Again, as most of you have discovered, I’m a huge proponent of unadulterated fats. The concept of certain types of fats being healthy is becoming increasingly common. Most fad nutritionists refer to “healthy” fats as being “actually good for you.” Still, most warn of animal fats, saturated fats, and whole fat dairy products. They also typically recommend “lean” meats, skinless chicken breasts, steamed foods over fried and sautéed versions, etc. Increasingly common exceptions are coconut oil as well as cocoa butter from dark chocolate, which are both highly saturated, but because of the types of fatty acids they contain they are nevertheless starting to gain some fanfare in the health and nutrition mainstream.
This is a very promising trend; however, most people are still under the impression that fats in general are bad even though they acknowledge a small handful of exceptions. Extra virgin olive oil, high in monounsaturated oil mostly in the form of oleic acid, is one oil that seems to have been officially crowned as a healthy fat. This I cannot argue against. Extra virgin (which means pressed without high heat, solvents, and minimal filtration; aka ‘unadulterated’) olive oil is an outstanding fat to incorporate into the diet. And since the fat found in olives is mostly monounsaturated, it is relatively stable and resilient to oxidation, a process that turns fats and oils into harmful substances.
Other fats considered by the mainstream to be healthy are fats found in raw nuts and seeds. This I cannot argue against either, especially if they are fresh. Freshness is important in regards to the fats in the nuts and seeds, which are typically high in polyunsaturated fat (although each type of nut and seed has its own unique fatty acid profile and there are many exceptions). Polyunsaturated fat is extremely sensitive to heat and oxidation, and its use and preparation is of utmost importance. High heat cooking destroys these fats, as does high heat oil extraction, the use of solvents, and exposure to air and light. Therefore, even raw nuts in a bulk bin at the health food store can be considered less than ideal, as much of the fat has been incinerated by oxygen and the lighting that penetrates the clear plastic bins. Fat aside, nuts and seeds also contain harmful toxins in place to protect the dormant nut or seed, and should be eaten in only small amounts. Still, a freshly cracked raw walnut, almond, pecan, and/or sunflower seed, especially if it has been soaked overnight in salted water to remove some of its protective toxins, will provide you with extraordinarily nourishing fat.
The oils found in fatty fish and flax seed are also gaining popularity in the circles of mainstream health and nutrition. Fish and flax contain high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are drastically lacking from the typical modern diet. Omega 3; however, is also a type of polyunsaturated oil and the proper care of these foods during processing and storage is essential. Prolonged exposure to heat, light, and oxygen can ruin this nourishing fat and transform it into something that can attack and damage the body on the cellular level and wreak havoc. Fresh fatty ocean fish, especially raw as in tuna or salmon sashimi, is an ideal source of this volatile but profoundly nourishing fat. Flax oil and cod liver oil, when properly cold extracted and stored in the fridge in a black container, can also be very therapeutic despite their awful flavors.
And despite the progress made in the ever-increasing amount of public awareness of the healthy benefits of many of these fats, one key category of fats, perhaps the most vital fat category of all, is missing altogether; saturated fat. Saturated fat is used by the body for the production of all kinds of biological functions, from the production of brain tissues and hormones to cell membranes. Restoring saturated fat to the diet can work wonders. This is why slowly but surely, fats like extra virgin coconut oil and dark chocolate (even though this is probably the worst way to get more saturated fat), are starting to creep their way into acceptance.
There are also several misconceptions about saturated fat, like that it has been shown repeatedly to be correlated with heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and even Cancer. Upon very close scrutiny of the studies performed to prove this, saturated fat has absolutely nothing to do with these ailments, with the exception of Cancer, which it is known to be able to prevent (not cause). In fact Thailand, with perhaps the highest saturated fat consumption in the modern world (coconut is a staple of Thai cuisine and has the highest concentration of saturated fat of any known substance), has the lowest Cancer rates among a fairly recent study of about 80 nations.
Not only is saturated fat perhaps the most nourishing type of fat available, it is by far the most stable type of fat in existence, and is therefore the least likely to do harm to the body. There are some misconceptions about what foods are highest in saturated fat. Animal fats have a reputation for being high in saturated fats, but this is sometimes overestimated. Coconut oil for example is 95% saturated fat. Lard from rendered pig fat on the other hand, is only 40% saturated, and is mostly comprised of monounsaturates, making it as close in composition to olive oil as it is to pure saturated fat from the coconut.
I will go so far as to state that just about any type of fat or oil that hasn’t been damaged in production is nourishing and extremely beneficial to the human body. The questions are: what can damage fats, what kinds of fats are most easily damaged and thus become harmful, what types of fats are best avoided, and why doesn’t the public know about these extremely rudimentary scientific truths?
Fats can be damaged by high heat, by solvent extraction, by hydrogenation, by air, by light, and by homogenization.
The fats most easily damaged by every single one of these processes is polyunsaturated fat. It is the most easily damaged because of its chemical bonds are the most highly reactive (unlike saturated fats which are almost totally chemically unalterable).
Fats to be avoided are therefore polyunsaturated oils that have been adulterated, primarily derived from vegetable foods, particularly soy and corn oils (the #1 and #2 oils consumed by the American public and soon to be the world). Not only are these the most fragile oils, but they are almost always heated, then solvent extracted, then hydrogenated (and heated and bleached and deodorized), exposed to air and light every step of the way, and then reheated again during cooking, sometimes for hours at a time for deep frying. Get it!?
The final question has a simple answer, but it is blunt and as hard as a modern American artery for many to believe. Why doesn’t the public know about these extremely rudimentary scientific truths? Because the entire economic infrastructure of our country is based on cheap food (soy and corn are America’s #1 and #2 crops) from huge factory farms, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, etc. From that stems a nation of the most chronically ill human beings the world has ever known, pharmaceutical companies that are practically taking over the world, and some damn good doctors that know just about everything except how to avoid illness altogether. Of course Americans owe every ounce of our prosperity to this system, so don’t become a self-righteous militant a-hole about it (like I was for many years).
And, more importantly, eat fat, with every meal, especially from raw butter and whole raw milk, extra virgin coconut oil, animal fat, olives, avocadoes, etc. How much is too much? If and only if you’re eating a variety of fats, most of them saturated, much of them raw, and eating adequate animal protein with every single meal, there is no such thing as too much fat. In fact you’ll discover greater health and vitality the more you incorporate into your diet.
For a much more thorough breakdown of fats from perhaps the world’s leading lipid researcher, please take time to examine THIS.