Fats have gotten a bad rap due to what’s easily visible to the eye. When we observe an obese individual, we see fat. This would cause one to think that fat in the diet is the primary cause of the obesity. There is a saying that, “you are what you eat”, but I’ve not seen anyone turn into a cow from eating beef. (I have seen some turn orange from too much carrot juice, but none of them turned into carrots.)
The basic elements of nutrition, provided they are all present, in correct balance, and introduced into a working system, will be transformed into energy and repair of all healthy functional cells. Where we get into trouble is when we ignore healthy balance, allowing metabolism to become upset, creating a surplus of calories which can’t be combusted in the cells. This is then turned into the fat which we see.
The food pyramid, as proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture is upside down. At the base of the pyramid are carbohydrates, followed by fruits and vegetables, dairy products and protein foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans, nuts); at the pyramid’s peak are ‘discouraged’ foods, to be eaten sparingly (e.g., fats, oils, refined sugars).
If we had access to whole grains, still containing the essential fatty acids I wouldn’t be quite so critical. Since the milling industry went to the process of removing these oils from our grains, we’ve seen more and more degenerative diseases. Unless grains consumed contain all these precious oils, you are going to need to supplement your diet with them.
These oils are where we derive fat soluble vitamins. Without vitamin E, our tissues suffer. Hormones can’t be produced properly, and tissue repair is thwarted. Vitamin D is critical to help prevent cancer and maintain emotional stability. Vitamin F (from unsaturated fatty acids) directs calcium into the tissues and is required to reduce inflammation.
Eating a low fat or fat free diet generally means eating a high sugar diet. Those foods that claim to be low fat have to substitute sugar to give them flavor. These sugars in turn, fail to be fully burned in metabolism and get stored as......you guessed it..FAT. That’s right, your body can change sugars into fats. Unfortunately these fats aren’t nutritional, and only add to the metabolic burden your body is already dealing with.
When we think of good fats, Olive oil usually tops the list, and for good reason. It is a mono-saturated fat which is critical to good heart health. The only real down side to olive oil is that it has a relatively low smoke point. This is the temperature at which oxidation of the oil begins. Oxidized oils are bad for your health. If you intend to cook with oils and get to higher temperatures, there are better oils available.
Oils which deliver the greatest health benefits are high in monounsaturated fats. But they also contain polyunsaturated and saturated fats. The best oils are also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Shelf-stability of the oil is important. Some oils don’t stay fresh for very long. They go rancid very quickly. When that happens, the oil can trigger production of free radicals in your body. And that can contribute to inflammation and other health issues.
When it comes to healthy oils, coconut oil is excellent. It’s rich in saturated fats, but recent studies reveal it helps lower cholesterol and supports immune function too. Also, it has a very high smoke point. If you’re doing a high-heat sauté or deep-frying a dish, coconut oil is your healthiest bet.
Avocado oil has a similar balance of fats to olive oil, making it heart healthy in much the same way. It has a creamy flavor, but subtle, so it enhances food without overpowering it. It has a decently high smoke point and works well for cooking at lower temperatures—better than olive oil. It’s also a rich source of vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin A and potassium. Avocado oil also contains beta-sitosterol, which may protect you from heart disease and cancer.