Stocking Your Real Food Kitchen: Choosing Healthy Fats


Our culture has been low-fat obsessed for so many years that at first, eating fat - and enjoying it - AND feeling that it is healthy - kind of seems wrong. 

If you have the mantra "EAT REAL FOOD" then choosing fats makes sense. Choose fats that have been around for ages (ie, your great grandmother ate them) and do not use fats that are not highly processed or made in a lab.

Reasons why you'd avoid industrial fats - genetically modified, oxidized from high heat processing, extracted with chemical solvents, impure...

Reasons why you'd use traditional fats - nutrient dense, full of vitamins and minerals vital to health...they taste good...(this post is so super scientific, huh!)... 

Here are some bad fats:
margarine
vegetable oils (soy, canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, etc)
shortening
trans fats

Here are good fats:
coconut oil
butter or ghee (clarified to remove casein, dairy protein)
extra virgin olive oil*
palm oil
animal renderings like tallow or lard from pastured animals
flax oil*
sesame oil*
avocados
nuts/seeds

It is important to use fats that are heat stable when cooking - thus the best fats to use in those cases are coconut oil, butter/ghee, and tallow/lard. Olive oil, flax oil, and other unstable oils can oxidize when heated, thus they are better to use in salad dressings or unheated in dips, spreads, etc. Some sources say to never heat olive oil, but I just found this and liked her viewpoint.

Personally, my family consumes a lot of fat. I add lots of fat to each meal throughout the day. Our bodies need fat to function properly. I feel better and stay fuller through the day when I'm consuming good amounts of healthy fats. We haven't had issues of gaining weight when eating a diet higher in fat. In fact, it's been the opposite. As we've moved to real, whole foods, our waistlines have stayed the same or slimmed down. Many others report similar experiences.

Switching to whole foods can often feel super overwhelming (trust me, I've been there!). But if you take it one step at a time, it's doable. Here are some ways to make your fat intake healthier:

1. Get rid of the trans fats - that means no more margarine or shortening...period. Use butter (or coconut oil) or palm oil shortening (a natural, non-hydrogenated shortening).
2. No more vegetable oil - instead, choose extra virgin olive oil (being careful not to saute on high heat). For recipes, use melted butter or coconut oil. I even use olive oil in baking and it turns out great!
3. Use saturated fats without fear - find more ways to use butter, coconut oil, eggs, etc.
4. Eat more monounsaturated fats - like olive oil and avocados
5. Nuts/seeds/fish - incorporate these into your diet to shift the balance from omega-6 fats (found in industrial oils) to omega-3 fats. You want a higher amount of omega-3 fats in your diet because omega-6 fats are very inflammatory to the body if the ratio is off. Grab a handful of unprocessed nuts and enjoy!

There are some awesome resources for reading up on why you might want to choose real fats. I don't really look at this blog as a place to be completely comprehensive in every nutritional subject I blog about - the information is out there, so I'll point you to some great sources.

Refocus on Healthy Fats from Kitchen Stewardship
The Definitive Guide to Fats from Marks Daily Apple
What Are Healthy Cooking Oils from Real Food University

Now, go slather some butter on your toast and don't feel guilty about it! Put extra guacamole on your salad and ENJOY! And by golly, have those fried eggs and bacon (from healthy sources, of course)! Enjoy the fat.

(And I will sulk in the fact that since I am currently dairy free, I cannot eat butter. Because, I love it. Soon, I hope. Soon.)