Our bodies need fat — more specifically, they need healthy fats. For the last fifty years, fats were the public health enemy No.1. We were told to ditch it and go for anything labeled low-fat and non-fat. Soon after, Grocery store shelves were lined with low-and no-fat items packed with sugar to help enhance the flavor. Not coincidentally, both sugar addiction and an obesity epidemic in America began soon after a low-fat diet became the standard recommendation.
So, what counts as fat, what’s the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, and how can you be sure you’re getting enough healthy fats in your diet? Here’s all you need to know about the types of fat out there, which to eat and which to ditch.
Saturated Fat vs. Unsaturated Fat
Healthy fats can be broken down into two main categories: unsaturated fats and saturated fatty acids.
Saturated fat foods include ingredients like butter, coconut oil and dairy products. Research has shown that saturated fat can be included as part of a healing diet in moderation.
Unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fats can include foods like nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils. Studies show that unsaturated fatty acids can help promote weight loss, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease.
When comparing saturated vs. unsaturated fat, it’s generally recommended that unsaturated fatty acids should make up the majority of your fat intake.
What Are the Bad Types of Fat?
Bad oils and harmful fats are not commonly found in nature; most of the time, they are man-made. We call them trans fats and they are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid, ideal for processed and fast food.
Processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats, like margarine and hydrogenated cooking vegetable and seed oils like corn, soy, canola, sunflower and safflower oils used in processed food. These types of fats are artery-clogging and inflammatory. They raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
One of the main disadvantages of consuming these types of vegetable oils is its Omega-6 fatty acid content. Although these types of fat are essential for human health, most people consume way too much of them and not nearly enough Omega-3 fatty acids. Excessive consumption of Omega-6s can lead to inflammation, weight gain and heart issues.
From frozen pizzas to potato chips, and from store-bought cookies to coffee creamer, these are all jam-packed with trans fats, which basically makes them the bad guys in the story.
Types of Cooking fats and
type of cooking fats and Oils to Avoid
When it comes to cooking, you want to choose the right oil for the job because some of the most popular cooking oils are very toxic to your health.
Steer clear of highly-processed fats that are pumped full of additives and unhealthy ingredients. Refined vegetable oils including canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean, peanut and grape seed oil. These are generally high in disease-causing, artery-clogging trans fats that should be avoided at all costs.
Types of Cooking Fat and Oils to Cook at Low Temperatures
The right cooking oil depends on the temperature you’re cooking your food at. For Low temperatures cooking use the following:
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, especially when not refined, is very nutritious and has an adequate smoking point (the temperature at which the oil burns and breaks down). It can be used in your baked goods, on your skin and on your hair. It’s rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for your body to digest. Coconut oil has a unique taste. Beware that when cooking directly with coconut oil, the flavor can be a bit overpowering for some. If that’s the case, try using a bit less. When choosing a coconut oil, extra virgin varieties are best, as refined or processed coconut oils can eliminate many of the health benefits.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
A true superfood, olive oil is packed with antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. It is anti-inflammatory and It helps improve memory. Olive oil is very noble, and you can enjoy it even without cooking. At high temperatures, though, olive oil suffers and becomes less healthy. If you’re stir-frying some veggies for a Bolognese sauce, or any other food at medium to low heat, olive oil is your friend.
Yes, butter is super healthy as long as you don’t burn it. The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in butter help your brain function properly and improve skin health. Use butter in baked goods and spread on fresh bread, or add a dollop to roasted veggies to add a rich, buttery flavor to foods.
Types of Cooking Fat and Oils to Cook at High Temperatures
If you’re cooking anything above 250 degrees, including steaks, stir-fries, and most sautéed food, you’re better off with oils and fats with high smoke points. They won’t release harmful compounds when cooked. These are the three most recommended:
Ghee is an Indian specialty. It’s basically butter, but it has all the milk proteins (lactose, casein) removed which makes it a fantastic alternative to butter if you suffer from lactose sensitivity or intolerance.
Ghee is loaded with fat-soluble vitamin A and E and It’s perfect for stir-frying, or grilling. Look for the one made with grass-fed cows butter for the most nutrition.
- Avocado Oil
Unlike grain and seed processed oils, avocado has little to no polyunsaturated fats that can break down at high temperatures. Instead, you get a neutral, all-purpose oil with a high smoking point that will not mess with your food’s flavor while keeping you safe. Good for grilling or frying.
- Animal fat
Until very recently, everyone believed that these fats were unhealthy, but as explained above, it’s quite the opposite. With impressively high smoking points, animal fats will withstand heavy cooking at high heat, and they add to the food unctuousness and richness beyond compare. Try out duck fat, rendered pork lard and chicken fat or schmaltz.
All In Moderation People
Now that you know which fat to eat and which to avoid, remember that the key to a healthy lifestyle is moderation and a balanced diet.
When cooking, consider the temperature you’ll be using and choose your cooking oil accordingly.
Take a look at those back labels, do your groceries consciously, choose natural products with high-quality fats, and try to leave junk food behind. You’ll look and feel better before you know it.