Oh, I could talk about fats and oils all day! And if you choose to work with me you will definitely get an earful about this important food group! Fats and Oils are really interesting as they can be healing and are absolutely essential for good health, but they can also be detrimental to our health. It is key that you know how to get the right fats, the good oils in your diet for optimal health and how to avoid the bad ones.
What makes a good fat, a good fat and a bad fat, a bad fat?
To determine whether a fat or oil heals or kills depends on may different factors. What kind of fat is it? How has it been treated or processed - has it been exposed to light or heat or oxygen or hydrogen, or is it fresh? How old is it? How are you using it in food preparation - are you using it to fry foods at high temps or use it in baking? In what amounts and ratios to other fats are you eating it?
Sound complicated? It can be!
What has made this topic really confusing is that we have been given the WRONG information for many decades - As far back as the 50s experts have been telling us that saturated fats are bad, especially animal fats like butter, and we should switch to polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil, margarine and other cooking oils (all high in omega 6s). Unfortunately, the rise of these polyunsaturated fats and oils has contributed to a very unhealthy balance in the ratio (proportion) of omega 6s to omega 3 fatty acids - note: you want more omega 3s! This trend of eating more poly unsaturated fats and oils is thought to have contributed to the rise of many diseases over the past few decades.
Also, remember the Low-Fat craze? Maybe you still look for products labeled "low Fat". If you do, take a look at what the fats were replaced with! Usually unhealthy carbohydrates for the most part - sugar! Along with more salt, more preservatives and artificial flavours.
How do we use oils?
Well, I use oils to cook with - I don't use non-stick pans so i need to use oils when I cook, fry, sauté. I use oils when I bake. I use oils when I make salad dressings and I use different oils in my morning shakes. How do you use oils?
It is important to know however, that not all oils should be used in every situation. For example, while olive oil has wonderful protective (cell membrane protection, for example) properties, if they are heated above 325 degrees F, they not only lose their protective qualities they become harmful. This temperature is their flash point or smoke point. The smoke point indicates how high a heat the oil can take before it literally "smokes' - releasing carcinogens into the air and free radicals within the oil.
Typically, the more essential fatty acids in an oil (the really good ones), the less heat stable it is - the lower its smoke point.
My 4 Favourtite Oils to Use
1. Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Organic)
As previously mentioned, Olive Oil should not be used with high, or even medium heat. In fact, I don't like to heat mine at all. I use this amazing oil in my favourite salad dressings, occasionally in my shakes and I drizzle it over vegetables (once cooked) or pasta.
2. Avocado Oil
This is my go to oil for cooking anything! Avocado oil has the highest flash point or smoke point (510 degrees F) of all the oils and is the safest for use sautéing, frying or any other high heat applications. Stir frying veggies...avocado oil. baking yam fries...cover in a bit of avocado oil. Fried eggs....avocado oil!
3. Coconut Oil (Unrefined, Organic)
Love, love, love this oil. Coconut oil is considered a saturated fat but is mostly made up of short and medium chain fatty acids (most saturated fats are made up of long chain fatty acids and are solid at room temp). This allows the body to rapidly metabolize it and it goes directly into the blood stream and acts as a good energy source. This is great if you have any digestive or liver issues. Coconut oil does not seem to raise blood cholesterol levels or be stored in tissues as other saturated fats are. This oil has a medium-high smoke point and is best for medium to high heat cooking and baking. I love this oil for baking - it is a fairly neutral flavour but I like the hint of coconut in my baking! Note though that this oil, like avocado oil, does not contain essential fatty acids and those need to be obtained from other sources.
4. Flaxseed Oil (Organic)
This oil is amazing and is fast becoming a very popular therapeutic oil due to its ability to help heal and prevent many degenerative conditions including CVD, cancers and diabetes. Its high essential fatty acid content (omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 - in healthy ratios!) make it a very fragile oil and as such, it has a very low smoke point, and should not be heated. It is best in shakes, in salad dressings or sauces, or drizzled over cooked dishes.
Oils to help Balance Your Hormones
If you are looking to balance and support your hormones, some of these therapeutic, essential fatty acid containing oils (Flax, Borage, Evening Primrose Oil etc.), used during different times of your cycle or during certain phases of the moon can help with that. Contact me if you are needing some extra hormonal support!
Other Great Oils
Hemp, Ghee (clarified butter), sesame (good quality) - all great oils when used properly.
How to get the right proportions of Fatty Acids
Optimal ratios of fatty acids are key to healthy cell membranes, good hormone health and prevention of many degenerative diseases. Here are some suggestions of how to achieve this.
Be aware of the fat content of foods and try to limit intake to no more than 30% of your calories consumed
Reduce the intake of meat and dairy products and increase the intake of fish (particularly wild caught, cold water fish like salmon, mackerel or halibut)
Cook with the right oils depending on how you are cooking. Avocado or coconut oil for cooking and coconut oil for baking are my faves!
Eliminate margarine and other foods containing trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils - these are the worst!!
Take a high quality fish oil supplement providing 600 to 1200 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Here is one I like...
Once your oils are opened and exposed to oxygen (except for coconut oil) store in the refrigerator to prevent them from going rancid and producing free radicals.
So, fats and oils are not all bad. In fact they are pretty key to our optimal health - they are an important source of energy, they are an integral part of our cell membranes and they act as carriers for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. However, you need to make sure that you are getting the right fats - the good ones - in the right amounts!