So…are you confused on whether fats are HEALTHY or GOOD for you?

There’s been a lot of change in information and opinions on dietary fat over the last 50 years. This is a BIG DEAL as you stand in the grocery store aisle trying to decide if it will be corn, canola, safflower, soybean, or some other golden derivative of ‘vegetable oil’.

-NO, NOT ALL FATS are healthy.
-UNLIMITED QUANTITIES OF FATS are still going to make you fat.

The article in this link (http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/13666-serious-concerns-about-vegetable-oils.html) shares reasons why I basically stay away from most of those ‘vegetable oils’ on the grocery store shelves. You can also scroll down to see my list below of the fats we choose for our own use at home. In addition, we stay away from margarine, non-butter sprays, most manufactured baked/fried goods, and edible oil products (like artificial whipped topping and coffee flavorings) with lots of strange chemical ingredients that your body is not designed to use, process and treats as toxins!

Fats are actually essential to your diet…..and in fact, 60% of your brain matter consists of fats. So when you call someone a ‘Fat Head’, that’s a fact, Jack! Fats create ALL the cell membranes in your body, and they are critical for healthy skin and eyes too! Important, huh? Also important to note is that our bodies cannot make two EFA’s – “Essential fatty acids” (alpha-linolenic acid – an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid – an omega-6 fatty acid), so we must include those in our diet. These and our own manufactured fatty acids produce hormone-like substances to help a wide range of functions (blood pressure, blood clotting, blood lipid levels, immune response, inflammation response to injury or infection). Fat also helps process and move vitamins A, D, E, and K around the body to where they’re needed. What are your best options, and why is there so much conflicting information?

Today, a LOT of antiquated information is out there online and in advertising that has simply not kept up with recent scientific studies on fats – for whatever gain we might not even want to dig into right now! Some of the old darlings are around and still kickin’, like:

-Margarine – once considered far healthier than butter – is a trans fat filled with chemicals, and that includes even the updated concoctions with ‘good oils’ on the store shelves. Most of these still contain those trans fats.

-The “Low-Fat Diet”, now recognized as playing a significant role in our obesity epidemic – due in part to our craving/body need for fat and our continued efforts to satisfy that body requirement WITHOUT it! While you still see many ‘food products’ on the shelves touting LOW FAT, detailed research now shows that ‘eating fat doesn’t make you fat’ – that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked with weight or disease.

What really matters is the type of fat and the total calories in the diet. These are my own personal takes on what and why, not exactly what you’ll find on other websites:

Trans fats/Hydrogenated fats (man made fats basically – found in many packaged foods). Stay away from these guys, they contribute to clogged arteries and have been linked to certain cancers. They also increase your LDL (bad) and decrease your HDL (good) cholesterol.

‘Some’ Saturated fats (commercially raised meats, commercial dairy products, palm and palm kernel oil) – of these, the meat and dairy fats have stored lots of chemicals and toxins the animals consumed. In plants like palm, the ‘bad’ is related more to the growing and harvesting effect on the environment and sustainability, so I don’t support it with my purchasing dollars.

Some Polyunsaturated fats (soybean, corn, and other “commercially” (not organic) grown seed oils) – while they have the benefits listed below under ‘good’, soybeans and corn are close to 100% GMO crops, which inevitably endure higher levels of chemical exposure and poorer soil, and thus are more likely to be both nutrient deficient and contaminant/toxin rich. They are also likely to be processed under high heat or with a high concentration of chemicals, which can alter or damage the oil to a state the body may recognize and process more as toxin than nutrient.

Monounsaturated fats (like nuts, avocado, and olive oil) – benefits include being liquid at room temperature and great taste! Health benefits include reducing cholesterol levels, risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Also the reduction of weight, belly fat, and pain and stiffness for rheumatoid arthritis

Omega-3 fats (fatty fish, krill, algae, and seafood) – contribute DHA and EPA for brain, eyesight, and heart health. Other fats, as ALAs (able to convert to DHAs and EPAs), are found in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and some other plants.

Some Polyunsaturated fats (salmon, trout, herring, walnuts, sunflower seeds, organic cold pressed corn, canola, soybean or other seed oils) – contain essential fatty acids (alpha-linolenic and linolenic) necessary to create cell walls and hormones, contribute to decreased risk of coronary artery disease, irregular heart beat, lower blood pressure.

Good in limited amounts:
Some Saturated fats (like butter, coconut oil, pasture raised meats, dairy, eggs) have been disproven as ‘bad for your health’ and have in fact been found to be healthful (with no link to your cholesterol levels after all!). They contain fatty acids (lauric, myristic, and caprylic), which are antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral, all contributing to a stronger immune system – a definite plus this winter! And they’re actually GOOD for heart health and lower a substance called Lp(a), while increasing good cholesterol (HDL). They are also far more stable at high temperatures than other fats (unlikely to oxidize and turn into cell-damaging free radicals – take THAT, vulnerable vegetable oils!). Saturated fat, along with cholesterol, also ensure proper message relay between brain and nervous system through the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers.
-Pastured Meats – contain Omega 6, an essential fatty acid
-Tropical oil (coconut) – emerging evidence that it behaves differently in the body than animal derived saturated fat and has some great health benefits.

While you still don’t want to gorge on 2000 calories of fat in a day, good fats, including natural saturated fats, are an important part of your food intake. Aim for 25% – 35% of your total caloric intake in fats, but pay attention to what your body tells you in it’s function, weight maintenance, and cravings as to your own individual needs.
*BEWARE: pay attention and be smart – fat is a DENSE nutrient, and that 25%-35% of fat in your diet is by ENERGY (caloric) value, NOT by volume! Portion control is still ‘on the table’ – 1/4 – 1/3 of a plate of fats WILL make you fat! 100 calories of coconut oil is a far smaller quantity on your plate than 100 calories of lettuce, after all, silly (nice try though)!

I primarily stick to these fats in our home:

Olive Oil (aka: EVOO – extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed). This is a table oil, best used without heating such as in salad dressings with lots of seasonings, or to spritz or dunk with the freshest and most delectable breads (yum!!). Splurge on the best you can find to ensure it’s fresh.

Coconut Oil: (also cold pressed) for cooking, this handles the heat very well without becoming chemically unstable like olive oil. I use it for everything – in my coffee (try it!), for my morning veggie omelets, and even for skin lotion and clean teeth (our cat even begs for a lick at face washing time)! Pretty useful stuff. =]

Butter: (Organic grass fed…the cow is grass fed, not the butter). Yep, it’s expensive. I use it in limited amounts for those traditional recipes and on breads, whenever that buttery flavor is so appreciated! Toll House cookies for instance. =] The nutrients in the grass that fed those cows are imparted in the fat of that butter will benefit your body too, and the organic means NO chemical sprays, hormones, or antibiotics are used.

Other Dairy: (Organic grass fed also). Yogurt and Kefir have a bonus of being a probiotic – double yay! We eat a lotta yogurt, and my daughter loves a good ‘smoothie’ (it’s on the label of the kefir =]). Cheese in moderation, don’t mess around with the junk cheeses in the dairy section. Yes, that means you’d best alter that family mac-n-cheese recipe or make it a real special once-in-awhile dish. Find that deli section, buy the BEST stuff, and savor the flavor in small quantities. Your body will definitely know the difference! I buy raw milk cheese whenever possible – sometimes labeled, but ask your cheese person at the gourmet counter – they’ll know and can steer you to some pretty delicious options to explore that are well worth the special splurge. Sharp cheeses impart the best flavor for the buck.

Avocado. Can we just say YUM? And satisfying. And a great neutral thickener for sauces, spreads, and smoothies too! They’re not on the ‘dirty dozen’ so you don’t even need to be stressed about organic if your budget doesn’t allow.

Fish/krill Oil as a supplement, to really maximize those Omega 3s. Deep sea wild caught fatty fish too – my fave is a plank of broiled salmon with lemon.

Eggs. (as close to pasture raised as possible!) Not a ‘fat’ per se, but I’m including them here because they were also unfairly thrown into that cholesterol basket with the butter. NOT SO! Eat your eggs. WITH the nutritious yolks!

Nuts and seeds (raw or as close to natural as possible). These are super healthy but consume sparingly, as they are calorie dense. My favorites are walnut, almond, sesame, and sunflower – I keep some in the freezer for a quick snack grab, and I use them in my homemade granola recipe (hit me up for that – it’ll be on my website soon!). NOT the oils as much as the actual whole food. If you do use these as oil for flavoring, be sure they are cold pressed, fresh, and don’t heat them.

Enjoy, be satisfied, and get healthy with good fats in your daily diet!