a high smoking point. In addition, it makes everything taste better. The best butter is that from quality cows, which have been fed grass. Why grass-fed? This butter contains more omega 3, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and antioxidants than butter from cows that have been fed grains.
This is clarified (grass-fed) butter. By cooking the butter, separation takes place between the butter and the moisture from the milk solids. You are left with a rich nutty tasting substance, which is softer than butter and has a higher smoking point. Ghee originates from India where they use it royally in their dishes. You can use this as a great substitute for your cooking oils.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There’s nothing like a good quality extra virgin olive oil to lift a salad to a whole other level. The smoking point of extra virgin olive oil is fairly low at 150 degrees Celsius, which is 320 degrees Fahrenheit (extra virgin coconut oil is a bit higher at 177 degrees Celsius, which is 350 degrees Fahrenheit). This low smoking point makes it less suitable for heating. Since as a home cook it’s not easy to assess if you’ve reached the level until it’s too late (it’s already smoking), I never use extra virgin olive oil to cook in anymore.
You can use the other types of olive oil that are of lower grade to cook with like light, refined, virgin or pure. These are of lesser nutritional value, which then make me wander why you’d want to cook with them if you already have great options like the ones mentioned earlier.
5. Salads, Sauces And Dressings
There are some great oils with a low smoking point that are great additions to a salad for example. Sesame oil, walnut oil, flax seed and hemp oil
Assessing Quality Of Fat
There are more oils with a high smoke point that I haven’t mentioned that you can cook in. I like the ones I’ve mentioned because of their nutrient contents as well. Make sure when you assess any fat you buy one that’s organic, cold pressed and low heat processed. Those are three markers of having a superior quality product in your hands. Avoid things like margarine, cooking sprays and other processed fats that are far removed from how nature offered them.
Difficulty Digesting Fats
A lot of people nowadays have issues with absorbing fats and get an upset stomach, oily, smelly and floating stools. It’s then a bit more complicated to see results by just adding good fats and eliminating the bad ones. If you want support then just fill in the contact form and we’ll have a FREE 20 minute discovery call to get you on your way!