Get Real: Know Your Fats (the Good and the Bad)
*This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.
Allow me to introduce myself– I’m Stephanie Langford, a lover of real foods, teacher to my kids, growing of organic vegetables, mess-maker in the kitchen, writer of books, and non-follower of recipes. My heart and home are full to overflowing with my wonderful husband Ryan, and my four sweet children (4 mths to 7 years old). For nearly 5 years, I’ve been encouraging and educating homemakers on healthier, more natural living on my blog Keeper of the Home. I would be honored if you would come and visit me.
And now… let’s get on with our July topics for Get Real 2012– first off is Fats and then later in the month, Grocery Shopping!
Fats are one of the most misunderstood components of nutrition.
Sure, there’s plenty of information and ideas out there…
Eat low-fat. Make sure you get your good fats. Fish is fine but avoid those animal fats. Stick with vegetable oils. Fat helps you lose weight. Don’t eat any fat at all. You’ll gain weight if you eat too much fat. Fat should comprise only the very smallest part of your “pyramid” of foods. It’s better to eat Paleo or Primal, focusing mostly on animal meats, fats, and vegetables.
Is your head spinning yet???
It’s no wonder we’re confused about fat! We are continually bombarded by conflicting information on this very important subject.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated. I’d like to make a brief case on 3 basic points:
- Our body requires certain kinds of fats in order to thrive.
- Fat is not the enemy.
- It’s all a matter of choosing “real food” fats, and avoiding the modernized, industrial and processed fats.
Contrary to popular thought, fat isn’t the enemy.
Modern nutrition has villainized fat in many ways, with increasingly disastrous results. Our bodies NEED fat. Developing babies, children and teens, as well as child-bearing women, desperately need good fats in particular.
Healthful fats and oils are absolutely critical to the body for an amazing number of processes:
- Saturated fats are crucial for cell membrane structure and integrity.
- They are a valuable source of fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, and K, which are deficient in most North American diets, and these vitamins are necessary for hormone regulation, reproduction, immunity, bone health and much more.
- Saturated fat makes cells more resistant to oxidative damage.
- As well, saturated fats are far more stable at high temperatures than other fats, so they are unlikely to become oxidized and turn into cell-damaging free radicals (as polyunsaturated vegetables oils frequently do).
- Fats like butter and coconut oil contain lauric acid, which important in treating fungal infections and candida (yeast overgrowth)
- Many fats contain anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage and weakening arteries.
- Fats provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet
- They are the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones.
- Fats slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry, and also help us to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
*Sources can be found in this post.
Not only do fats actually help keep your body healthy, but did you know that eating fat doesn’t make you fat?
Eating a carbohydrate-heavy diet (especially refined carbs) and sugar (yes, even too many natural sweeteners and fruit juices)- now that is a recipe for gaining weight. Out of control portions makes it worse. Add to that our apathetic, couch-potato tendencies and that’s what is causing obesity in North America. Not saturated fats.
As a culture obsessed with weight and image and full of bad information, we’ve begun to run away from fats, rather than carefully evaluate the different fats to know which ones we really should avoid and which ones we should embrace in a real food diet. I love this quote:
“When I eventually understood the nutritional myths that had me snookered and miserable, the biggest headline was that REAL FATS ARE GOOD- even the maligned saturated fats and its corollary, INDUSTRIAL FATS ARE BAD. It’s not complicated. Eat real fats and avoid industrial ones.” Nina Planck, Real Food for Mother and Baby.
That might sound simplistic, but it actually can be as simple as that. Eat real, old fashioned, traditional fats. Ones that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have recognized and used. Avoid new, refined, processed, industrial fats. So which ones are which?
Image by USDAgov
Which fats are “real food“?
- Coconut oil
- Butter or ghee (particularly high vitamin, from grass-fed cows)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Palm oil or shortening
- Rendered animal fats like tallow and lard (preferably from pastured animals)
- Small amounts of cold-pressed oils such as sesame or flax
Which fats should we avoid?
- Margarine or other non-butter spreads or sprays (yuck!)
- Processed vegetable oils (pretty much any of them in the supermarket aisle- canola, soy, sunflower, safflower, corn, as well as non-virgin olive oil)
- Edible oil products (Cool Whip, International Foods coffee flavorings, etc.)
- Trans fats or hydrogenated fats or partially-hydrogenated fats (primarily found in highly processed, packaged foods and fast food)
What to use them for:
- Butter: Best for baking, also good for frying, sautéing, as well as eating cold on breads, etc.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Frying, sautéing, roasting, grilling, cold use (salad dressings, dipping bread, etc.), baking. I was previously unsure of frying with EVOO, but this post and video changed my mind.
- Coconut Oil: Frying, roasting, baking, use cold (in raw desserts, in smoothies, etc.). Almost anywhere that you enjoy it.
- Animal fats like Beef Tallow or Pork Lard: Deep frying, roasting, anything high temperature (like homemade french fries or my summer favorite, deep fried zucchini sticks). Lard is also good for baking flaky pastries and crusts. Save your bacon grease and fry up the. best. eggs. ever.
- Unrefined flax, sunflower, walnut, grape seed oils: Stick to cold use. Salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise.
- Palm Oil/Shortening: Great for baking, especially for those who need a dairy-free substitute for butter. Can also be used for all types of frying, roasting, etc.
- Cod Liver Oil: One of the few supplements that I recommend to everyone. Please (please!) don’t cook with the stuff, but do force yourself and your family to take it by the spoonful.
Don’t just take my word for it
When you’ve heard something over and over again, and from people that should know better, it’s hard to be convinced and get over the fear of fat that our society has developed. Read up on the subject, ask good questions and dig in for yourself.
I’ve written a far more extensive post on this topic on my own blog– Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Why I Eat Plenty of Butter. It includes a huge number of resources, including articles, videos, other blog posts, and books for you to learn more about this topic.
For those who want to just do a little bit more research, here are my top recommendations aside from that post:
- The book Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.
- Good Fat, Bad Fat: A Video Tutorial @ Food Renegade (this is an excellent video- about 18 minutes, but very helpful for those just beginning to learn about traditional fats)
- Fat Full Fall @ Kitchen Stewardship (There are a ton of different posts exploring the merits of the different types of traditional and conventional fats, how to use them properly and more)
- Do you struggle with begin fearful of fat? Or simply not knowing which ones really are good and bad?
- Which fats do you use in your home and for what purposes?
- This week start to eliminate all of the non-fat, low-fat, 1% items in your home and replace them with full fat staples. Let us know what you think of the tastes!
July Get Real:
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Top image by ChristineLeiser