Healthy Fats to Include in Your Diet
You've hopefully heard by now that cutting out dietary fats is an outdated idea. (If not, surprise!) You (and your parents) were told to reduce fat, switch to margarine, and that "fat makes you fat." We know now that dietary fatty acids that are absolutely essential to a healthy body—particularly omega-3s and omega-6s. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to make changes that benefit your health without the pain of going on a "fat-free" diet!
Good fats for good health
Dietary fat is critical for brain health and immune function; fat helps keep the digestive system humming and the skin soft and supple, and it supports fertility, especially omega-3s. Because fatty acids are a crucial part of the cell membrane—and cells are the basic unit of the body—fatty acid deficiency can have far reaching effects on your health, ranging from dry skin and constipation to depression. When it comes to children in particular, ensuring ample amounts of good quality dietary fat is important since they are in such a rapid state of growth.
Don't reduce fat
(swap it out for a healthier type)
To keep things simple and ensure you get all the necessary fatty acids covered, I recommend keeping these fats handy in your kitchen, choosing organic whenever possible:
Fats for cooking, frying, and baking
- Butter or ghee: contains the saturated fatty acid butyrate, which nourishes the digestive lining. If you are intolerant to dairy, use ghee, which has been filtered to remove the protein.
- Lard from local grass fed pigs or red palm oil: these contain about 55% saturated and 45% mono unsaturated fatty acids, making them ideal for heating and very nourishing.
- Avocado oil: rich in oleic acid which helps to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL and can help make other nutrients (like carotenoids) more bioavailable. It has a smoke point of 520°F which makes it great for stir-frying and sautéing, but is also outstanding in dressings!
- Rice bran oil: use this oil sparingly, but it is a good cooking oil to use when you want a very mild taste or a liquid cooking oil. The downside of this oil is that it is very high in omega 6 fatty acids which can contribute to inflammation if not balanced out with omega 3 fatty acids you would find in a fish oil supplement.
- Coconut oil: contains medium chain saturated fatty acids which have a few very important health properties:
- They are metabolized quickly by the body and used as energy, making them less likely to store as fat
- They have anti-parasitic and anti-fungal qualities
- They support the immune system
- They have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (good)
Oils for marinades, dressings, and drizzling
These oils have distinct flavours and are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which makes them less tolerant to heat but great for reducing inflammation.
- Cold pressed olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Flax oil
- Sesame oil
While olive oil and sesame oil may be used for cooking on low heat, consuming them unheated ensures that the flavour and health enhancing benefits are best preserved.
Swapping the fat from conventional vegetable and hydrogenated oils to these more health-promoting oils is one of the first transitions I typically help families make if they are seeking to improve their health. While there are many types of oils you can experiment with, integrating these highly nutritious oils into your cooking will help your family get the fatty acids they need for good health while still enjoying the flavour-enhancing properties of fats and oils.
Keep it simple, and happy cooking!
*originally published July 27, 2016