One of the best steps you can take towards better health is to simply ditch processed foods and transition to real whole foods. To some that could mean entirely gutting your pantry leaving nothing left to utilize in your kitchen, and needing to make a clean start. In an effort to help those who want to take it one step at a time, let me break it down for you in order of importance (at least how I see it). The top two things you should change in your S.A.D. pantry to make it a REAL FOOD pantry are the fats/oils and meats you choose and consume. Today I am going to discuss the fats you should be eating, and hopefully help some of you to ditch a major health hazard in your life.
You have probably heard the politically ‘correct’ nutrition advice that you should reduce intake of fats in your diet, particularly saturated animal fats. However, the low fat craze hasn’t really worked, just look at the increase in obesity in our nation, along with diabetes, heart conditions as well as a whole plethora of other issues. Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances.
Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they acts as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes. We have been blaming the wrong substance for the cause of our nations health epidemic. Clearly something is wrong with the theories we read in the popular press, and with what is used to bolster sales of low-fat concoctions and cholesterol free foods.
The notion that saturated fats per se cause heart disease as well as cancer is not only facile, it is just plain wrong. If eating saturated fat caused heart disease and weight gain (which is what we have been told by ‘on high’), then eliminating those fats should have resulted in a decline in heart disease and an increase in weight loss! But look around you – that’s not what happened! Consuming good saturated fats do not make you fat, it’s quite the opposite. It is indeed true that some fats are bad for us, but it’s not the saturated fats that are to blame, let’s take a look at which ones are causing our ill health. (source – ‘Nourishing Traditions’ and ‘Eat Fat Lose Fat’).
The Truth About Polyunsaturated Oils
The commercial oils that most Americans consume are extracted by toxic chemicals at high temperatures, a process that turns them rancid, destroys their nutrients, and produces free radicials (reactive molecule fragments that steal electrons from molecules in a process called oxidation, which damages cells.) These free radicals can contribute to a host of diseases, including cancer, hearth disease, premature aging, autoimmune disease, digestive disorders, and infertility.
Science has shown that even when cold pressed (as are many “natural health food” products), polyunsaturated oils consumed in anything but small amounts can contribute to many disease conditions, including increased risk of cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs, and lungs; digestive disorders; diminished learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain.
Some experts tout these oils because they contain omega-6 essential fatty acids, but most Americans consume ample amounts of these fats from the other foods (such as legumes, grains, nuts, green vegetables, olive oil, and animal fats), and excessive amounts can be harmful, resulting in an unhealthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. (source Mary Enig from ‘Eat Fat Lose Fat’)
How Margarine & Shortening Are Made
Manufacturers start with the cheapest seed oils, extracted at high temperatures and pressures from corn, cottonseed, soybeans, safflower seeds and canola. The last fraction of oil is removed with hexane, a toxic solvent. The oils, already rancid from the extraction process, are steam cleaned. This destroys all the vitamins and antioxidants, but pesticides and solvents remain. The oils are mixed with a finely ground nickel catalyst. The oils are then put in a reactor where at high temperatures and pressures, they are flooded with hydrogen gas. The molecular structure is rearranged – what goes into the reactor is a liquid oil, what comes out is a smelly, lumpy, grey semi-solid. Soap-like emulsifiers are mixed in to remove all the lumps. The oil is steam cleaned (again!) to remove the odor of chemicals. The oil is then bleached to get rid of the grey color. Synthetic vitamins and artificial flavors are mixed in. A natural yellow color is added to margarine – synthetic coloring is not allowed! The mixture is then packaged in blocks or tubs and promoted to the public as a health food. (source – pamphlet ‘All About Trans Fats’, published by the Weston A. Price Foundation).
Fats to Ditch
Canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower, sunflower, any type of ‘butter’ spread or margarine, vegetable shortening are all unstable/unhealthy fats that you will most definitely want to pitch in the trash if you want your health to improve. Be sure to check your food labels as well for these types of oils. These oils are a huge cause of many health issues in this modern day. These kinds of fats/oils increase heart disease, interfere with immune function, inhibit the body’s use of omega 3’s, are associated with increased asthma, cancer and decreased fertility, as well as contribute to weight gain.
Good Fats To Consume
Good quality butter, coconut oil, pastured lard, tallow, palm oil, olive oil, sesame oil, schmaltz, duck/goose fat, whole eggs, cream are all excellent sources of fat to add to your real food kitchen. These kinds of saturated fats help to actually lower heart disease, enhance immune function and the body’s use of omega 3’s, saturated fats are needed for the proper functioning of the lungs, help boost metabolism and help with weight loss, as well as contain nutrients the fight against cancer and promote fertility.
Getting Started With Good Fats
Making the transition from processed oils to good fats really doesn’t have to be difficult. In my opinion the best bet is to ditch any of the above mentioned oils immediately and replace them with the good ones listed. Everyone is probably familiar with butter, and who can deny that butter just tastes better than those tubs of spread anyway. So go ahead give yourself the freedom to enjoy good quality butter with no guilt. Even regular pasteurized butter from the supermarket is a much healthier choice than margarine or spreads. Do not make this a cost issue, because in the long run it will cost you your very health. I can’t tell you how much healthier I have become since switching to good fats, and believe me, I eat A TON of butter. (I no longer suffer from asthma, that’s pretty amazing to me and very worth paying for the price of butter vs. some cheap tub of spread). So start with butter, you can even cook on medium heat with it. You can also learn to make ghee which is essentially clarified butter and more stable for higher heat cooking, not to mention it tastes amazing, and even those with some dairy sensitivites find they can tolerate ghee. Additional cooking fats that are good are lard, coconut oil and tallow. Coconut oil is the most expensive of these and I reserve using coconut oil for adding to smoothies and my tea, and other goodies. (see ). Regardless of the price of coconut oil, I would highly recommend using it. There are so many health conditions that can be reversed by adding coconut oil, not to mention the energy you get and weight loss benefits. And who wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg for energy and weight loss?!! I personally use lard for all my cooking – everything I saute on the stove gets sauteed in lard. Everything! Lard is very affordable and relatively easy to procure, just locate your nearest farmer or market to get some pastured lard. Lard also contains a good amount of vitamin D, so to me this is a must have in your ‘larder’.
A note about adding fats to your diet: If you have been following a low fat diet you have essentially laid off your gallbladder, it will need time to readjust to actually working again by adding fats. Start slowly, and simply switch out what you used to use in your daily cooking and salad dressings. Over time you can add more and more fat to your diet as you are able and comfortable to do so. Your body will adjust to the fats and believe it or not, you will find yourself craving more fat! And guess what, that’s a very good thing! There are so many health ailments that can be turned around by reintroducing healthy fats into your diet, what are you waiting for?!!
For a complete guide on which fats to use in cooking, check out this awesome chart done by Lisa of Real Food Digest!
For Further Reading
Stay tuned for the next post in ‘How To Ditch Processed Foods: Choosing Healthy Meats’. To get inspired in your real food journey, be sure to check out the precursor to this series, ‘Transition to Real Food: One Day At a Time‘. My goal is to post a step by step thorough approach as to how you can ditch processed foods forever affordably and realistically.
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