Sometimes it’s easy to just categories things as good or bad. Good cholesterol – Bad cholesterol. Good people – Bad people. Other times it’s not so black or white and the lines are blurred into grey. This is true when it comes to fats.
In the past we haven’t been told the whole story. In fact, if you haven’t looked for the answers then it’s easy to continue believing that all poly and mono-unsaturated fat is good and all saturated fat is bad. The TRUTH is more complicated!!
Not all poly and mono unsaturated fats are good and not all saturated fats are bad. So, what do we need to look for and where do you look for the TRUTH?
MONO & POLYUNSATURATED FATS:
Let’s take a deep dive into the world of fats, starting with mono and poly unsaturated fats. Historically, mono and polyunsaturated fats have been painted as the heart healthy fats that Mediterranean people consume and live long energy rich lives. Monounsaturated fats are most commonly found in olive oil, almonds, pecans, cashews and avocados. These are generally cold pressed and liquid at room temperature. They have low levels of poly-unsaturated fats so are relatively stable. By stable, we mean they don’t oxidise or go rancid as easily as polyunsaturated oils. However, I would still recommend you keep them in a dark glass bottle or BPA-free can in a cool pantry. Do not keep them on the kitchen bench. The oils listed above that are monounsaturated are good choices. Note: Oxidised/rancid oils are toxic and are linked to inflammation and other health issues.
Canola oil is what we would call a modified mono-unsaturated fat. Canola oil doesn’t actually come from a canola plant. It comes from a genetically modified rapeseed plant that has been created to contain low levels of a toxin called ‘Eruric Acid.’ Eruric acid found in rapeseed is poisonous to a point that it can cause blistering of the lungs and skin. It is for this reason rapeseed was banned for sale in the US in 1956. However, over a period of 20 years the food industry was working to create a cheaper oil like olive oil. They discovered a way through GMO, selective breeding and highly processing rapeseed they could achieve a similar mono unsaturated ratio to olive oil. Unfortunately, all the processes like bleaching, hydrogenation, dewaxing, emulsification etc. leave it highly oxidised and potentially toxic. Also, rapeseed wasn’t very appealing so they decided to call it canola oil. This is not the best choice. ☹
Polyunsaturated fats are less stable than their monounsaturated counterparts. This means they are likely to be more oxidised or damaged and may cause more harm than good. Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn, cottonseed, soybean and flaxseed. These oils should be limited where possible. Although flaxseed is probably the exception as it contains a healthier polyunsaturated fat called alpha-linolenic acid. It should still be kept in a dark glass bottle and preferably in the fridge with the lid on tight.
Then we have saturated fats. The spawn of the devil. Made out to be a chronic killer and the main cause of heart disease that would plague our planet. A theory called the lipid hypothesis put forward by Ancel Keys in the 70’s demonising saturated fat stuck like glue for many decades and still has a grasp on some folk today. Although his theory has now been disproven, it helped set a low-fat policy in the 1970’s that saw us consuming 7-11 serves of starchy carbohydrates per day. It created an industry for low fat everything and any fats used or consumed were to be poly and monounsaturated.
The truth couldn’t be more polarising. In fact, for the better part of 2 million years or whenever homo sapiens branched away from homo erectus we have been eating saturated fat. We not only survived on saturated fat but we thrived on it. Saturated fat was more stable and easier to acquire than mono and polyunsaturated fats which often required processing. In fact, one could argue that our population has become plagued by escalating chronic disease since we started reducing fat and especially saturated fat.
Let’s see if you were paying attention. This means we accumulate more fat, to hold onto toxins. So, if we eliminate toxins we lose body fat easier.
So, what saturated fat is good and what is bad?
Let’s start with animal fats. Animal fats are a reliable source of saturated fat if the animal is healthy. This means it was raised on its native diet preferably in the wild or at least in a clean stress free environment. When we are toxic, we store toxins we can’t eliminate in our fat tissue. Animals do the same. So, if you eat the fat from a toxic (unhealthy) animal you consume their toxins also. This applies to butter as well.
Vegetable sourced saturated fat like coconut oil & palm oil are great choices if they are cold pressed extra virgin oils. Make sure there is no discolouration and try to find an oil that is kept in a BPA (Biosphenol A) free plastic container or glass jar. BPA is a petrochemical that has been linked to inflammation, hormone dysregulation, mood irregularities and weight gain.
NOTE: Saturated fats generally have a higher smoke point so are good for cooking with where mono and polyunsaturated fats are generally better used as salad dressings etc.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF ADDED FAT TO YOUR DIET?
Every cell in your body has a lipid lining so the requirement for fat is essential. There are many benefits to a ketogenic (low carb and high fat) diet. In fact, ketosis (a natural state of burning fat in the absence of carbohydrates) has been used for decades to treat serious health conditions. These include Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s and now Cancer and Diabetes.
Some of the noticeable side benefits of a Ketogenic or lower carb higher fat diet (if done correctly) are reduced body fat, lower inflammation, improved energy, better sleep, elevated mood, improved mental cognition and greater hunger control.
Ketogenic diets can be hard to maintain as they are different to our standard way of living, so an alternative approach is a lower carb Intermittent Fasting (IF) approach (See IF article here). This kind of approach works well with the addition of coconut oil or MCT oil and Exogenous Ketones.
Exogenous ketones will help upregulate your metabolism and enhance your ability to use your own ketones (stored fat) as fuel. They also make it easier to stave off that hunger while fasting and/or low carb.
Even if you don’t use ketones, you might want to try increasing your fat intake while simultaneously lowering your carbohydrates. This approach has been shown time and time again to help reduce bodyfat and improve metabolic health.
Consider choosing the following fats…
Fats are not inherently good or bad but where you get them from, how you treat them, store them and use them can make a difference. Adding fat into your diet is often well received by your body provided you simultaneously reduce your carbohydrates at the same time. However, remember your long-term health and wellness goals will only be achievable if your nutrition plan is maintainable. This means you should make minor changes in steps that you can stick with and that are not to fundamentally different. Fats are essential for life and for health so be sure to choose fats that are going to help, not harm.
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and opinion. It is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should only be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 when advised and monitored by your qualified health care provider.