So you’re supposed to eat good fats. What are good fats exactly?

Good question.  This one used to confuse me & for years I only used extra-virgin olive oil until finally I got it!  I hope this guide helps you choose the right oils & fatty foods.

Remember, whilst eating a high-fat diet can help reduce inflammation, that is only if you are choosing to eat good fats. Eating fats that have been damaged by high-heat or processing, will fan the flames of inflammation in your body and you don’t want that!   Its not just about feeling bad. The underlying inflammation and hormonal imbalance driven by eating the wrong foods drive not just symptoms but diseases and accelerated ageing. 

The wrong types of fat can be found in pastries, and commercially bought cakes, cookies and crackers (always read the labels & avoid hydrogenated oils).  Vegetable oils are oils that are combined and heated and are not suitable for eating.  This includes canola and soy oils.  The only thing you should them for is to oil your squeaky door hinges!  

Commercially raised animals are fed a diet high in grains which have an imbalance of inflammatory & anti-inflammatory fats i.e. Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids (see what Dr Mark Hyman has to say about this in the information on butter).  Eat less meat and when you do eat it, choose ethically raised animals that get to graze in the paddock or are free to peck grubs. 

Dr Mark Hyman, author of the book Eat Fat Get Thin, recommends that we have 4-5 servings of fat per day.  You might think that amount is very high, but good fats help to keep us satiated and that means eating less overall.  Serving sizes for each are in parentheses.

The Good Sources of Fats include

  • Extra virgin coconut oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, walnut oil (1 tablespoon): use these in salads or stews, they should not be used for high-heat cooking; for high heat cooking, use coconut oil or ghee.
  • MCT oil (the super fat from coconut oil) (1-2 tablespoons a day)
  • Organic coconut milk (1/4 cup/50g) – choose cans that are BPA-free
  • Avocado (1/2 to 1 avocado)
  • Pure sesame oil (1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
  • Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, black cod, and wild salmon (100g to 175g (4-6 ounces): aim to include these 3 to 4 times per week) 
  • Nuts and seeds – raw and unsalted only (2-3 handfuls), avoid peanuts.
  • Olives (1/4 cup/50g)
  • Grass-fed butter, clarified butter or ghee (1 tablespoon); if you are allergic to butter, just use ghee.

My favourite nuts

Almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, cashews (I use mine for making nut milk and butters & cheese), chestnuts and hazelnuts are good too but not my favourites. You can also make nut milk from almonds and brazil nuts. Brazil nut milk is super delicious!

Seeds

This includes chia, black or white sesame, flax, hemp, pumpkin & sunflower.

I recommend purchasing certified organic raw nuts and seeds; that way you will protect yourself from exposure to potential contaminants.  Avoid roasted or salted nuts, as the high temperature used by commercial roasters damages the many delicate fats found in nuts and seeds.  You can lightly roast them yourself at a very low oven temperatures like 121 degrees C (250 degrees F).

Soaking nuts is considered beneficial to reduce lectins, phytates, and enzyme inhibitors. These are considered “anti-nutrients” that can block nutrient absorption, cause digestive distress, and inhibit enzymes.  The soaking process germinates nuts and seeds, allowing increased enzyme activity and also enhances flavour.  

This is how you do it:  put a cup or 2 of your chosen nuts or seeds, into a bowl and cover with warm salt water overnight.  There should be enough warm water to cover the nuts or seeds by an inch.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt to 4 cups (150g) of nuts or seeds. When they’re done soaking, rinse them thoroughly so that the rinsing water runs clear.  Then its crucial to thoroughly dry them. The best way to ensure they’ll dry all the way through is to spread them out in a single layer in a warm oven at the lowest possible setting – ideally not more than 49 degrees C (120F).

The Bad Sources of Fats include

  • Margarine
  • Vegetable shortening 
  • Packaged snacks
  • Baked goods, especially pre-made versions
  • Ready to use dough
  • Fried foods
  • Coffee creamers, both dairy and nondairy. 

Make every effort to get these out of your diet.  They will undermine your health if eaten on a regular basis. 

Saturated fats, are they really good for us?

You may be like I was, and fearful of adding some of the recommended fats into your diet, because we have been brainwashed to believe that saturated fats are our enemy. For that reason I am providing further details about these fats.  I have summarised the following information from Dr Mark Hyman’s book Eat Fat Get Thin, as it is a comprehensive look at these fats.

Butter  (page 145)

Butter is 60% saturated fat with only minor trace of dairy proteins and sugars.

I recommend that you only eat butter from cows that have been pasture raised, as to opposed to grain-fed. The reason for this is that grass-fed cows have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1, which is ideal.

Grain-fed cows, on the other-hand, produce a ratio tilted heavily toward omega-6, making it highly inflammatory. Omega-6 is the inflammatory fatty acids (required for some bodily functions, but has to be kept in check with omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory).  In grain-fed beef the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 jumps way up to 7.6:1.

Conventionally raised butter, apart from it’s excess omega-6s, stores pesticides and environmental toxins. But there are other reasons not to eat it.  An equivalent serving of grass-fed butter has the same nutrition facts as conventional butter, but it is three to five times higher in CLA (conjugated linoelic acid). Grass-fed butter is deep yellow because it has more carotene and vitamin A.

Cow stomach fermentation turns vitamin K1 (found in leafy greens, like kale, chard, spinach, and yes, grass) into K2, which then shows up in the diary fat. K2 is important for bone and heart health, among many other things. Grass-fed butter also contains a fatty acid called butyrate that promotes intestinal health and fights inflammation throughout the body, especially in the cardiovascular system. 

Its best to purchase organic butter from grass-fed cows.  Kerrygold, and Irish dairy whose cows are all pasture raised, can be found fairly easily in local grocery and health food stores and even Costco. Anchor and Organic Valley are also good brands of grass-fed butter. 

And then there is ghee, a form of Indian butter that is processed by melting and allowing it to simmer on low until most of the water evaporates off, leaving the fat and milk solids.  Ghee is best for cooking because of its higher smoking point.  Butter smokes between 163 degrees C and 191 C (325F and 375F) and ghee smokes at 204C to 260C (400F and 500F). It is best to cook below the smoking point.  (The smoking point is the temperature when the oil starts to smoke in the pan. It’s different for different oils).

All of the same nutrients found in grass-fed butter are found in grass-fed ghee. It is high in vitamin D and A, omega-3 fats, CLA and butyrate.

Clarified butter has had the water and milk solids removed, so it can be used for those allergic to diary. 

About Coconut Oil (page 146)

Coconut butter is made from whole coconut flesh. it is essentially pureed or pulverised coconut meat and has a thick, creamy, smooth texture.  it is about 60% oil. The fibre content of coconut butter differentiates it from coconut oil: one tablespoon of coconut butter has 3 grams of fibre. 

Coconut oil is extracted from the dried flesh of the coconut. Coconut oil is made up of 86% saturated fat, 6 % monosaturated fat, and 1.4 % polyunsaturated fat. About half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is a rare, special type of saturated fat called lauric acid.  It is known as a medium-chain triglyceride or MCT (and there are other MCTs in coconut oil as well). In the body, lauric acid converts to manolaurin, one of the compounds found in breast milk that boost a baby’s immune system (as do antibodies and colostrum). It is like super-fuel for your cells, your metabolism, your bones, and your brain. It is now being studied for its anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial health-protecting properties.  It also can boost sports performance. 

MCT: the Superfat  

A super fat that is super fuel for your brain and your body. A very rare, very beneficial type of fat. These saturated fats actually reduce the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (a good thing) and promote weight loss, and can even heal fatty liver caused by obesity. 

MCTs convert very easily to energy and therefore very little is stored as fat. 

In the 1940’s, when farmers wanted to fatten up their livestock, they gave them coconut oil. This plan backfired.  The animals lost weight and had more energy!

Tips for Using Coconut Oil

  • look for coconut oil that is virgin, organic, cold-pressed, unrefined and never deodorised or bleached.
  • You can use expeller-pressed, unrefined coconut oil for cooking at up to 204C (400F), so this is a go-to oil for high-heat stir fries, medium-high heat sautéing, and most baking. 

Like coconut oil, coconut butter is highly stable because of its high content of saturated fats.  It will last quite a while in your cabinet. but don’t use it for any high-heat cooking, as the bits of coconut flesh will burn.  Spoon coconut butter straight from the jar and eat it.  Melt it and pour it over a sweet potato or winter squash, or make a sweet potato sandwich using coconut butter and almond butter (if you slightly undercook the sweet potatoes, they form “resistant starch”, which doesn’t spike blood sugar). Use it in curry dishes and stir-fried for an extra burst of flavour. Add it to smoothies or soups, or stir it into hot beverages. Enjoy your coconut!  

Enjoy the good fats and see how much better you will feel when you add these into your diet and remove the harmful ones. 

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