Fat: is it really so bad?

Focus on organic fats and green vegetables for optimal health.

Focus on organic fats and green vegetables for optimal health.

Fat. It’s a dirty word, right? We’ve grown up in a time where fat is the devil and our shelves are overflowing with low-fat options, wrapped in packaging that screams of the health benefits of ditching the fat. Are we really doing the right thing to our bodies though by depriving them of fat?

The fats you should be focussing on are those that come from things like coconuts, avocados, oily fish and eggs. Vegetable fat (you might see this under names like canola oil, sunflower oil or just plain ol’ vegetable oil) and transfats (the kind you will find in highly processed junk food) should be avoided. The easiest way to make sure you are getting the right kind into you is to, yep, you guessed it: eat whole foods. The reason you want to avoid vegetable fat is because it quickly turns rancid in your body, making it toxic and dangerous. If you put a plate of margarine on the ground next to a plate of butter, ants will ignore the margarine because they don’t recognise it as food! Them ants, they be smart.

A quick note on transfats: these are the nastiest of the lot. They are basically unsaturated fats that us clever humans have turned into very dangerous fats by moving where the hydrogen atoms are located in the molecule. What. The. Eck. Talk about a dumb idea! Transfats wreak havoc on how your cells function.

Another important, but often overlooked, thing to consider is the oil’s smoke point. Every fat you come across is made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The difference between oils is the way in which these elements are ordered. Each carbon atom bonds with another two carbon atoms. The atoms live in a fatty acid and, the more of them there are, the longer the chain will be; hence, we get long-chain and short-chain fatty acids. In regards to smoke points, the longer the fatty acid chain, the higher the smoke point will be.

Once an oil exceeds its smoke point, it becomes dangerous to consume because it starts releasing those nasty free radicals along with toxic fumes. Certainly not a recipe for fun times in the kitchen! Which oils have the highest smoke points? Coconut oil is top of the list and is followed by tallow oil and then butter. Olive oil is right on the borderline what is considered safe for cooking. This doesn’t mean you should toss your favourite extra virgin in the bin. It just means you should enjoy it cold. Mix it with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and use it as a salad dressing.

Cook with these guys

  • Coconut
  • Ghee
  • Butter
  • Tallow

Eat these guys cold

  • Olive
  • Nut
  • Sesame

Avoiding weight gain actually becomes easier when you up your intake of good fats. Why? They keep you fuller for longer and they quickly satiate you, making it less likely that you’ll look for a quick sugary fix. Omega-6 is what is making us fat. This is the stuff that comes from seed oils and it promotes fat storage.

Finally, let’s look at hormones. These guys have a huge influence on our overall health and are responsible for so much more than helping us make babies. Their importance can’t be overstated. Fat is used to make hormones, so when we cut it out of our diet, our body has a freak-out and basically packs up shop on the hormone front. As you can imagine, this throws our system into chaos and can trigger a domino effect of issues. And, ain’t nobody got time for that!

Laura

Going coco-loco nuts for coconut oil

Two health nuts drinking coconuts at the beach.

Two health coconuts, wearing coconut oil as sunscreen, drinking coconut water at the beach. And, also, coconut.

Coconut oil is one of those things that has been given a bad rap in these fat-fearing times we live in. I think its reputation has been unnecessarily, and unrightfully, sullied. Coconut oil does so many wonderful things for our body that if it was a god, I would worship it. Or at least gaze at it in wonder and awe.

Here are just some of the amazing things about coconut oil:

  1. It has an SPF rating of between 4 and 6, which makes it a great substitute for chemical-laden sunscreens. It will also make you smell divine and who doesn’t want that!
  2. It has the highest smoke point of any oil, including olive oil, which means it won’t oxidise when heated. This makes it the best oil to cook with.
  3. It will change the way you see chips. Seriously. If you have ever used it to make sweet potato chips, you will know what I’m talking about. So good.
  4. Its ability to help you lose weight is two-fold: when we up our consumption of good fats, like coconut oil, we are more satisfied and less likely to reach for sugary food. From a scientific perspective, coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids. These are easy for our body to process and help to speed up the metabolism.
  5. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and it can help clear up candida overgrowth.
  6. It can help remove toxins from your body, if you use it when oil pulling.
  7. It is great for your skin! There are naturally occurring fats in coconut oil that get deep into your skin, moisturising and creating a protective barrier.
  8. It is even better for your hair! The fatty acids in coconut oil have a small molecular structure, allowing them to pass easily into the hair’s cell membrane to provide deep conditioning.
  9. Did I mention it tastes great?

A final note: you want to get the cold-pressed, organic variety. I like the one that Melrose make.

OK, I lied, this is the real final note: I got my information here.

Laura