This is Part 2 of a 3-part article to help clear up confusion about consuming fats in our dietary plan.  We won’t discuss the specific amount of grams to consume of this macronutrient, as that depends on the person and their dietary plan and is for another article.  However, you will learn how to decipher healthy versus unhealthy fats, benefits of fats, clarity around the myths that have been around for decades, how to use fats so they are their healthiest when you consume them, and more.

In Part 1, we talked about elements that make a good fat, popular beliefs about fats debunked, types of fats, and health benefits of fat.  Click here to go to Part 1 of this article.

The next 2-parts of this article will include content as follows:

  • Part 2: Understanding terminology used with fats and oils, using fats for best quality, specific healthy fats, and guidelines and tips when using and consuming fats 
  • Part 3: Benefits, guidelines, and tips for specific healthy fats

What Are Common Terms Used With Fats?

Here is a list of common terms or packaging lingo used with fats and oils along with their descriptions.

Cold Pressed: Extracted without using heat.

Expeller Pressed: Extracted using a screw-type machine that presses the oil out. Can be done slowly, with very little heat, or can be done quickly with lots of friction and high temperatures.

Extra Virgin: The first cold pressing which contains the best tasting and most healthful oils.  Extra Virgin must contain less than 1 percent oleic acids. By definition, this is cold-pressed and first pressed, so no need to see these terms on the label. Must say 100% extra virgin, or may be a blend.

Virgin: Cold pressing, but can contain a little more oleic acids than the extra-virgin (1-3 percent).  

High Oleic: Seeds that have been genetically manipulated to decrease the amount of essential fatty acids so that they have a longer shelf life.

Unrefined Oils: Are left in their state after pressing – no filtering. These oils tend to be more flavorful and richer in nutrients, however they have a very low smoke point.

Refined: Oils have their impurities filtered out, to increase stability and allow for higher temperature cooking. The processing can use toxic solvents, caustic soda, bleaches, and phosphoric acid.  Example:  “Light” olive oil.

Smoke Point: Stage when oil is heated and begins to smoke; just before it bursts into flames.   Smoke point is used to gauge whether a fat/oil is best consumed cold (e.g., drizzle over already prepared food), using moderate heat (e.g., light saute’), or high heat (e.g,, baking, frying).

What Are The Healthy Fats and How Do I Use Them?

Here is a list of healthy fats and unhealthy fats, along with usage guidelines and other tips. 

Healthy Fats/Oils

The healthiest of oils are cold pressed, unrefined, though using some that are refined can still be part of a healthy dietary plan.

Coconut OilAvocado &
Avocado Oil
Nuts & Seeds and their
Oils (Exception:
Peanuts/Peanut Oil)
MCT OilOlives &
Olive Oil
Cacao/Cocoa Butter
(from fat of cocoa bean)
Red Palm OilGrass-Fed Ghee &
Butter
Fat from Grass-Fed/Pasture
Raised Organic Animals &
Wild-Caught Fish (e.g. Lard, Tallow
Duck Fat, Egg-Yolks, Krill Oil,
Mercury Free High Quality Fish Oil)

UNhealthy Fats/Oils

Vegetable Oils and Other Unhealthy Fats

  • Best to avoid these fats/oils completely:  Canola, rapeseed, soybean, corn, safflower, cottonseed, margarine and non-dairy spreads made with unhealthy vegetable oils, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.
  • Peanut Oil, when organic, is ok for some in very small amounts but not for everyone

Some believe these are all healthy oils because they are low in saturated fats and higher in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA).  A lot of that came from the original promotion that saturated fats cause heart and cardiovascular diseases.  That has since been disproven.  Many of these unhealthy oils/fats are GMO or contain higher amounts of the toxic chemical glyphosate.  In addition, the processing method that results in these oils is very unhealthy.  This all results in oils which are unhealthy to consume.  They also contain unhealthy trans fats.  Unfortunately, most processed foods contain these types of oils.

COOKING GUIDELINES

Cooking Guidelines for High Heat

Heat oil until aromatic then quickly add food. If heated until ripples form, oil is too hot and close to smoke point.  Let cool, wipe out and start again. Another option is to cook with a small amount of water in the pan and then at the end of cooking, add the oil.  This way the oil is not in contact with heat for very long and yet you can keep the flavor of the food.  These oils are also good for use in baking and baked goods.

PLANT-BASED FATS/OILS FOR HIGH HEAT

Coconut Oil: Contains mostly saturated fat and therefore highly stable at high temperatures. Lower in calories than most fats and oils because of high amount of medium-chain fatty acids that don’t get stored as fat but rather burned as energy.

MCT Oil:  MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides; also called MCFA’s medium-chain fatty acids.   Coconut oil is a source of MCTs (62-65% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs).  There are 4 different kinds of MCTs, which are a form of saturated fatty acid: caprioc (C6:0), caprylic (C8:0), capric (C10:0) and lauric (C12:0) acids.  Generally speaking, the shorter the chain (meaning the lower the number of carbons the acid has), the faster the body can turn the fatty acids into usable energy.  MCT oil does not require bile or enzymes to be digested.  It is more immediate fuel for the brain and body.  Start out slow when consuming MCT oil (1 teaspoon at a time) and allow your body to adjust.

Avocado Oil: Quite stable and high in monounsaturated fat. Store in a tightly closed container, ideally colored glass, in a cool cupboard for up to a year.  Refined expeller-pressed has a higher smoke point compared to virgin avocado oil.

ANIMAL-BASED FATS FOR HIGH HEAT

Butter: An animal fat, which is mostly saturated.  Contains lactose, in addition to whey and casein proteins.  Some or all of those items can be allergic or sensitivity triggers for many.  Ghee is a great alternative to try if someone cannot have dairy, as ghee does not contain those offending substances.

Ghee (clarified butter): Pure butterfat made from removing milk solids and water from butter.  It is great for cooking since it is pure fat.  Ghee has much less to no casein, whey, and lactose.  Both butter and ghee contain wonderful fat-soluble vitamins in addition to two important healthy compounds, butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Butyrate helps to contribute to a healthy gut and is anti-inflammatory.  CLA has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help boost metabolism.

Lard, Tallow, and Duck Fats:  Lard is from pigs, tallow comes from beef, lamb, or sheep, and duck fat is of course from duck.  

Cooking Guidelines for Moderate Heat (Light Sautee’)

Olive Oil: Quite stable.  Store in a tightly closed container, ideally colored glass, in a cool cupboard for up to a year.  Storing in the refrigerator helps lengthen shelf life.  The colder temperature may change the color and consistency of the oil, but will not affect the quality or taste.  See details in the tips below about determining if your olive oil is 100% authentic.

Sesame Oil (unrefined): Also very stable because it contains a high amount of natural antioxidant.  Toasted is made from toasted seeds and is dark in color with a strong aroma. This oil can burn so use as a seasoning agent or garnish – small amounts.

Cold Use/Raw (no cooking)

Nut and seed oils should be used in moderation due to their high Omega-6 content.  However, they are a healthy choice when used cold/raw, especially Black Seed and Flaxseed Oils.  Always store these oils in the refrigerator as they go bad quickly. 

Almond OilApricot Kernel OilBlack Seed Oil
Flaxseed OilHempseed OilHazelnut Oil
Pumpkin Seed OilSesame OilWalnut Oil

Additional Miscellaneous Tips

  • Oil should smell and taste like the food it came from. It should be stored in glass and should have a date of manufacture/best used by date.
  • Ideally pressing temperature is less than 115 degrees and pressed in absence of light and oxygen (omegaflo process).
  • These oils will keep longer and have better quality when stored in the refrigerator:  Nut and seed oils, olive oil, fish oil.
  • Less than 10 years ago, you may remember the big story about many olive oils being “fake;” less than 30% actually being authentic 100% olive oil.  Here is an un-biased article about that and uncovering the various methods folks have thought they can determine if their olive oil was authentic.  Even I was fooled. 

Stay tuned for the final piece of this series (Part 3).  We will highlight several healthy fats, their benefits, and guidelines for their usage and consumption.

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