The Truth About Fats & Oils

James LiddellArticles, Food ManagementLeave a Comment

 fats-and-oils

Better with butter and crazy about coconuts

One cannot say that saturated fats are bad and that unsaturated fats are good. It is a question of balance. When chemicals derived from the one group are classified as pro-inflammatory and exceed their limits we set off inflammation. As a result, we need more of the anti-inflammatory chemicals (DHA & EPA) from the Omega3 group to reverse the process. Dietary fat sources only affect 20% of our total cholesterol profile whereas the other 80% is synthesized by the liver. We need cholesterol but not in excessive amounts that accumulate in reaction to an inappropriate carbohydrate intake. Coconut oil and butter are rich in calories but are more satisfying than wheat or sugar. The latest reports confirm that coconut oil, butter and high-fat dairy products are not associated with increased cholesterol, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders. Coconut oil contains unique medium chain fatty acids that are heart healthy. When heated, this oil tolerates high temperatures, has a delicious flavour, and has antimicrobial properties. According to blood type experts, large amounts of coconut oil are only recommended for blood type O2 (non-secretor) and blood type AB.

Butter, ghee and cream from cows – heart heaven!

Butter is a heart-healthy saturated fat. There is plenty of evidence to substantiate the benefits of butter. They have also found that the cholesterol found in butter fat is essential to the development of children’s brains and nervous systems. Butter contains selenium and anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage and cholesterol oxidization. Butter also contains some lecithin (a fat emulsifier also found in eggs) that is essential for cholesterol metabolism. Saturated fats in butter raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and change or reduce the LDL and triglyceride levels. Vitamin D found in butter is essential for the absorption of calcium. This helps to protect against heart disease as well as osteoporosis and tooth decay. It is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Vitamin K2. It also contains butyric (anti-inflammatory) and lauric acid (important for fungal infections and Candidiasis). Butter contains short- and medium chain fats that improve satiety and increase fat burning. Butter is a healthy fat as opposed to margarine that contains highly processed trans-fatty acids. It is a great source of a fatty acid called Conjugated Linoleic Acid that is a potent fat burner, an anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster. CLA is even sold commercially as a weight loss supplement.

General guidelines for cooking with fats and oils:

Oils that are the least damaged by heat and oxygen are: butter, coconut oil, palm fruit oil, sesame oil, canola oil, rice bran oil and olive oil. Ghee (butter that has the milk solids removed) can be heated to a higher temperature than butter. Other oils such as sunflower, walnut, hemp, pumpkin seed and flaxseed oil should not be heated. Rather enjoy them as they are on salads, in sauces or mixed with food. Heat destroys the healing properties of their vitamin E and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. When heated above 150°C unsaturated fats become mutagenic (damage genes). Trans-fats begin to form between 160°C to 220°C .

Margarine – good for nothing!

By bubbling hydrogen through vegetable oil at high temperature using nickel or cadmium as a catalyst, you can make fake butter – a solid fat that will not go rancid and is cholesterol free! The new fake fat was called margarine. It is the worst type of fat or oil to eat because it is high in trans-fatty acids that are harmful to the body. The heart Foundation promotes it for heart health despite the fact that the toxic trans-fats it contains promote inflammation.

Plant based sources of Omega 3 and 6 oils, EPH and DHA

Olive oil

Virgin cold pressed olive oil contains the best combination of monounsaturated fats and is rich in nutrients known asphenols. This oil is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and helps to control high blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Apart from being so healthy, it tastes delicious! Extra virgin oil is rich in natural plant antioxidants that can protect us against damaging free radicals. Olive oil has been found to lower the risk of heart disease and breast Cancer. The refined clear olive oil is not as heart-healthy.

The truth about canola oil (Rapeseed)

Canola oil is good source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat and is very reasonably priced. It has the lowest saturated fat of any oil and ten times as much omega 3 as olive oil. It can be heated to high temperatures without degrading. Many people are prejudiced about the way it is grown and say it has been genetically modified. In South Africa this is not the case, so we can relax and enjoy the benefits of our locally lekker oil. Most of it is grown on farms in the Swellendam area.

Avocado pears and their oil

This oil is even higher in monounsaturates – the key fat in a healthy Mediterranean diet. In addition, it is a good source of vitamin E. It is slightly nutty flavour makes it good for drizzling, dipping and dressings. It has a higher smoking point than many oils, so can be used to grill,  sauté or stir-fry. It is expensive and not easy to find but it has a delicious flavour. Eating fresh avocado pears is often cheaper and preferable.

Pumpkin seeds and their oil

The oil from pumpkin seeds is very low in saturated fat with a good balance of mono and polyunsaturated fats, including omega 3 oil. It will stand up to low temperature heating (delicious for roasting vegetables) and its distinctive dark green colour looks great drizzled over food. It is expensive. The oil does not contain the same high levels of zinc, iron or magnesium that the seeds have.

Walnuts and their oil

Walnut oil is mainly monounsaturated fat and provides some omega 3s, but no more than rapeseed oil. It is expensive but due to its powerful flavour, only a drizzle is needed to flavour food and salad dressings. The flavour degrades at high temperatures and it is not suitable for cooking. Once opened, it deteriorates rapidly so it needs to be stored in a cool, dark cupboard.

Seaweed and marine algae

The microscopic algae that make DHA are consumed by fish and krill. For vegans, seaweeds have fairly high amounts of general Omega 3. They are also one of the only vegan foods, which also have EPA and DHEA.   Spirulina (58mg Omega 3, 88 mg Omega 6 per tablespoon) is one of the best choices. Popular seaweeds include wakame, duse, kombu and nori.  Miso, a salty Japanese soup is made from kombu seaweed. The green wrap around your sushi comes from dried nori seaweed. All these marine vegetables have higher levels of omega 3 than omega 6 and are rich in key minerals such as iodine, iron and calcium. Linseed (flaxseed) oil delivers a much richer source of omega 3 than any other oil. It must be used raw and can become oxidised (rancid) if you do not keep it in a cool, dark place. A study based on patients consuming 30g of ground-up flaxseeds for 6 months showed all round improvements in blood pressure and reduced cholesterol and oxylipins (oxidised fats – including Omega 3.

Chia seeds

A single ounce of chia seeds packs in 4915mg of Omega 3 but just 1620mg of Omega 6. They are also loaded with calcium (1oz=18% RDA), fibre, and manganese. The seeds can be soaked in water and will swell up. Eating them helps us to improve blood sugar, lower cholesterol and relieve constipation. They are rich in tryptophan that is the precursor of essential neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Purslane- highest plant Omega 3

Purslane is a weed found growing in vegetable gardens. It has small round succulent leaves that are slimy when squashed. They have a pleasant oily sharp flavour with the highest levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats of any edible plant. They have 10 to 20 times more melatonin than any other fruit or vegetable tested.

Evening Primrose oil

Evening Primrose Oil provides high levels of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). We normally convert it from Omega3 oils such as flaxseed or fish oil.

Hempseed oil

Hempseed oil, a member of the cannabis family, has a 3:1ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of vitamins A, C and E (tocopherol) and beta-carotene. The aliphatic alcohols it contains help to lower inflammation, cholesterol and reduce platelet aggregation. The seeds are very nutritious and high in minerals, fibre and protein.

Red or virgin palm oil

This red oil is high in beta-carotene and can help to lower the risk of blood clots and atherosclerosis, improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad, normalize blood pressure, protect against several forms of cancer and protect against the damaging effects of radiation. It is a rich source of Vitamin E, vitamin A (beta-carotene, tocotrienols, and alpha-carotene) CoQ10 and lycopene. There is an equal mixture of saturated and unsaturated fat (40% of the total) – 10% of it is polyunsaturated fatty acid. Red palm oil is very heat stable and highly resistant to oxidation.

Now you have a good idea of fats and oils. Get to know them and use the right ones so that you can enjoy the healthy benefits of good oils.

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Dr James Liddell is an Integrated Healthcare Specialist (B.Pharm; M.Pharm; PhD; SAPC and PSSA registered) specialising in integrating different disciplines of healthcare to ensure holistic healthcare solutions. With 25 years experience as a Pharmacist, Dr of Nutrition and Complementary & Alternative Medicine Healthcare Practitioner, he believes lifestyle is ultimately the key to optimal health; a good nutritional foundation combined with sound emotional health are the fundamentals to what he calls ‘the optimal health zone’.

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