Good fats are good; bad
fats are bad. Got it?
Everyone wants a "LIST." They want a simple way to know what fat they should and shouldn't eat. Here is my annotated list of healthy fats and not so healthy fats.
Best = Naturally Saturated Fats
Naturally saturated fats, naturally separate themselves and are readily available to us. These are animal fats and tropical oils. They are naturally solid, or semi-solid at room temperature. They are less likely to become rancid and form free radicals that contribute to health issues. They are very stable and because of this, they can be used for high heat.
Butter: Raw butter is high in all fat soluble vitamins which are necessary for proper mineral and water-soluble vitamin absorption. For example, it helps our body utilize calcium. This is very important. When we have excess calcium in our body that is not being properly utilized, our body will store it somewhere such as arteries, kidneys, gallbladder, eyes, and joints. It also contains a perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and CLA which is helpful for weight management and muscle growth. It is a natural source of Iodine. The butyric fatty acids in butter protect against fungal infections and tumor growth as well as arachidonic fatty acids which aid in inflammatory responses for proper healing.
The Wulzen Factor is a nutrient found in organic, raw butter, cream and whole milk that prevents arthritis, hardening of arteries, calcification of organs and cataracts. It is destroyed with the heat of pasteurization. The X Factor or vitamin k2 is also found in organic, raw butter, cream and whole milk. This nutrient helps our bodies to absorb and assimilate minerals.
Look for: Raw, organic butter from pastured cows. In many states you are not able to buy raw butter, so that is something you would need to make yourself. See my video: making raw butter.
Cream: Raw cream has all the health benefits of raw butter, since butter is made from cream.
Look for: Raw, organic cream from pastured cows. See my video: taking cream off raw milk.
Eggs: If pasture raised, they are a rich source of nutrients. Interestingly, eggs from chickens that are not pasture raised are not nearly as nutrient dense. A few of the nutrients healthy eggs contain are vitamin D and A, choline and DHA, both important for nerve function. The vitamin A in the yolk helps to assimilate the protein in the whites.
Look for: Organic, pasture raised instead of cage free or free range.
Fatty Meats and Fish: Fatty bone-in meats are the most flavorful, but also contain many important nutrients that we are typically throwing away in a standard American or Western diet. *Please see future post on protein as meat should be eaten seasonally and in moderation. A note on fish oil: Fats can become problematic when they are separated from their protein in an unnatural way. It is better to eat fish and other healthy fats rather than take a supplement.
Look for: Organic, pastured meats with bone-in and fat and wild caught fish with skin.
Lard: Lard is pork fat. I know what you are thinking: seriously lard? Lard can't be good. It has been the but of fat jokes for years! Well, our ancestors survived on lard for years. Lard isn't bad. It is the processed fats that replaced lard that are bad. Natural, un-hydrogenated lard is a healthy source of vitamin D. It is a stable fat and good for high temperature.
Look for: Organic non-hydrogenated lard from pastured pork.
Beef and Lamb Tallow/Suet: Similar to lard, beef and lamb tallow are also good fats. They are stable and good for high temperatures. The fat that rises to the top of your bone broth can be included in this type of fat. It does contain the flavor of whatever type of fat it is. Because of this, it is best suited to use for things where you won't mind that particular flavor.
Look for: Organic, from pastured animals.
Chicken, Duck and Goose Fat: Duck and goose fat have higher a higher saturated fatty acid content than chicken fat and therefore are safer at higher temperatures. Chicken fat has a higher mono-unsaturated content so it is best for low to medium low temperatures. Again, this can include the fat that rises to the top of your bone broth. It does contain the flavor of whatever type of fat it is. Because of this it is best suited for things where you won't mind that particular flavor.
Look for: Organic, from pastured animals
Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil is a bit controversial. It is good as long as a good quality and minimally processed coconut oil is used. It can be combined with other oils to reduce coconut flavor. It has anti-microbial/anti-fungal properties. It is helpful in maintaining energy, a healthy weight and immune system. It provides nourishment for our brain and cells. Keep it at a temperature of about 350.
Look for: Organic, unrefined or raw, VCO= virgin coconut oil and non-hydrogenated. It should taste like coconut. If it does not, chemical deoderizers have most likely been used to take the taste away.
Whole Raw Milk: I included raw milk here, because the fat in raw milk is a healthy fat. Raw milk is the most nutrient dense food that we have and as such, it is can meet many of our nutritional needs and address many of our illnesses that are caused by nutritional deficiencies. Conventional, pasteurized and homogenized milk on the other hand, is not a health supporting food. It contributes to many illnesses. Whole, raw milk contains all the benefits of raw butter, since butter is made from the cream in whole milk. See my posts on raw milk here and here for more information.
Look for: Whole raw milk, from organic, pastured animals.
Next Best = Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated oil is liquid at room temperature, solid when chilled. Can be used in cooking, but because monosaturated fats are not as stable as saturated fats they should be kept to unheated, or low to medium heat. Focus on oils that are minimally processed and extracted by cold press or expeller-press.
Olive Oil: Olive Oil is like wine, some years are good and some years are bad for a particular grower. You could go to an olive oil tasting, and you could even get an olive oil app. Yes, great olive oil can be a bit complex. But below are a few general guidelines.
Look for: EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) Expeller-pressed. Unrefined, organic, in a dark bottle, which protects it from going rancid. You also should look for the place where it was not just bottled, but produced. A lot of oil is from other countries comes with not so high of standards. So, if it says it is from Italy, you want to know that it was not just bottled in Italy, but produced there as well. Olive oil should taste like olives. Otherwise, it is a good indication that it has probably been cut with cheaper polyunsaturated oils. Olive Oil can be defined as a delicate, medium or robust tasting oil. This depends on when it was harvested, as well as what type of olive was used. Unfortunately this is not typically indicated on the label. For this information, a call to the producer or research on the internet would be necessary. If you are using it for salad dressing, a delicate olive oil is important so it's flavor is not overpowering. Check the harvest date on the back label. If it's over 2 years old, it has a risk of being rancid. In addition, just because it is labeled organic, that does not mean it is 100% organic, so look for 100% organic. Also, just because it is labeled EVOO, it does not guarantee that it has not been cut with cheaper polyunsaturated oils, or less quality olive oils. Sometimes it can be helpful to look for an award winning olive oil. Make sure that it's award is for that years harvest and not a past harvest. Olive Oils that have won an award have generally been scrutinized by olive oil connoisseurs who would be sensitive to off tastes that would be produced by lower quality oils.
Avocados: Avocados are a great source of healthy fat. They are a good source of vitamin K, B5, B6, E, C, folate and potassium. Avocados contain oleic acid which can be helpful for inflammation.
Look for: Organic Avocados
Avocado Oil: Because this is a fairly new oil, it is difficult for me to form a really solid opinion on it. I'm not usually a fan of oils being manually separated from their whole food source. I suspect the avocado oils that do not taste like avocado of being either chemically deoderized to take the flavor away, or cut with polyunsaturated oils. Some avocado oils are labeled naturally refined and do not taste of avocado. Since I am not sure exactly what naturally refined means, I would recommend sticking to unrefined. If you do choose to use this oil,
Look for: Cold pressed, unrefined, not chemically deoderized, and it should taste like avocado.
Nuts/seeds: Awe, nuts and seeds. This would require a post of it's own to adequately address. To put it simply, nuts and seeds are self protective and contain properties that allow them to not sprout before it is time and to prevent them from being eaten by birds and animals. While I do believe that nuts and seeds can be an important part of consuming healthy fats, the problem is, these same self-protective qualities of nuts and seeds can be problematic for us. For this reason, I feel the best way to consume nuts and seeds is to soak raw nuts or seeds in salt water for 6-8 hours, then drain and dehydrate on low heat until dry and crisp. A simple google search will give you more directions on how to do this. In addition, each nut or seed may have particular problems associated with it's production. For instance, raw almonds are no longer legal in the United States, unless you obtain them directly from a farmer. Almonds now require pasteurization. Typically this is done through a chemical process. Organic almonds on the other hand, are generally pasteurized through a steam process.
Look for: Organic nuts and seeds.
Store in the freezer in a sealed container to prevent rancidity.
Flax Oil and Flax Seeds: While this is a healthy oil, flax is also a phyto estrogen. So if you over do it, you can actually harm your body: ½ tsp. oil per day, per adult max.
Cod Liver Oil: I don't generally recommend supplements, but this is one exception, as long as it is carefully produced. People have benefitted from fermented Cod Liver Oil for generations. Standard Western diets, tend to be very low in vitamin D and A and this oil can help manage these deficiencies.
Look for: Raw, Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Sesame Oil: High levels of antioxidants to protect against oxidation. Low heat or no heat. Because this is a seed oil. My own recommendation is that it be used in moderation.
Look for: Organic, expeller pressed, unrefined.
Macadamia Nut Oil: Because this is a seed oil. My own recommendation is that it be used in moderation.
Look for: Expeller pressed, organic, unblended. Store in refrigerator for up to one year.
Fats to Avoid = Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and when chilled. They tend to be highly processed and high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which we already get too much of in a standard American or Western diet.
Peanut Oil: Mufa, high pufa so limited use is recommended.
Corn: Processed, poly-unsaturated oil.
Safflower: Processed, poly-unsaturated oil
Sunflower oils: Processed, poly-unsaturated oil. Typically GMO and high in pesticide exposure
Grapeseed oil: High in poly-unsaturated fatty acids and should never be cooked with. High in omega 6 fatty acids.
Cottonseed oil: Cotton is not even a food! GMO, pesticides, hydrogenated.
Canola oil: GMO, hybridized, highly processed and deodorized. Omega 3 fatty acids are delicate and turn rancid quickly when processed.
Hemp Oil: High in omega 6 fatty acid.
Rice Bran Oil: Highly processed, high in omega 6.
Soybean Oil: Processed, GMO
Crisco: Trans fat
Margarine: Trans fat
See Fat: The Good, The Bad
and The Ugly for more information.
Enig, Eat Fat Lose Fat, New York, Penguin Group, 2006, Book.
Enig, Know Your Fats: Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, Maryland, Bethesda Press, 2000, Book.