Changing Your Oil
This past weekend I was visiting a dear friend I went through naturopathic medical school with. She has managed to acquire an impressive collection of books, on topics near and dear to my medicine-curious mind. The book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon took the cake. I read her chapter on Fat and I am forever changed. There is so much conflicting and misinformation out there about fats, that even I, as someone who has formally studied nutrition, get confused. This week, I share with you my newfound knowledge on integrating healthy fats into your diet.
Fat plays a major role in our bodies. It supports a healthy immune function, protects our organs, regulates body temperature, maintains healthy skin, and aids in the absorption of important fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
Fats are made of primarily hydrogen and carbon atoms, of which some have double bonds. It is this double bond that fat is grouped.
Saturated fats have zero double bonds; their carbon atoms are completely saturated with hydrogen atoms. This tight bonding explains why these fats are solid at room temperature like butter and coconut oil. These fats are the best for cooking because they are not prone to oxidative damage (which is BAD).
Monounsaturated fats have one double bond in their structure. These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature and are more stable at higher temperature so okay for higher heat cooking. Some examples include olives, avocados, and macadamia nuts. These fats raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol levels so are considered heart healthy.
Polyunsaturated fats have multiple double bonds, so they are unsaturated at many positions. These oils are always liquid at room temperature and they are the most susceptible to oxidative damage during high heat cooking. These fats are further broken down into omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids.
So here is the problem. While omega-6 fatty acids are naturally found in foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, and meat, they are found in LARGE amounts in industrially refined oils like soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils. These oils are in everything! And remember, these are unstable at high temperatures, making them a source of oxidative damage. Too much processed omega-6 fats are inflammatory and associated with metabolic diseases and obesity.
I challenge us all to be conscious of our oil choices; we need an oil change so to speak. Read your labels, and avoid foods that contain processed polyunsaturated fats.
Avoid these fats:
Eat these fats liberally:
Oils best for cooking at high heat:
Extra light olive oil
Expeller pressed (refined) coconut oil
Oils best for lower-heat cooking:
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin coconut oil