Today we are going to cover both fats we want to include in our diet and those we don’t. We’ll go over healthy fat sources – oils, nuts and seeds, eggs, fish and dairy but also unhealthy fats like translates and industrial seed oils.
Optimal fat choices
Oils should taste like the nut/seet/fruit from which they are mechanically pressed with out solvents. If it doesn’t taste like it’s source product that means it has been refined, bleached and or deodorised all of which result in massive losses of nutrients. Heavily processed oils may also contain trans fats (bad).
- Olive oil has been around for a long time as olives can be easily preserved without refrigerating or kept under high pressure. This is the number one oil for freshness and nutrition. Olive oil is high in phyosterols, chlorophyll, magnesium, vitamin E, and carotene. It should be in an opaque container labelled with organic and extra virgin. Contrary to common believe you should not cook with olive oil because high heat damages it, due to this it’s best used in salad dressings.
- Coconut oil however loves more heat and is prefect for cooking with. Coconut oil is a good source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and a ready-to-use, convenient source of fuel that doesn’t spike blood sugar. The meat and butter can also be used but flour and sugar are a no no. Same as with olive oil we are looking for unrefined, organic, extra virgin coconut oil. This will maximise its anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal qualities.
- Other good oils include avocado and macadamia nut, but they are tougher to turn into oils, so they have a higher chance of being refined, bleached, or deodorized. When looking for these two, follow the same standards as olive oil.
NUTS AND SEEDS:
Nuts are not superfoods but they are handy in tricky situations. There are good and bad nutrients in them, to minimise the anti-nutrients buy dry roasted nuts.
- Macadamia nuts are low in phytic acid and one of the most nutritious nuts with a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids. They are a good source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, and antioxidant minerals.
- Other beneficial nuts include pistachios, cashews, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and flax seeds (but the moderate nutritional profile may not be worth suffering the poor flavor of flax seeds!).
Nuts are really convenient to carry around or have available at work for snacks. That said, nuts should not be a staple of your diet. A handful here or there or nut butters are the best way to use them. Nut flours should be avoided altogether.
Dairy: Either dairy agrees with you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then no big deal. If you can eat dairy, it is a delicious way to consume a nutrient-rich fat. Dairy products have long been valued as a nutritional powerhouse. Genghis Khan and his Mongolian warriors practically lived off dairy. The Mongolians used mares for milk and used two unique methods to consume it:
- Fermented the milk, making what they called ‘Koumiss’ not to be confused with humus.
- Dried the milk out in the sun, making powdered milk; they would bring this with them on long journeys
Mongolian warriors were definitely on to something. Dairy is the best source of CLA, a type of fat that is toxic to cancer cells and promotes the use of body fat for fuel. The body cannot make CLA, so you must obtain it from foods you eat. Dairy is also high in other essential nutrients like B vitamins and iodine. It is important to make sure you are eating dairy from healthy cows, preferably grass-fed cows. We consume dairy in many forms, each with their own benefits. Assume going forward that I am strictly referring to full fat dairy. If you reduce the fat in dairy, you reduce the CLA as well as any chance of omega-3s.
- Fermented Dairy Products are full of beneficial bacteria that eat lactose and other milk sugars. These “beneficial bacteria” help maintain the integrity of the gut lining, act as natural antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals, boosting immune function and controlling inflammation in the gut and subsequently the entire body. Look out for companies adding stuff to this though, as they may take away from the benefits we could gain.
- 90% of Kefir on the market is low fat, which completely defeats the purpose of kefir. If you can’t get whole milk/full fat kefir, then just avoid it all together. Also avoid any flavoring additives to kefir.
- The same applies to Greek yogurt: skip the low-fat and non-fat varieties that dominate the market in favor of whole milk/full fat varieties.
- Real cheese–such as a wheel of parmesan, not squares of plastic–has a number of health benefits. If the label lists “pasteurized process” as an ingredient, it’s not a cheese you want. Real cheese and fermented dairy are concentrated versions of milk, high in vitamins and minerals, calcium, zinc, A, D B, and K2 as well as CLA. Good cheese choices are aged Cheddar, Colby, Provolone, Gouda, and blue cheese. The benefits also extend to goat cheeses and sheep milk cheese.
- Butter–real butter, not margarine or any other fake food–is high in MCT as well as butyric acid, another easily digestible short-chain fatty acid (saturated). It is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins, particularly K2. Butter is great for high heat cooking and flavor. Grass-fed cow’s butter is the optimal choice.
- Ghee/Clarified Butter/Drawn Butter is capable of withstanding very high heats, making it a great option to fry foods with. Ghee is made through a simple process of boiling butter and pouring off the butterfat, leaving behind the proteins and the milk solids.
- Heavy cream lands somewhere between milk and butter. It is a great choice to add to morning coffee.
Fish is primarily a protein, but we are going to talk about fish today because fish contains both the prize winner and runner up of all fats: DHA and EPA respectively (omega-3 fats for the non scientific). DHA and EPA have important roles in health. Regular consumption of DHA and EPA rich fats;
- Improve brain development and cognition
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve blood pressure and triglyceride levels
- Keep our arteries and platelets healthy
The best sources of DHA and EPA are cold water fish, including anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, sablefish, roe, and caviar.
We can’t talk about fat without mentioning eggs. One egg provides 13 essential nutrients, a majority of which are in the yolk. Eggs are one of the only good sources of Vitamin D in food, and they are rich in B vitamins and choline. Choline in eggs works out particularly well since choline improves cognition, and we typically eat eggs in the morning when we need our brains to wake up. Don’t worry about the cholesterol in eggs. When we are concerned about cholesterol, we are actually concerned about the protein carrier molecules HDL (“good cholesterol”) and LDL (“bad cholesterol”). Eggs increase HDL, which is the lipoprotein you want higher in ratio to LDL. Besides, eating egg whites is absolutely pointless, if you buy eggs and ditch the yolk, you ditch the omega-3s along with it. The main thing to watch out for is buying organic to try and maximise the omega-3 content. To determine the quality of your eggs beyond these labels, see how orange or yellow the yolk is. Chickens are omnivores despite the “vegetarian” claims on some egg cartons. Chickens pick and scratch at the ground for worms and insects which dramatically increases the nutrients and quality of taste. The more chickens forage for their own food, the more nutritious the egg, and the darker yellow/orange the yolk becomes. Specifically, carotenoids that cause deeper yellow-orange yolk coloring are xanthophylls, which are more readily absorbed in the yolks. Lutein is one kind of xanthophyll, and a lot of lutein means a lot more orange. Orange yolks also mean you are getting higher levels of vitamins A, D, and E; more beta-carotene; and more omega-3s.
DISADVANTAGEOUS SOURCES OF FAT
Trans Fat (Hydrogenated): After 1977, food manufacturers were forced to stop using fats like lard, beef tallow, and butter for fried foods. At the time, they thought it was a good idea replace them with partially solid oils. They turned this previously liquid fat into a partial solid by adding hydrogen to various vegetable oils. There are two benefits to this process: 1) It prolongs the shelf life of the oil, and 2) It “improves” the texture (i.e., making margarine spreadable). Notice, the benefits have nothing to do with health. In fact, there hydrogenated fats present notable health concerns:
- Trans fats inhibit DHA’s myelin-building process in the brain
- Trans fats create inflammation in the brain, significantly increasing odds of a stroke
What’s more troubling is that is food labels can list 0 grams of trans fats so long as the food contains less than .5 a gram of trans fat per serving. Two grams a day (4 servings) is considered harmful and hidden trans fats can add up quickly, especially if you eat several servings of multiple foods containing less than 0.5 gram in a serving. It’s death by paper cuts. When you check the food label for trans fat, also check the ingredient list for the word “hydrogenated.” If it’s there, trans fats are too.
INDUSTRIAL SEED OILS:
Excessive processing oxidizes seed oils such as canola, corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, soybean, etc. Rust on steel is a form of oxidization, and these oils are no different. Consuming industrial seed oils is like drinking rusty water.