The healthiest oils and fats

The healthiest oils and fats

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For years, we’ve been led to believe that saturated fats are the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Yet, recent studies have proven the opposite, which has brought saturated fats back into the spotlight once again. When cooking, it’s important that the oils you use have high smoking points to prevent oxidative damage, a leading cause of inflammation in the body.

Saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature, are extremely heat stable and have the fewest places for oxygen to get in and wreak havoc. When you eat saturated fats, your brain will have the best building blocks to create cell membranes and hormones. The second most stable fats are monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil and macadamia oil), which only have one vulnerable spot (“mono” means one) where oxygen can get in and create free radicals.

Besides heat stability, it’s important to look at the length of the fat. Short and medium chain fatty acids are the most anti-inflammatory. These include butyric acid that can be found in butter and ghee, as well as medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil and high quality MCT oil. Olive oil specifically contains two anti-inflammatory compounds: oleocanthal and oleuropein. Oleocanthal is highly medicinal and has been shown in studies to rid the brain of the dangerous amyloid plaques that are linked to Alzheimer’s.

So what should you avoid? For starters, steer clear of hydrogenated fats like margarine that are high in trans fat, as well as common vegetable oils like corn oil, peanut oil, soy oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and canola oil. They are all inflammatory, adversely impact cholesterol levels in the body and contribute to metabolic disorders. Not only that, but they are not the optimum building blocks for cellular membranes and hormones. While we do need some omega 6, polyunsaturated oils tip the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 to unheard levels. For every 3 grams of omega 6 that you eat, you need 1-2 grams of omega 3. If you’re consuming a lot of polyunsaturated oils, that ratio will be closer to 18:1.

When you’re in the kitchen, It’s best to use saturated fats when cooking at high temperatures and to leave olive oil for low temperatures.

Butter
Butter and ghee (purified butter) have been used for thousands of years. Butter is rich in butyric acid, which is anti-inflammatory, supports the blood-brain barrier and feeds good gut bacteria. Grass-fed butter and ghee are especially high in vitamins A, D and K and have a deep yellow hue.

Olive oil
Olive oil is made up of longer-chain fatty acids and is high in antioxidants. Look for extra virgin olive oil with a characteristic deep greenish yellow hue. Olive oil can oxidize when exposed to light, so be sure to purchase olive oil packaged in dark bottles.

Coconut oil
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and turns to liquid in very hot conditions. It is a strong antifungal agent and contains four types of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). These include lauric acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and caproic acid.

MCT oil
MCT oils are purified from coconut oil, but they are not all made equal. It’s important to source MCT with carefully filtered caprylic acid. Too much caproic acid remaining in common MCT oils creates lower quality oil and can lead to digestive upset in the form of diarrhea. An MCT oil with a balance of caprylic acid to capric acid is also a great option and is 6 times stronger than regular coconut oil.

Grass-fed beef tallow
You can think of tallow as a type of butter made from animal fat instead of animal milk. It is solid at room temperature and is stable at high temperature cooking. It also has a proper balance of omega 3 to omega 6 and can be delicious when prepared correctly.

Further reading
Bulletproof, Dave Asprey
Headstrong, Dave Asprey
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael T. Murray
Eat Fat, Get Thin, Dr. Mark Hyman
Eat Fat Be Thin, Andi Lew and Dr. Natalie Kringoudis 

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