One of the most widely misunderstood food groups today, oils and fats can be both crucial and detrimental to your health, depending on what type they are and how they are processed.
But with so many inconsistencies and mistruths emerging from health authorities and the mainstream media on the issue, it is difficult for many people to effectively decipher between the two. So to help clarify, here are six important facts you need to know about oils and fats that will change the way you view this food category, and hopefully improve the health of you and your family:
1) Saturated fats are important for brain health. Butter, coconut oil, lard, and various other types of saturated fat are constantly being demonized as artery-cloggers and heart-stoppers, but nothing could be further from the truth. A large percentage of your brain is composed of both saturated fat and cholesterol, which means this vital organ needs saturated fat in order to function properly. Omega-3 fatty acids, which have gained considerable attention in recent years for their importance in brain health, actually require the presence of saturated fats for proper assimilation.
Similarly, your bones require saturated fats as well in order to effectively transport bone-building calcium and other important minerals throughout your body. And in the case of grass-fed animal fat and coconut oil, saturated fats impart natural antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral benefits to your body, as well as necessary lauric, myristic, and caprylic acids, all of which are crucial for boosting immunity and fighting off infections.
2) Most vegetable oils are unhealthy, cause systemic inflammation. On the flip side, vegetable oils like soy, canola (rapeseed), safflower, sunflower, and corn, all of which are touted in the mainstream as healthy alternatives to traditional saturated fats, promote chronic inflammation throughout the body. Science continues to show that mono and polyunsaturated oils are loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, an abundance of which can lead to chronic pain and disease. Substituting vegetable oil in place of saturated fat also deprives your body of the fat it truly needs to stay healthy.
3) Many oils go rancid when cooked with high heat. Many Americans consider olive oil to be one of the healthiest oils available, and rightly so, as this plant-based fat can help prevent heart disease and protect bones. But olive oil can also go rancid or even become toxic when heated above about 374 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) because it is in a class of oils with a low smoke point. Other low smoke point oils include macadamia nut oil (around 392 degrees Fahrenheit) and flax seed oil (around 225 degrees Fahrenheit), and most unrefined oils.
4) Canola oil almost always contains dangerous trans fatty acids. Canola oil was first introduced into the American market back in the 1980s, and major food corporations like Cargill have spent countless millions convincing people that it is healthy. But what the industry has failed to mention is the fact that the processing techniques used to refine canola oil almost always produce harmful trans fatty acids as a byproduct. In fact, tests in animals have shown that canola oil consumption can lead to vitamin E deficiency.
"[M]ost of the omega-3s in canola oil are transformed into trans fats during the deodorization process," explains a Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) piece on the dangers of canola oil. "[R]esearch continues to prove that the saturates (in saturated fat) are necessary and highly protective," it adds, noting that canola oil is a monounsaturated fat.
5) Many of the oils recommended by health authorities are genetically-modified (GM). Another factor to consider in the pursuit of healthy oils and fats is whether or not they have been genetically-modified (GM). Many of the oils and fats recommended by health authorities as superior -- these include canola, soy, corn, and cottonseed -- are made from GMOs, which are increasingly being linked to causing organ damage, digestive problems, and cancer.
Most of the healthiest oils and fats available, on the other hand, are non-GMO, but some of them you may not have heard of as they are largely ignored by the mainstream. These include hemp, macadamia, sesame, pumpkin seed, walnut, almond, pecan, flax seed, avocado, and coconut oils, all of which have their own unique health properties.
6) Many 'cold pressed' cooking oils have been heated, treated with toxic chemicals. The idea behind so-called "cold pressed" oils is that they are healthier and have more of their nutrients intact as a result of not being heated. But according to Dr. Udo Erasmus, author of the book Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, many cooking oils labeled as "cold pressed" have actually been cooked or treated with toxic solvent chemicals like hexane, rendering them potentially toxic.
The best and safest cooking oils, he says, are those that are expeller pressed using low temperatures, and pressed from organic seeds and nuts. True non-denatured oils will also be protected from light, oxygen, and heat during the production process, and usually come in solid, dark glass bottles that are labeled "unrefined."