Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients, along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super health-boosting, and others are super health-busting.
Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health and moods).
As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you.
So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use and the fats to ditch.
Health-boosting fats include:
- Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax and chia)
- Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs
I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why: Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).
According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:
“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures such as expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”
For example, extra virgin olive oil must:
- Be cold-pressed
- Not contain any refined olive oil
- Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics
The minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!
Health-busting fats include:
- Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean and corn oils
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation and belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!
Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.
How to get more health-building fats
First, ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so it’s pretty popular in the “non-health food” department.
Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking and coconut oil in your baking.
Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods.
Finally, remember that all fats are NOT created equal.
What fats do you use in your cooking? What fats play a part in your daily food consumption? Do you feel you’re getting enough of this critical macronutrient? As always, we’d love to hear from you. Please respond below.