The Skinny on Eating Fat

By now, we all know that trans fats are bad for us. (Small rant: Why are they still used by food manufacturers?) We also know that some fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. That’s great progress. But still, the subject remains a confusing one, doesn’t it? Which ones are good? How much?

First, a trivia question:

Did you know that the word Canola comes from a combo of the words Canadian Oil. There’s no such thing as a canola seed. Rather, this oil is produced from the rapeseed (hence the need for a new name!). It’s cheap to produce, highly processed and genetically modified. Yes, it has omega 3s, but through science, not nature. It’s not the healthy choice the manufacturers have led us to believe - far from it.

So if not canola, then what?

Tip #1: Just because we know it’s good for us, doesn’t mean more is better.

Yes, we need fat in our diet. It keeps our brain and cells running, and actually helps us shed toxins. It makes us feel satisfied when we eat, so we stop sooner. But a little goes a long way - you don’t need a lot to get the benefits.

Tip #2: Avoid the transparent yellow oils altogether.

That means canola, corn, vegetable, safflower, sunflower… They bring free radicals right into your body, which then invite scarier troubles (disease) down the line. They’re highly inflammatory and loaded with chemical hitchhikers from processing. Think about it - soy and corn aren’t oily foods… so imagine what they have to do in the lab/factory to get oil extracted? Not natural, to say the least.

Tip #3: Reduce the omega 6, and increase the omega 3.

You’ve probably heard something about omega 6 and omega 3, yes? It’s not that one’s good and one’s bad, though. It’s that we need both in a certain proportion. All the oils I mentioned above, as well as olive oil, are omega 6s. What we want is a 1:1 to 2:1 ratio between the two, but on average today, the ratio is as much as 25:1! That habit alone causes a lot of chronic health problems.

To keep the ratio healthy, there’s no need to wildly increase your flax and fish. Just eat less of the omega 6 oils which are what we’re overdoing. Don’t eat packaged foods. You can sauté in very little oil, or even water, and bake with applesauce or pumpkin puree. Your goal isn’t to get to zero oil. Just reduce. And at the same time, eat flax and chia seeds, walnuts, and a little salmon or grass-fed meat if you like. Those are all great sources of omega 3s.

Tip #4: Get real fats from foods in your diet.

The best fats are found, of course, in whole foods. If you eat a handful of seeds, nuts, whole grains, avocado, and maybe a little healthy fish and meat, you’re getting all the fat you need each day.

But, you wisely remind me, we all cook, and need oils for that purpose, even if we reduce them, as mentioned above. So… what to use? There are a couple of options, depending on the heat. Read on for details.

Tip #5: Use extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil for most sautéing (not too hot), coconut oil for higher heat sautéing or baking, and, if you like, use a little high quality butter. I also keep some toasted sesame oil around for drizzling on stir-fry.

These are all clean and stable oils. Coconut oil has even been shown to repair damage done by years of industrial vegetable and seed oils. (Gee, thanks!) There’s refined and unrefined, depending on whether you want to add a coconut flavor or not.

One general note, you should keep oils below their smoke point, meaning that when you’re cooking on the stove, you don’t want to heat them until they smoke. Then you know you’re not damaging the oil and making it unsafe to eat.

Take baby steps - just work in healthier, more informed decisions, little by little. And keep eating your veggies - they’ll make up for a world of hits and misses in other areas.