Best and Worst Fats and Oils

How to know which fats and oils are the best for you?

As with all areas of nutrition the science of fats and oils is complex and controversial.   However the simple principle of eating mostly fresh, whole plant foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains), with as little processing as possible, is the best guide to consuming good sources of fats.  Animal fats also, such as butter, are best in their least processed forms. 

Despite all the bad press about saturated fats, we need a balance of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Plant food generally provide the best forms of these, although free-range eggs and predatory fish (such as tuna, salmon and mackerel) can give us high amounts of the essential fatty acids.  Flax and hemp seeds also provide useful essential fats, but must be in a fresh form (freshly ground or as high-quality oil).

For more info on the healthiest cooking oils, check out my healthy cooking oil list.

I have been studying this subject of fats and oils in the past month.  ‘Fats and Oils’ by Udo Erasmus is an excellent reference and makes easy and interesting reading for the less scientific-minded. 

Many modern foods contain forms of fats which cause havoc in our bodies.  Udo Erasmus quotes studies which show that consuming the wrong type of fats, or not consuming enough good fats, increases the risk of degenerative disease even more than eating too much fat overall. The big fat to avoid is trans-fat.

What is the fuss about Trans-fats?

Perhaps you may have heard of ‘trans’ fats.  These are fats that have been through processes so extreme that their molecular structure has been fundamentally altered.  Our bodies use them as if they were normal fatty acids, incorporating some of them cell walls. 

The problem is that chemically they function in way which impede normal cell function.  Nutrients are not absorbed efficiently into cells; toxins are not removed efficiently; electro-chemical signals are impeded.  Rather than ‘lubricating’ body processes as  good fats will, these abnormal fats tend to glug them up. 

These nasties are in many processed foods.  Many food labels now she the content of trans fats.  Soon it will be mandatory in the US to declare the content of trans fats on food packaging labels, and we hope it will become law in New Zealand as well. 

 

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