The reading level for this article is All Levels
There has been a lot of debate for many years about fat and how much of a role it should play in our diet. While the amount of fat one should have varies from person to person, fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats, as part of a meal, slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.
Fats to Enjoy
The best sources of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, flax oil, and fish oil. Occasional use of good quality raw or organic butter is also fine option. It is important to carefully select, store, and cook with the oils.
- When selecting oils, you want to look for “virgin” or “extra virgin” in the case of olive oil and coconut oil. You also want to look for “cold pressed” and “unrefined” when selecting all oils. This means that no heat has been applied to the oil. This is crucial because heating the oil creates disease causing free radicals.
- In terms of storing oils, keep olive oil, sesame oil, and flax oil in your refrigerator. Keeping the oils in a cold and dark place will prevent them from going rancid. I also recommend keeping nuts in the refrigerator and buying raw, rather than roasted, nuts and seeds. If you prefer roasted nuts and seeds, you can roast them yourself in the oven or on the stove. Coconut oil is best kept in a cool and dark place, such as your pantry. If you store it in the refrigerator it will become completely solid and will be difficult to work with.
- Most importantly, you want to cook with oils that are appropriate for the level of heat you’re using.
- For high heat, use coconut oil, butter, or ghee (clarified butter). These oils are great for frying.
- For medium heat, use olive oil or sesame oil. If your pan is smoking, it’s too hot! I use these oils to sauté.
- All of the oils and fats mentioned can be used with no heat, but you should never apply heat to flax oil. I use flax oil on salads, in a smoothie, or on toast with a little cinnamon.
Fats to Avoid
The most important type of fat to avoid is trans fat, which comes in the form of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. When shopping I encourage you to check out food labels. If you see the word “hydrogenated,” stay away from that product. You will be amazed by how many processed foods (meaning foods that come in a package) contain hydrogenated oil. Why? Food manufactures love hydrogenated oil because it has a long shelf-life. It is formed by chemically altering the structure of vegetable oil so it becomes hardened. Trans fats cause significant and serious lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol and a significant and serious increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol; make the arteries more rigid; cause major clogging of arteries; cause insulin resistance; cause or contribute to type 2 diabetes; and cause or contribute to other serious health problems.
You should also avoid liquid vegetable oils. This includes canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, safflower, and corn oil. These oils require mechanical pressing and processing to be created. They are very unstable and typically disease causing free radicals attack the fat and the oil becomes rancid before it is even opened. The heat used in cooking with these oils further damages them.
Do you still have questions about fat and oils? If so, I’d love to hear them. Email your questions and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me to schedule a complimentary one-hour nutrition and health consultation with me.
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