The word “fat” is used in multiple references and is truly misunderstood. For many of us we see fats negatively: associating them with weight gain and heart disease but in actuality, our bodies rely on a certain fats to properly function. Our cells are encapsulated by fat membranes, fats help us to absorb vitamins A, E, D, and K, they can help our brains communicate with our body, not to mention the energy they provide us. With all the complicated terms that surround fats; mono saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, hydrogenated, it’s no wonder there is so much confusion!! So…lets clear the weeds and expose some clarity to these vital but misunderstood nutrients.
Saturated V.S. Unsaturated??
Saturated fat refers to the chemical composition of a fat, meaning it is saturated with Hydrogen atoms, making it’s bonds strong. For most of us, that means nothing and we can easily recognize this fat as solid at room temperature. These fats are able to withstand higher cooking temperatures giving them a higher melting point ( i.e.; butter and coconut oil). Unsaturated fats on the other hand, fall on the opposite end of the spectrum with a much more delicate chemical composition. They are liquid at room temperature and take less heat to destroy their nutritional quality (i.e.; canola and olive oil).
What are the healthiest fats?
Plant based oils such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil or avocado oil are unsaturated fats full of many essential nutrients and are healthy to have in moderation. Because these oils are liquid at room temperature, they are safer to use on salads or with very low heat for cooking. On the saturated end of the spectrum, fats such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the healthier choice. These oils are a safer choice for cooking because they can withstand higher temperatures without destroying the nutritional value.
Fats to stay away from!!
Hydrogenated fats are fats that have been chemically manipulated using high temperatures to turn a liquid (unsaturated fat) into a solid (saturated fat). This process is most commonly found in margarine and many processed and fried foods you find on the grocery store shelves and in restaurants (often described as a “trans fat”) This has been a great way for manufactures to claim that food is free of unsaturated fats, when in fact it behaves exactly like a saturated fat in the body (overconsumption leading to plaque buildup in the arteries).
Things to look for when buying cooking oils:
Cold Pressed: Cold pressed oils have been extracted in cool, temperature-controlled environments so the oil preserves its beneficial properties.
Extra Virgin: If you’re not able to buy organic (free of chemicals) look for the extra-virgin labelling to find a higher quality product. Extra-virgin olive oil must be produced by mechanical means and cannot reach temperatures higher than 30 C (86 F).
Unrefined: When oils are refined, they may be mixed with a harmful chemical base.
Now that we have a better understanding on the good vs bad fats, don’t be fooled by false marketing claims and be sure like anything to consume all fats in moderation..even good fats can be harmful when over consumed.
Embrace, appreciate and enjoy your fats!!