Article written for The News on February 24, 2015
I am not afraid of fats – even “Saturday” fats. I eat them every day of the week. Some of you may remember a little girl mispronouncing this fat in a commercial in the 1970s, when saturated fats and cholesterol first became vilified. As Dr. Amy Punké explained in last week’s column, cholesterol may not be the enemy it was once thought to be. The true culprit is inflammation. When it comes to inflammation, fats can work for you or against you.
There are three categories of fats: saturated (animal fats, coconut), monounsaturated (olives, avocado) and polyunsaturated (omega6 – sunflower, sesame, omega3 – hemp, cold water fish, walnuts). All of these fats can be a component in a healthy diet. BALANCE is the key word here.
Saturated fats from animal sources contain a fatty acid called arachidonic acid. This acid is a precursor to the prostaglandin that turns on inflammation in the body. This is a natural and needed process in the body in response to injury when it is balanced out by the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids found in sources of omega3 rich foods. Essential fatty acids are just that – essential. You must include these in your diet because the body cannot make them on its own.
When it comes to fat, quality is as important, if not more important, than quantity.
The best fats to include in your diet are those in their whole food form. Coconut, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds, meat, fish and poultry. These foods are nutrient dense and add other important components to your healthy diet.
Low fat and no fat products have replaced the fat with fillers and mostly sugar. Excess sugar in the body is turned into excess fat. These products should be avoided since excess sugar is a major player in promoting inflammation in the body.
Fatty foods should be organic to reduce the toxic load on our systems and prevent injury. Herbicides and pesticides as a rule are lipotrophic, meaning they adhere to fat just as they do in our own body so you cannot just wash them off.
When good fat goes bad...
Fats and oils are very sensitive to air, heat, and light. Overexposure to any of these three can compromise its integrity. To maintain integrity, fats and oils should be:
- stored in a cool dark place like the refrigerator
- opened minimally
- not heated beyond its capacity.
Processing of fats can destroy the fats’ integrity rendering them an inflammatory agent in the diet. This would include all those colourless, tasteless clear bottled oils you see (canola, corn, soybean). Also oils that are chemically extracted like grapeseed and palm kernel. Oils should be cold pressed, unrefined and be sold in a dark bottle.
Trans fats are another inflammatory fat and should be avoided in the diet. How can you tell if there are trans fats in a product? Check your nutrition label. If the listed fats do not add up to the total fats in grams, then you have trans fats in that food. Ingredients that include a form of hydrogenated oil such as shortening is also an indicator.
Some like it hot… but most fats do not.
No fat is going to handle a deep frying. It’s that simple.
Medium to high heat as with sautéing and roasting, the best choices are coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter).
For low to medium heat as with baking or finishing, olive oil or butter are good choices.
No heat, no way, so only to be used as additions to smoothies or making of salad dressings are hemp, flax, walnut, sunflower.
Fun fat facts:
- Local grass fed beef is higher in omega 3s than industrial grain feed beef.
- Dark leafy greens and sea vegetables are a good source of omega3s.
- Omega6 fatty acids can turn off inflammation if there are plenty of omega3s in diet. They can turn it on if too much arachidonic acid is present.
- Including fats with our greens help us absorb both the calcium and vitamin A that are present.
- High smoke points can be created through refinement and processing.
Chronic inflammation is the root of so much dis-ease. So as I tell my clients regularly, make your plate work for you.
Keep your foods whole and keep the quality high.
Feast for life.