There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about which fats to eat and the effect fats have on the body. Fats, the wrong fats, can lead to inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to disease. I recently worked with a client with a snoring and sinus problem. His wife sent him to see me thinking he had food sensitivities causing the constant sinus issues. After talking with him for about 20 minutes, hearing what he ate and hearing his history, I recommended he take therapeutic doses of anti-inflammatory fats instead of undergoing very expensive food testing. His wife called me about three days later thrilled with the results. No more snoring! They were both able to sleep.
Inflammation can lead to more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease. The thing about inflammation is small, annoying problems will lead to more serious conditions, so it is important to get rid of it before problems become larger than life.
The standard American diet (SAD) is full of the wrong fats, inflammatory fats. We get these fats from fast food restaurants, from fried foods and from highly processed oils purchased from the store. All those “good” vegetable oils on the grocery store shelves have gone through high heat processing, something fragile polyunsaturated fats should not go through. (http://www.technocheminc.com/oil-refining.htm) The high heat oxidizes the molecules which when eaten causes a cascade of oxidation in the body, a bad thing. Another way our oils become oxidized is how and where we store them. Oils should not be stored near the stove or oven. The heat harms them. The oils are also harmed by light. I recommend storing your oils in a dark, cool cabinet or possibly the refrigerator. Also buying oils in dark glass bottles helps protect them. Buy in the smallest quantity reasonable for your family size. (http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=357)
So what fats are good (low or anti-inflammatory) fats? The first thing to remember is oils are damaged by heat, so buy cold pressed or expeller pressed oils preferably organic. Avoid buying refined oils. Unsaturated fats good for dressing salads or cooked vegetables are flax seed oil, hemp oil, walnut oil, and other nut and seed oils. Never cook with these oils.
A well-loved monounsaturated fat heralded for its health benefits is extra-virgin olive oil. This oil is also great for dressing salads or cooked vegetables. Cooking with EVOO is controversial. IF you can get a high quality EVOO, is can be cooked on a medium-low temperature, but finding a truly high quality EVOO isn’t easy. Many of the olive oils on the market have been refined or worse, combined with one of the highly oxidized vegetables oils you should avoid. (http://www.usp.org/news/usp-urges-fda-address-economically-motivated-food-adulteration-unique-issue). Much of the olive oil you see on grocery stores shelves is fraudulent. Do your best to find an olive grower and order direct. You’ll need to go in with a friend to split the oil as it comes in a rather large plastic jar. You’ll want to bottle it in a dark glass jar and only keep enough for a few months. Within two years of pressing, olive oil becomes rancid. I have bought olive oil from a California farmer and it is fabulous. The farm is Chaffin Family Orchards, Oroville, CA. You can contact them through their newsletter, firstname.lastname@example.org.
One oil relatively new to the culinary world is avocado oil. It is mostly a monounsaturated fat with a relatively high smoke point. You can cook with this fat so long as you don’t cook at too high a temperature. I would feel comfortable cooking at a medium heat or baking with avocado oil, but I would not fry with it. Remember, heat harms unsaturated fat. Fats are being oxidized before you ever see smoke in the skillet.
The best fats for cooking at high temperature such as stir frying are saturated fats. Fats that are saturated are stable at higher heats. One great one is extra virgin coconut oil. It has a slightly sweet taste great for cooking Thai or Indian inspired recipes. Another great one is Red Palm oil. I use it for savory recipes when I don’t want a hint of sweetness. I will also use goose fat, lard or tallow. I don’t do a lot of frying and recommend that you limit frying, too. However, as you make healthier food choices, sometimes a comfort food such as fried fish cooked in a safe fat helps make the transition easier.
What about butter? It goes without saying that artificial buttery spreads should be avoided. They are chemical concoctions made to resemble the taste of the real deal. I think butter and ghee are great, especially if they’re organic. Butter can add amazing flavor to slow cooked vegetables used in soups such as my White Christmas Chili recipe.
In terms of the client mentioned at the beginning of this post, we were able to determine that inflammation was the cause of his snoring. Now, we get to determine what is causing his inflammation. Is it bad fats in the diet or are there other contributing factors?