Let’s Learn About – Oils and Fats

The start of a good meal

Photo Credit: wlayton

To begin our Let’s Learn About Series we will be discussing oils and fats. What are the best cooking oils and fats to use? Are some cooking oils harmful? Are saturated fats good or bad for you? These questions I hope to answer and give us all a better understanding of what cooking oils and fats are best for consumption.

To start we first have to talk about good fats and bad fats. What you are probably used to hearing is that saturated fats are bad and polyunsaturated fats are good. After reading the studies of  Weston A. Price and observing that history has shown we are not a healthier nation since abandoning saturated fats, I now believe the reverse is true – saturated =good, polyunsaturated= bad.

To be perfectly clear on this subject let’s define saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats include:

  • Butter
  • Tallow and suet from beef and lamb
  • Lard from pigs
  • Chicken, goose and duck fat
  • Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils

Correction: I made an error before. Olive oil, sesame and peanut oils are not saturated fats. Olive oil is a monounsaturated and is has many health benefits. Peanut and sesame oils are polyunsaturated fats and should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts (Know Your Fats). Flax seed oil has health benefits but should be consumed in small amounts and never heated. I apologize for the error.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Expeller-expressed sesame and peanut oils
  • Expeller-expressed flax oil

Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • All hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (polyunsaturated fats are used in making margarine)
  • Industrially processed liquid oils such as soy, corn, safflower, cottonseed and canola

Before the turn of the century the primary fat source were saturated animals fats. Around the turn of the century polyunsaturated fats where introduced to the American diet in the form of  harmful vegetable oils which is also the same time heart disease became a common occurrence.

Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Since then, heart disease has become the number one killer in the United States. History of the Heart.

It is true that history also shows that modern conveniences were also becoming the norm among American households. The Industrial Revolution brought opportunity for less activity. Instead of washing laundry by hand we now use a washing machine. Instead of walking or riding a horse to our destinations, we drive cars.

I do believe that a huge part of the heart disease epidemic in America has to do with a lack activity but I don’t believe it’s the only reason. Is it by coincidence that heart disease started becoming a problem at the same time that margarine became a household staple?

With the coming of World War I, margarine consumption increased enormously, even in unscathed regions like the U.S. In the countries closest to the fighting, dairy products became almost unobtainable and were strictly rationed.  Margarine

Polyunsaturated fats are not the only culprits in the degeneration of westernized cultures. Refined flours and sugars probably have as much to do with it as does less physical activity and polyunsaturated fats. However, it is for sure a piece of the puzzle.

What should we believe?

There is a lot of documentation on the dangers of polyunsaturated fats. There is also a lot of documentation on the benefits of polyunsaturated fats. Who do we believe? Each side gives a great argument. The way I have decided to determine the truth is by doing two things. First, I view the history of non-industrialized cultures (ie. people groups that did not consume white flours, refined sugars and polyunsaturated fats). Weston A. Price researched a number of people groups and their oral hygiene and tooth decay. He found that isolated people groups did not suffer from the same tooth decay and diseases as did the cultures that had been introduced to modernized foods. Second, I enter in the “God factor”. How does God care for His people throughout scripture and how does a loving Father feed his children? How has God provided for people groups throughout history?

A few facts about Polyunsaturated fats.

One reason the polyunsaturates cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals—that is, single atoms or clusters with an unpaired electron in an outer orbit. These compounds are extremely reactive chemically. They have been characterized as “marauders” in the body for they attack cell membranes and red blood cells and cause damage in DNA/RNA strands, thus triggering mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging; free radical damage to the tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors; free radical damage in the blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque. Is it any wonder that tests and studies have repeatedly shown a high correlation between cancer and heart disease with the consumption of polyunsaturates? New evidence links exposure to free radicals with premature aging, with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and with Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cataracts.

The Skinny on Fats

The Benefits of Saturated Fats (list taken from The Skinny on Fats)

  • Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes. They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.
  • They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
  • They lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease.They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol.
  • They enhance the immune system.
  • They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids.
    Elongated omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats.
  • Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. The heart draws on this reserve of fat in times of stress.
  • Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties. They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.

I know the idea of saturated fats being good for us may be difficult to believe for some. Many of us have been taught since birth that saturated fats are bad for us. I am not going to try and convince you otherwise but I do hope that you do your own research. Study cultures that consume animal fats (without sugars and white flours) on a regular basis. See if you can find evidence pointing to what I believe is the truth about saturated fats.

Oils and Fats We Should Consume

According to the article on fats, we should be consuming a good quality butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and animal fats such as tallow.  We are also strongly encourage not to be consuming hydrogenated oils and polyunsaturated fats. Remember the following:

  • Coconut oil can be used in baking and to sauté.
  • Extra virgin olive oil should be used raw or under mild temperatures.
  • Butter (quality butter is important) can be used raw, baking or to low temp sauté.
  • Tallow, lard and other animal fats can be used for occasion frying.

I strongly urge you to read the article, The Skinny of Fats. This article includes much more information on fats and oils as well as the topic of cholesterol.

Please note: I am not a health professional or nutritionist. I am a women, wife, mother, sister, friend and Christ follower that is concerned about the health state of America. I am trying to do my part to help my family, friends and blog readers take steps toward a healthier lifestyle.


6 Responses to “Let’s Learn About – Oils and Fats”

  • Jenny:

    I am totally with you on saturated fats being healthy for you, great article! Coconut Oil is great for frying too.

    I just wanted to mention a few errors.
    Flax Seed oil is a highly UNsaturated fat, not a saturated fat…think linseed oil…a varnish. Sesame and Peanut are also PUFAs.
    Olive oil is unsaturated as well (monounsaturated), but has protective qualities to it.

  • Mona:

    Jenny,

    Thanks Jenny! I didn’t catch that error before. I guess I missed it in the edit. Thanks for the correction.

  • Great post, Mona! I was shocked when I first learned last year how unhealthy the vegetable oil that I used all my life. I’ve been trying to use coconut oil for sauteeing, but my family does notice a difference in the taste & smell. So I’ve been using olive oil for just about everything now and just keeping the temps low. It’s a start…

    Blessings!

    PS – LOVE the ideas of Momentum Mondays too!

  • […] Try snacking on some organic homemade popcorn. Use the old fashion stove top method with some coconut oil. Season it with some good quality sea salt and real butter. Remember butter is good. […]

  • This is great! I got Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” cookbook from the library and have been excited to implement some new changes in my diet. While I’m already familiar with the mindset that less-refined, more natural foods are better, I wasn’t fully aware of the saturated vs unsaturated debate. I know shortening is bad… but canola oil? I was surprised! I’m going to stick to the satuared animal fats and tropical oils (coconut and red palm – though they’re expensive and hard to find in the stores).

  • Mona:

    Karla,

    The good oils are expensive but you can get coconut through Amazon and iherb.com. I don’t know where you are located but look into AzureStandard.com to see if they have a delivery drop in your area. They sell lots of great organic foods at reasonable prices.

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