All fat is NOT created equal!
Seems fitting that I’m posting this blog after embarking on my first ever ketogenic-style 30-day challenge where I significantly increased the amount of “healthy fat” I was consuming while limiting the amount of carbohydrates!
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). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.
As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?
So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch and avoid at all costs!
Health-boosting fats are from:
- 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 form of “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 definitely no solvents that can change the chemical structure of the fat!).
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, e.g., 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.
Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!
Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!
Now let’s take a look at the ugly side of fat. Health-busting fats are from:
- Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, and corn oils
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated
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, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!
If you see any trans fat on a nutrition label put the product back down! Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles/jars/containers of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed and packaged foods that contain them!
How to get more health-building fats
First, you have my permission to 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. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the un-refrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.
What about MCT Oil?
MCT oil refers to oils made up of medium chain triglycerides. You don’t need a degree in science to understand why this type of fat is a healthier option. Most fats are made up of long carbon chains that are very difficult to be broken down in the digestive system. In contract, MCTs can move through the digestive track, into the bloodstream and straight to the liver. It’s there that they are broken down easily into ketones, which in turn are used for immediate fuel. Therefore, unlike other forms of fat, when MCTs are consumed they are burned and not stored. There’s a lot of craze out there over these types of oils, especially with an increasing number of people following a ketogenic eating plan. This is the MCT oil that I’ve been using. I prefer this to other blends because it only contains C8 chains which break down easily.
Not all fats are created equal. Remember, consuming fat does not necessarily make you fat. There are some great health benefits to getting healthy fats in your diet including hormone health, brain, heart, and immune system. Be sure to use “virgin” oils instead of those that are chemically altered or extracted by high heat. MCT oil is one type of fat in particular that has immense benefits because it is broken down almost immediately in the liver into ketones and used as fuel.
In contrast, trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and fats from soybean, corn, or safflower should be avoided at all costs. It doesn’t matter if you’re using these in baking or cooking or see these listed on ingredient labels. Be sure to stay away from these deadly forms of fat!
Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise
[Makes about 1 ½ cups]
- 1 large or extra large egg
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 cup olive or avocado oil
Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).
With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.
Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.
Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.