Fats and oils
We get fats from a wide range of natural sources, like dairy, egg yolks, beef dripping, lard, coconut, avocado, olives and many varieties of nut and seed oils.
We simply cannot live, or function without eating fat. Fats (known as lipids) insulate us and protect our organs from trauma; they form our cell membranes (the semi-permeable layer that surrounds each and every cell); and they circulate in the blood, bringing energy to our cells and providing 60% of our energy when we’re resting (if we are metabolically healthy).
Fats provide the cholesterol which helps to manufacture and balance our hormones and helps to transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K around our body to reach our cells.
Fats also provide important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which we aren’t able to make ourselves, helping to protect our vision, nervous system and their balance is important to manage and reduce inflammation.
In food, fats give us flavour, aroma and they slow down the digestion of other nutrients, helping to stabilise our blood sugar and keeping us feeling fuller for longer.
Fats – are they friend or foe?
We’ve all heard the terms ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats. For decades, conventional dietary wisdom has demonised traditional saturated fats (butter, cream, egg yolks, beef dripping and coconut oil) on the basis that these are ‘bad’ fats are not good for our hearts or our waistlines.
Instead, we’ve been encouraged to eat polyunsaturated fats like margarine, spreads and vegetable and seed oils, on the basis that these ‘good’ fats are healthier for our hearts.
However, most foods are made up of some combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are liquid fats – vegetable oil, sunflower oil, nut oils and seed oils. These fats have been strongly promoted as heart-healthy.
However, some authorities have always argued that these PUFAs are in fact very harmful to our health and should be reduced or avoided. Food-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play an important role in the development of problems associated with aging – reduced immunity, insomnia, decreased learning ability, substitution of fat for muscle, susceptibility to tissue peroxidation and inflammation, growth of tumours, etc., and are probably involved in most other health problems, even in children.
The negative impact of excess and imbalanced PUFAs on the body is wide-ranging; they decrease the ability of the cell to produce energy and, as well as promoting ageing, they negatively impact thyroid function, interfere with digestive enzymes and are strongly implicated in the development of diabetes.
The molecular structure of PUFAs is unstable and these oils rapidly oxidise (think rust) and go rancid and toxic on exposure to light and heat (even at very low temperatures), promoting the development of free radicals in the body, triggering inflammation and accelerating the ageing process.
While many of us have been using vegetable and sunflower oils, nut oils (and more recently rapeseed oil) for cooking for many years, the unstable properties of these fats actually make them very unsuitable for cooking.
Many of the chronic, degenerative problems that plague us today can be traced back to our modern Western diet with its very high and pro-inflammatory PUFA content, and indeed, many authorities now explicitly caution against their use for cooking.