Healthy Fats & Oils – and the consequences of a ‘low fat diet’
FAT! Take a moment to analyse how you feel about dietary fat. For most there remains a negative connotation associated with dietary fats, and its no surprise considering the many billions of dollars poured into the demonisation of fats for around 5o years (1).
Based upon our governments’ recommendations we as a nation gave ‘low fat’ a good go and unfortunately has backfired convincingly with more obesity, diabetes and associated degenerative diseases. (14)
‘Oils ain’t oils’- here is a quick primer on the different kinds of fats available from foods. No doubt you’ve heard of saturated fat (SFA)- if our health officials are to be believed- nature wasn’t thinking straight when she came up with this one! (5) It occurs in animal fats, coconut oil and palm oil and is essential to good health (3). Then there’s monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)- which have had a load of good press. It’s found in animal fats, olive oil, seeds and nuts and has been credited to the Mediterraneans’ robust health and longevity (2). Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) you’ll find mostly in fish, seafoods, seeds and nuts, processed seed oils, processed foods, poultry and meat fats (4). Health officialdom says that these are the truly essential healthful fats which should replace saturated fats- however there is more to the picture. Since we have replaced saturated/ animal fats with PUFAs in our processed foods, cafe fare and take away meals our weight and disease rates have increased comparatively. (6)
Duck or Goose fat– doesn’t oxidise when heated to form damaging free radicals or become rancid- thanks to the content of saturated fat it is quite stable. These fats have long been prised for cooking throughout the Mediterranean & Europe.
Chicken Fat- if the birds are allowed to range freely and eat insects and plant foods their omega 6 : 3 ratio improves. It was traditionally used for frying in Jewish cooking.
Lard or Pork fat– lard has been used for many years for frying and baking and was very popular at the turn of century- back when waistlines were tiny! Again the ratio of polyunsaturated oils in lard depend upon the diet of the animal- so this is good reason to avoid intensive factory farmed pork and to opt instead for free- range organic pork & fat where possible. This ensures good level of vitamin D, so you see Quality is everything in this instance!
Beef & Mutton Tallow– just ask great grandma about the old dripping jar. Suet from the inside of the animal is highest in saturated fat and therefore particularly safe for frying and roasting. Health benefits extent beyond this to specific fatty aids including CLA, palmitoleic and stearic acids.
Coconut oil- this darling of the Paleo movement has many articles and books now devoted to its many attributes. (13) For one it is highly saturated and so safe for cooking and baking; it is rich in lauric acid also found in mother’s milk- it is antimicrobial and anti-fungal perfect for protecting foods and tummies from nasty bugs and yeast. (12) Coconut together with animal fats were given a bad rap because of their high saturated fatty acid ratio and unfortunately replaced by hydrogenated, trans-fat rich substitutes by food manufacters- to our detriment.
Olive Oil- do make sure to purchase extra virgin cold pressed oil in this case as the ‘lite’ version has lost its protective antioxidants. Olive oil is not ideal for frying or roasting due to its slightly unsaturated nature. It is however the safest vegetable oil to eat on your salads and in dressing and dips. Keep in mind that the longer- chain fatty acids are likely to contribute to weight gain more so than short or medium chains which occur in butter and coconut oil.
Peanut oil- strictly limit this oil and (too many nuts in the diet for that matter) as high intake of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 causes inflammatory changes and disease. (6)
Safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed oils– danger danger danger! These oils are in widespread use in Australia- throughout the entire food chain. They are high in inflammatory omega 6 and oxidise readily with processing, light, heat and of course frying. Now we are getting to the bottom of the real cause of increased disease. (10) Ask your local take away or cafe what they are using for frying- you may not be so keen to grab fish and chips now.
Canola Oil– you may be excused for thinking that this oil is healthy as a result of its high oleic acid content. Traditionally known as rapeseed oil it was unsuitable for human consumption due to links with fibrotic heart lesions. Although the problematic elements have been bred out it continues to be prone to rancidity and mould growth when used in baking and is linked to vitamin E deficiency. (11)
Flax Oil– by now you may be seeing a pattern- the more unsaturated the oil the more dangerous it is when exposed to heat. Flaxseed is a good case in point with its high polyunsaturated levels is should never be exposed to heat, light or long shelf-life after processing. If you do purchase the oil it should be cold pressed and kept refrigerated in a dark container. Consume this oil in very small amounts only.
Natural, saturated fats (non-hydrogenated) are protective when it comes to cooking or indeed food processing. (8)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), This precious health promoting fatty acid is lost when animals are fed grains rather than their natural diet of grass. Grass-fed meat fat is protective due to higher levels of both omega 3 and CLA fatty acids. (9)
Putting the modern research perspective aside for a moment and looking to our forefathers for some clues- did they suffer disease as a result of consuming animal fats, butter and coconut oil? Quite the opposite was apparent to researcher Weston A Price in his extensive evaluation of so called ‘primitive’ groups around the globe. All commonly valued fats in the diet including grass-fed animal fats. (13)
There are three basic tenets which apply in relation to fats for health-
- Include good amounts of high quality- grass-fed, organic, chemical free fats and oils from animal fats, poultry, eggs, full fat dairy, butter and tropical oils.
- Limit nut and seed oils and ensure that they are freshly cold pressed and stored correctly. Enjoy cold pressed extra virgin olive oil on salads and in dressings. and include cod liver and fish oils in amounts as recommended by your health care practitioner.
- Avoid foods which contain processed seed, corn, soy or cottonseed oils and hydrogenated vegetable oils such as margarine. In particular avoid foods fried and baked in these oils.
Be prepared to rediscover not only the joy of tasty foods but also a level of wellbeing not possible without good quality fats.
The information in this article is not intended to take the place of a professional health care practitioner. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Discuss this information with your own healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. Readers are urged to conduct their own reading and research to find what is appropriate for them together with a registered healthcare provider.
By Daniel Wheeler (PCA Diploma Student)
References & Bibliography
- Fallon S, Enig M, PhD. The Skinny On Fats The Weston Price Foundation, January 1,2000.
- Djuric Z, et al. A Mediterranean dietary intervention in healthy American women changes plasma carotenoids and fatty acids in distinct clusters. PubMed. gov, March, 2009.
- Fallon S, Enig M, PhD. The Benefits of Saturated Fats The Weston Price Foundation, January 1, 2000.
- Foods Highest in Polyunsaturated Fat, nutritiondata.self.com viewed March 2015.
- Taubes G, What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? The New York Times Magazine, July 2002, viewed March 2015
- Kresser C, How too Much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick ChrisKresser.com viewed March 2015.
- Fallon S & Enig M PhD, Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Publishing Inc. Washington DC. 2001.
- Klonoff D M.D. FACP, Replacement for Trans Fats- Will there be an Oil Shortage? J Diabetes Sci Technol, May 2007.
- Ponnampalam E et al, Effects of feeding systems on omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and trans fatty acids in Australian beef cuts: potential impact on human health. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 2006.
- Dr. Lundell D, World Renown Heart Surgeon Speaks out on What Really Causes Heart Disease- The Cure for Heart Disease and The Great Cholesterol Lie, PreventDisease.com viewed March 2015.
- Fallon S & Enig M PhD, The Great Con-ola. The Weston A Price Foundation, July 2002.
- Shilling M et al, Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile, J Med Food, Dec 2013.
- Price W, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects, Paul B. Hoeber, Inc 1939
- Moyer M, Carbs against Cardio: More Evidence that refined Carbohydrates, , not