I was recently reading an article by a famous (“Oprah” famous, if you must know) doctor who was extolling the virtues of Red Palm Oil. I’ve recently discovered this myself and had to say that I was impressed with what I found. I’ve bought a jar but haven’t used it yet. However, in the middle of this really great article that talked about the science of why this, and coconut oil, are better for you, he added “…the thick, saturated oils act like molasses in the arteries, and cause plaque to occur.” ARGH! JUST ARGH!
Here is a guy that millions of people listen to and they are hearing about how good this oil is and then boom! He says this, they tune out, done. Saturated fat causes arterial plaque. NO! So many new studies have proven the original study, whence this sugar vs fat debate comes from, false. Chris Kessler, Dr. Mercola, several UK doctors, have all contributed. Yes, food is controversial but we should at least have an open mind that our knowledge progresses and we should adapt along with what we know. Some doctors in America are getting it and saying what needs to be said – reduce the inflammation-causing foods from our diet and we reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another article by the British Medical Journal can be found here.
Okay – even if you can’t go there, at least admit there are some changes on the horizon borne out of real science and work, and not just fad dieting. Ignore Atkins, ignore Paleo and Primal – ignore all that. Think only about what is better for you? What helps you achieve better health WITHOUT drugs? Use your own body as a test to see what works and what doesn’t? How should you feel as a human and how optimal should our bodies work? Check it out for yourself – please. And remember, it took a long time for your body to get used to something – it’s going to take a while for it to change, too.
So, people always refer to me as being on the “air” diet – because I eat healthy fats, veg, fruits, meat, and nuts/seeds. My fats come from avocado, coconut, ghee, beef tallow (from grass-fed beef!), etc. I use olive oil and avocado oil for mayonnaise. I also use both for salads. But the first words out of people’s mouths is usually “coconut oil” is really saturated! Yes! Good! So, what do you say to people who are still misinformed but seem to still have an opinion on your food choices? I think it’s possible to let them know good from bad, quickly. Maybe this will help…
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of lauric acid. It’s been used by cultures for thousands of years, particularly island cultures, where animal fats are sparse. It has been shown that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut oil lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function. When the thyroid does not function optimally, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol. It has a long shelf life and low melting point; it’s excellent for cooking as it does not turn rancid quickly at high temperatures. This rancidity can lead to oxidative damage, not good for our bodies.
- Red Palm Oil: The health benefits are achieved due to the red color of the palm fruit oil that is attributed to its high content of carotenes, which include beta-carotene and lycopene. These powerhouse antioxidant nutrients are the same ones that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors. Red palm fruit oil contains more that tomatoes or carrots. Red palm fruit oil is also densely packed with numerous tocotrienols – a powerful form of vitamin E. You can use Red Palm oil like you would coconut oil but it does give off a yellow color to food. It’s best to use it in darker foods or ones that are already yellow to begin with.
- Ghee, Beef Tallow, and Lard: Good saturated fats, without inflammatory ingredients are yes, good for you. Ghee, butter without milk solids, has a long shelf life, creamy texture, and is really good for vegetable flying or sautes. Using all of these fats (primarily from organic and/or grass-fed sources) has a better chance of missing nutrients from your diet. As with the saturated fats noted above, these are far better for use at high cooking temperatures than vegetable and seed oils. Cooking with vegetable oils at high temperatures creates peroxides and other free radicals. Ghee has a very high smoke point and doesn’t burn easily during cooking. Ghee has stable saturated bonds and so is lot less likely to form the dangerous free radicals when cooking. Ghee’s short chain of fatty acids are also metabolized very readily by the body.These same claims are also true of tallow and lard.
- Seed Oils (Grapeseed, sunflower, peanut): What’s true with seed oils is primarily true of vegetable oils – safflower, canola, etc. These oils didn’t exist until the 20th century, just after WWII. You can see a video of their production here. Draw your own conclusions. The main complain about vegetable oils is that they are too high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Your body needs a specific ration of Omega-3 to Omega6 polyunsaturated oils in order to not generate an inflammatory state. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is too high in Omega-6 oils and not high enough of Omega-3s. As noted above, these oils don’t do well at a high cook temperature.
- Fruit Oils: Fruit oils are generally very good in the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio and have generally been pressed to achieve their oils. That is no harsh chemicals or solvents have been used to extract their oils. For obvious reasons, this is good. However, they do break down extremely quickly when subjected to cooking temperatures or even sunlight (hence, the dark or solid bottling.) Generally, they make good light cooking oils and are good for salads. You have to be extremely careful not to get them too hot; once they begin to smoke, you’ve got rancid oil on your hands.
- Nut Oils (Walnut, macadamia) – these are, generally a good “occasional oil” as they may be high in Omega-6 PUFAs and are not good at high temperatures. I’ve used walnut oil for dressings and macadamia nut oil for may.
There’s actually a very good list of the type of oils, their uses, and what’s “good” about them listed here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/healthy-oils/#axzz2sC7NmBhw.
You know what? The best way to get your Omegas is in your food. Go enjoy a variety of healthy foods that have saturated fat in them (from grass-fed sources, like beef- yum!). Use oils for cooking, as you need to but for goodness sake, stop being afraid of the good fats. Your body will love you (and prosper!) from it.