By Sheila Dobson, NC
The following list discusses “healthy fats” and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats are important components of our diets. Take care to choose high quality, and if at all possible, organic oils.
- Avocados – a rich source of unsaturated fat, mostly oleic acid. Oleic acid is a the stable monounsaturated fat.
- Seed oils such as Hempseed oil and Flax oil – they should be cold pressed and ideally unrefined; they should be stored in opaque containers and refrigerated because they spoil easily; these are not to be used for cooking but rather as condiments or ingredients in raw, unheated foods.
- Avoid most all other seed oils such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean and cottonseed oils. These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids which are unstable. Therefore they oxidize readily when you cook with them and they are not shelf stable for long either. They should never be consumed after baking, frying, or heating in any way. Excess omega-6 oils in the diet are harmful, whether rancid or oxidized or not, and that is another reason to avoid these oils, as all have over 50% of their total fats as omega-6 fats. High oleic versions of these oils are available, which makes them more like olive oil, but it is hard to find these oils cold-pressed.
- Olive oil – extra virgin, cold-pressed and preferably from a smaller manufacturer. Olive oil contains 75% oleic acid, and a modest amount of saturated fat as well. But choose products carefully! In recent years it has come to light that many olive oil producers in Italy have been cutting their product with lower quality refined olive oil. The country of Italy actually exports more olive oil than they produce! The problem is so bad that by some estimates as much as 80% of the products on the grocery store shelves are adulterated oils. So the knowledgeable shopper needs to look for olive oils from local producers if you are in an area where olives can be grown, or smaller California or South American producers. Also, taste and smell your olive oil; if it doesn’t taste and smell good to you — return or exchange it. I have found the Lucini brand to be reliable and available locally for me. You may wish to visit bestoliveoils.org to find a good quality oil you can trust.
- Other seed oils: Peanut oil and Sesame oil are similar in their content of oleic acid (around 45%) and saturated fat (around 15%). These oils are relatively stable and can be used for frying therefore. However, both oils are still high in omega-6’s and thus should not be used extensively. Sesame oil is rich in antioxidants which offer some protection from rancidity and oxidation due to heating.
- Full fat dairy such as
- heavy cream, cheese, full-fat yogurt and milk – preferably raw milk sour creme, cultured cream
- Butter or ghee
(Notes: a serving for the dairy items is 4 oz except for butter for which a serving is 1-2 tablespoons, the same as with the seed oils. Bellwether Farms is a good brand for yogurt, cultured cream and other cultured dairy, and they offer sheep and goat milk products.)
- Sardines (they contain a fair bit of fat so they also count as a fat; buy them packed in water or oil, but avoid eating the oils as these are mostly low quality oils; Wild Planet is a good brand)
- Fatty meats such as beef, lamb or chicken with the fat/skin on, and tallow, goose/duck fat, chicken fat and lard. Eat the fat on meat only if it is good quality meat. In most cases this means it is organic but not necessarily exclusively organic. Some meat is high quality and the farmer has simply not gone through the rigors of the organic certification process. With low quality meats, by which I mean mainly the factory farmed and feedlot meats, the toxin content in the fats will be higher than in the meat since toxins tend to accumulate in fat. If lower quality or conventionally farmed meat is the only meat you can find or afford, you do still need to eat some of the fat, but you will want to limit the amount.
- Almond butter — roasted or raw — preferrably sprouted first then ground (but these products tend to be pricey), also sesame butter/tahini. Nut butters can be rancid on the shelf when you buy them, so try to find freshly ground nut butter. Some experts say to avoid peanut butter which tends to be contaminated with fungus, and some say this is not a concern. It may be an individual matter.
- Hummus (contains olive oil and tahini) – ideally make your own so that you know the quality of the ingredients used
- Eggs – buy pasture raised eggs if possible as these contain as much as 3-4 times the nutrient levels such as vitamin K2, D and E compared to conventionally farmed eggs
This is not a complete list of healthy fats but it is a good start. In general, the faster the oxidation rate, the more healthy fats a person needs. A healthy fast oxidizer generally needs a minimum of two tablespoons of extra fats added to foods for each of three meals daily. A mildly slow oxidizer may need close to this amount! A moderately slow to extremely slow oxidizer usually will need from 2 to 4 tablespoons of healthy fats added to the diet each day. These are general guidelines only! The amount of additional fats beyond what is already in one’s food which a person needs to add to their meals is best determined on an individual basis.
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FATS AND OILS FOR HEALTH AND HEALING. (n.d.). Drlwilson.com. Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://drlwilson.com/Articles/FATS.htm