Blog 117 Healthy Fats and Oils
Not that long ago, people used primarily butter, lard, tallow, schmaltz (poultry fat) and olive oil to cook most food. Then, margarine and other seed and vegetable oils became popular. Most people can taste the difference between margarine and butter. Butter feels more silky and clean to the palate, while solid margarine feels like a dense oil that cannot not be fully cleared from the mouth (and therefore the rest of the GI tract). But since most vegetable and seed oils are fairly inexpensive, they are used more frequently by food manufacturers. Also, it was not possible to extract and mass-manufacture most vegetable and seed oils until about a century ago.
Recently, lard, tallow and other animal fats have become more expensive and have a reputation of being high in saturated fat and therefore high in cholesterol. This makes them less popular. When the animals are raised on grains and legumes, such as corn and soy, their fat and the rest of the animal is high in omega-6 fats, including linoleic acid. The cost of feed composed primarily of soy and corn is less expensive than when animals are pastured and fed healthy whole foods. There is some evidence that linoleic acid increases inflammation and weight gain in animals and humans, and may sometimes push the body toward degenerative changes, such as diabetes, autoimmune illness, heart disease and possibly even cancer. Of course, survival is impossible without some inflammation, but too much can do harm, even resulting in cytokine reactions (storms), which are extremely destructive. Therefore, it appears that animals should be grass-fed and pastured. If the weather is too cold, they should be fed hay, table scraps, and produce.
There has been publicity about international olive oil scams, which actually have been going on for a long time. Because olives and their oil are expensive and in high demand, most olive oil on the market is adulterated with other, less expensive and poor quality oils. The safest option is probably consuming olive oil pressed in the U.S., usually in California, and preferably certified organic. If you have ever tasted high quality, pure extra virgin olive oil, you will likely know the difference and also will notice how your body feels after consumption. It is best only to consume small amounts of oil and fat, unless you choose to follow a ketogenic diet.
As healthy animal fat sources, I would choose small amounts of wild-caught fresh-water fish, from relatively clean waters, such as those around Alaska. The smaller the fish, the lower the content of mercury and other toxic substances is likely to be. For vegetarians, I would recommend omega-3 eggs and plain organic or biodynamic full-fat yogurt and kefir, preferably from goats or sheep that are pasture-raised. For people who are vegan, high quality, organically produced flax seed oil is best. Organic coconut oil in very small quantities is another possibility. Of course, there are plenty of foods, such as nuts, avocados and bananas, that contain fat. Not everyone can afford all organic or grass-fed foods, but if health is a priority, usually some can be included in the diet.
This blog’s offer: below is a link to an interesting series of articles about dietary fat. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.