No one wants to be fat, but eating fat does not necessarily make us fat. Essential fatty acids keep tissues fluid in the body, having a positive, liquid, flexible affect. Like the saying, “a well oiled machine,” our bodies need fat to function. Fat can be either saturated (solid at room temperature) or unsaturated (always in a liquid state). Trans fats are of a different nature entirely (pun not intended). They are detrimental as opposed to essential to our health. Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat that has been hydrogenated to remain solid at room temperature. Trans fat is used in a plethora of processed foods as a hardening agent that also extends shelf life. Let’s look at peanut butter as an example. Brands such as Skippy or Peter Pan have hydrogenated oil. The oil never separates from the peanut solids, hence they don’t need to be stirred or refrigerated. They last forever. When you open a jar of real peanut butter, the oil that naturally separated from the peanut solids needs to be stirred back in. Real, natural peanut butter will perish if it isn’t stored in the refrigerator.
Our bodies know how to process plant and animal fats, but think about what happens when we eat fat that has been hydrogenated. Picture that jar of Skippy that has an infinite shelf life. Now think of it in your internal organs; it never really goes away. When consumed, hydrogenated oils become part of our cells membranes, raising blood insulin and LDL cholesterol levels, also interfering with the livers ability to detoxify the body. I’m sure you have heard or read that the consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Here is my highly abbreviated, biochemical explanation of why this is indeed true. HDL and LDL are the carriers of cholesterol. HDL is named the “good” type because it carries cholesterol away from your arteries and back to the liver to be processed. Conversely, LDL is labeled “bad” because it transports cholesterol from the arteries towards the heart. I chose to eat marbled steak, pork butt and full fat yogurt on occasion, but refuse to eat margarine, non-dairy whipped dessert toppings, non-dairy coffee creamers and tub cake frostings. Although you certainly don’t want to eat animal fat in excess, at least it is real. Fat that has been tampered with also tampers with your body. As I mentioned before, products containing hydrogenated fat tend to be solid, not liquid. If you see a product with one of the following words in its description: Chewy, Creamy, Lite, No animal fat, No cholesterol, there is a good chance it contains hydrogenated oil.
Vegetable Oils (minimally processed or cold pressed)
Vegetable Shortening (hydrogenated oil)
Earth Balance – I put this vegan buttery spread in a category by itself, because essentially it is dairy free margarine made from soybeans, palm, canola and olive oils, with the addition of natural flavor and color. Although the ingredients are certified non-GMO and none of the oils are hydrogenated, to me, it just isn’t real and I like to stay away from it.
Olean (synthetic fat)
MY FAVORITE FATS
Avocado – Rich and creamy, melt-in-your mouth fruit that is high in “good” monosaturated fat and contains little to no sugar or starch. Avocado pairs perfectly with citrus and spice (heat). Avocados ripen after then have been picked, so buy them a few days in advance and keep them out on your countertop and out of the fridge to maintain the integrity of their flavor and texture.
Bacon – It tastes great and it’s real. Try these brands: Applegate’s Natural Sunday Bacon, Niman Ranch
Coconut – When it comes to saturated fat, coconut oil is the easiest for our bodies to digest. Coconuts contain lauric acid, which is also found in breast milk. Coconut oil is cooling and incredibly soothing to the body. It is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Coconut oil improves digestion and nutrient absorption, supplies fewer calories than other fats, supports immune system function, helps prevent premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.
Milk – grass-fed, unhomogenized
Olive Oil – A great source of vitamin E and other antioxidants
Founder & Chef, HFR Living