CHOOSING HEALTHY FATS
CHOOSING HEALTHY FATS
The reason I wanted to emphasis, choosing healthy fats, what fats to use is because as I was coming home from my last camping adventure, I received a text from my good friend who wanted to know if pumpkin seed oil was healthy.
There is so much misinformation out there about canola oils and seed oils, neither of which I have in my home for a reason.
This is the component you want to increase the most (while decreasing carbohydrates) to help protect against heart disease. Especially important are saturated fatty acids (SFAs). Saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, ghee, tallow and lard are protective against oxidation and inflammation and have many other important health benefits. I will have a post on fats coming soon to expand on this topic in greater detail. Studies like This one published in the Journal of Nutrition 2004 showed that saturated fat from MCT oil (medium-chain fats similar to those in coconut oil) and beef tallow reduced alcohol-induced liver damage when substituted for polyunsaturated corn oil.
In fact, they replaced 20 percent, 45 percent, or two-thirds of the corn oil with saturated fat and found that the more saturated fat they used, the greater the protective effect. So saturated fat can be protective against one of this biggest risk factors for CAD, fatty liver disease. Here is another recent study showing the protective affects of coconut oil. There are several good oils that can be very helpful in reducing your CAD risk. Also, the higher the saturated fat content the better. Here are the best oils:
- Coconut oil: 1.9% PUFA (92% saturated fatty acids (SFA)
- Palm kernel oil 2% PUFA, (82% SFA)
- Cocoa Butter: 3% PUFA (60% SFA)
- Beef Tallow: 3.1% PUFA (49.8% SFA)
- Ghee: 4% PUFA (48% SFA)
- Butter: 3.4% PUFA (50% SFA)
- High Oleic Sunflower oil (9% PUFA)
- Macadamia oil: 10% PUFA (15% SFA)
- Avocado oil: 10% PUFA (11% SFA)
- Lard: 12% PUFA (with 41% SFA)
- Duck fat: 13% PUFA (with 25% SFA)
- Hazelnut Oil: 14% PUFA (with 10% SFA)
- Almond oil: 17% PUFA (with 8.2% SFA)
- Olive oil: 9.9% PUFA (with 14% saturated fat) (although this one should never be used for cooking which will cause oxidation. So only use in dressings, etc.)
So we should be consuming lots of these oils in order to reduce our CAD risk (as well as a huge number of other health benefits). Many studies have shown that the higher the saturated fat intake in the diet leads to less fat in the bloodstream (source). Where as the same study showed that low fat diets where carbs were high, had higher fat in the bloodstream.
There are two kinds of fats that should be avoided. The most inflammatory fat is Trans Fatty Acids (transfat). Transfats are one of the worst substances we can consume for our overall health. There are many studies that show the heart disease and cancer risks of transfat (source, source, and many more for cancer, source and source). Even the FDA has stated that “Further reducing trans fat consumption by avoiding artificial trans fat could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attacks and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.” Here is a list of transfats to avoid:
- Vegetable Shortening
- Ingredients that list Hydrogenated (fully or partially) Oils
Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s) are also bad oils as they are easily oxidated. This means they are very susceptible to oxidative damage, the thing that increases our CAD risk. There are many PUFA oils and here is a short list:
- Grapeseed oil: 70.6% PUFA
- Sunflower oil: 68% PUFA
- Flax oil: 66% PUFA
- Safflower oil: 65% PUFA
- Corn oil: 54.6% PUFA
- Walnut oil: 53.9% PUFA
- Cottonseed oil: 52.4% PUFA
- Vegetable oil (soybean oil): 51.4% PUFA
- Sesame oil: 42% PUFA
- Peanut oil: 33.4% PUFA
- Canola oil: 19% PUFA
What has happened over the last 100 years is a huge increase in PUFA consumption and a reduction in other good fats (like saturated fat). Here is a chart showing the increase in PUFA consumption in the US.
It is my belief that this is a big contributor to our increase in heart disease. So it is imperative to reverse this trend if we want to reduce the incidence of heart disease.
Note: PUFAs are essential fatty acids, so we do need them in our diet. When it comes to PUFAs, the type and how you handle them is very important. When using PUFAs, try to use them without heating too much (salad dressings, etc) to keep them from being oxidized and store them in the refrigeration to keep them from getting rancid (omega-3s like fish oil, flax, etc). The ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s should be closer to 1-to-1, but today many people eat a 1-to-20 or even 1-to-50 ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s. Omega-6s are also inflamitory when consuming too many and Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. So it is important to make dietary fat intake from more saturated fats and less PUFAs and make the PUFAs we do eat a ratio closer to 1-to-1 of Omega-3s to Omega-6s. (Lots more about this Here)
There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). Some of these are obvious (quit smoking, reduce stress, increase physical activity). But nutrition can be the largest factor (preventing as much as 90% of heart attacks). The biggest nutritional contributor to CAD risk is sugar. High fructose corn syrup and fructose are particularly bad but all sugars will contribute and should be eliminated as much as possible. Other starchy foods also contribute to oxidative damage and inflammation so keep starchy food consumption as low as possible also helps CAD risk. Lastly, the good fats (saturated fats, coconut oil, MCT oil, ghee, butter, tallow and cocoa butter) are very protective against oxidative damage and inflammation and should be consumed in high quantities in order to reduce your risk of CAD. The bad fats are the transfats should be completely avoided. PUFA’s should be limited and kept at a 1-to-1 ratio with Saturated fats or less. Eating lots of good fats, moderate amounts of protein and very low carbs (especially sugars) are the best ways to reduce your CAD risk. In addition supplementing with CoQ10 can help decrease oxidation and improve heart health.