NOTE: Gardening and preserving is keeping me pretty busy these days. A few articles that bear repeating will fill in the gaps on the days when the to-do list is too long. This post was originally published in July 2009.

After mentioning that vegetable oils were bad I was recently asked “which fats can I eat?” It is not surprising that we are all confused with the low-fat/saturated fat hysteria going on. So I thought I’d share with you the types of fats that we use in our home along with the ones that we try to avoid. First there are a few things you should know about fats…

Good Fats Won’t Make You Fat

The opposite can be true, in fact. Yep – eating more fat can help you lose weight. So why have we been told that eating fat, particularly saturated animal fats, will make us gain weight? Scientifically speaking this doesn’t make a lot of sense. What we need to be looking at is insulin levels and their effect on fat storage…

After a meal is digested, insulin levels should decline. When this happens, fat is released from the fat tissue in the form of fatty acids and these are then burned in cells for fuel. For this reason, another necessary requirement for remaining lean is to have lengthy periods during which insulin levels are low and we burn our fat for fuel. When insulin levels remain elevated, fat can’t escape from the fat tissue. It goes in, but it doesn’t come out, and we can’t use it for energy. A meal without carbohydrates is a meal that doesn’t stimulate any significant insulin secretion. You store very few, if any, calories as fat, and you get plenty of opportunity to burn the fat you had stored.

source Personally I have found that by eating traditional fats liberally and cutting out sugar, grains and fruit (which spike insulin) I am able to lose weight more easily.

Saturated Fat Will Not Kill You

  • Saturated = each carbon in a chain has all of it’s hydrogens, therefore there are no double or triple bonds.
  • Unsaturated = a double or triple bond exists somewhere in the carbon chain.

Scientifically speaking anything that is unsaturated is less stable than it’s saturated counterparts. Unstable fats go rancid easily. Rancid fats create free radicals in the body which in turn causes inflammation, heart problems and cancer. For years the lipid hypothesis has been touted as fact, when from the start it has been proven not only wrong, but completely detrimental to our health. If you look back into history you will see that the epidemic of heart disease began in the 1920s and 1930s – right around the same time we began to lower our consumption of saturated fat and switch to vegetable oils instead. Coincidence? I think not.

Consider the Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

Another factor in determining a healthy fat is its omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio. Ideally you want an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of no more than 4:1, with 2:1 or less being the ideal. Lets do a comparison of the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio shall we? Stephan at Whole Health Source did a great comparison in his article on the causes of coronary heart disease.

  • Grass-fed butter (not just organic) – 1.4
  • Beef tallow – 2.4
  • Leaf lard – 6.8
  • Corn oil – 45
  • Cottonseed oil – 260

It is currently suspected that the average American has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of at least 17:1. Everyone is on the fish oil bandwagon right now, and for good reason – it’s a great supplement. But one key piece of information that has been left out is that omega-3 fatty acids are best absorbed when taken into the body alongside saturated fat such as butter. (source) So… that leaves us with two lists:

Fats To Eat

Fats To Avoid

  • Soy oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Canola Oil (GMO, can contain trans fatty acids and can cause heart lesions)
  • Hydrogenated Oils
  • Most other vegetable oils, especially when not cold pressed (they are rancid and therefore a carcinogen)

So eat your coconut oil, butter and other saturated fats from grass-fed animals and know that you’re doing your body a favor.

Which fats do you favor?