The nutrition media keeps telling us that if we eat less fat, all our health problems will go away. Not true. In fact, we have already tried that approach and it has not worked. Why? Because the main problem with eating fat is not so much the amount of fat we eat, but the quality of that fat.
We need fat
Fat is the main component of cell membranes and the nervous system. If you were to remove all the fat from your body, you will die instantly. So, don’t think about fat as a harmful substance unless you are thinking about highly processed fats.
Fats in their natural state and consumed in moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet has not been proven to be bad. However, many of the fats that are part of our life nowadays cause us several health problems. Let us take as an example the production of prostaglandins, substances that behave like hormones.
Prostaglandins are made from fat, but when the fats we eat are altered and refined like many oils are, the prostaglandins our body makes are inflammatory and they suppress the immune system. On the other hand, if we consume healthy fats, the prostaglandins our body produces promote health. So, as you can see, whether you are healthy or sick depends on the quality of your prostaglandins.
The problems with fats and oils
Although research has shown that ingesting a moderate amount of fat is healthy and necessary for good health, what has become obvious is that we need to be selective with the fats we eat since food manufacturers dump on us all sort of bad fats.
Here are some of the problems we end up with if we are not careful when buying cooking oils or processed foods that contain oils and fats:
We consume fats and oils that are too refined and dangerously altered
Our diets include many oils that contain too many Omega 6 fats
We do not consume enough fats that contain Omega 3 fats
We consume oils loaded with pesticides and chemicals
We do not consume the nutrients our body needs to handle fat correctly, such as antioxidants.
Do not buy refined oils
Commercially manufactured liquid vegetable oils in the United States are highly refined. They are heated, deodorized, and many valuable nutrients have been removed. The vitamin E that is present in unrefined oils is taken out and sold to the vitamin industry and the lecithin that helps our body process fats more effectively is removed.
In addition, all the antioxidants the original oil contains are gone. The result is an oil devoid of most of its nutrients, stored in clear glass that allows light to penetrate, which further damages the oil. When buying oil, choose cold-pressed oils, stored in dark bottles.
Buy organic oils
Oils come from plants that are heavily spread with pesticides. Pesticides are usually fat-soluble. This means that the seed of the plant, where the oil comes from, absorbs much of those pesticides. When you buy oil, make sure it is certified organic.
Partially hydrogenated oils
When buying oils or processed foods read the ingredients in the food label and make sure it does not contain “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil”. This is a very deceiving term. What it means is that the original vegetable oil has been hydrogenated (the manufacturer inserts hydrogen molecules in the oil), and the original oil has become a saturated fat highly damaging to our cells. Margarine is an example of vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated.
Do not buy oils with a load of Omega 6 fats
To have healthy cells, we need a balance between omega 6 and omega 3 fats of about 4 to 1. This means that for each part of omega 3 fats we eat, we should include a maximum of 4 parts of omega 6 fats.
The following oils are much higher in omega 6 fats than omega 3 and as a result, the oils are highly inflammatory.
- Cottonseed oil
- Palm oil
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower oil with less than 60% linoleic acids
- Safflower oil
- Rice bran oil
- Grape seed oil
- Coconut oil
- Corn oil
Best oils to use are extra virgin olive oil and canola oil. Flaxseed oil has a good balance of omega 3 and omega 6, but because it’s the smoking point is quite low, it should never be heated. Use it in salads.
We need fats, but we need good fats. By keeping in mind the following guidelines, you will be able to navigate through the oil maze at the supermarket and choose a good oil that will promote your health and won’t create disease:
- Buy organic oils
- Buy cold-pressed oils
- Do not buy oils that are much higher in omega 6s than omega 3s (see list above)
- Do not buy oils or products that contain partially hydrogenated oils.