Myths about Fats:
- All fats are bad for you.
- A fat-free diet is an important part of any weight loss program.
- Cardiovascular disease is linked to consumption of dietary fats, especially cholesterol.
- Partially hydrogenated fats keep food fresh longer and are therefore healthy.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended a low-fat diet for years which changed how and what we ate. Many people still believe fat is bad. Research now refutes this completely.
Your body needs fat!
- Fat supplies energy for your body, just like protein and carbohydrates.
- Fat is part of every cell in our body, and your brain is about 60% fat.
- Fats provide essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t make.
- Fat has a role in regulating hormones, body temperature, immune function, reproduction, insulin signaling, and nutrient absorption.
- Vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins and rely on fat for absorption.
- Fat provides padding for internal organs and it is needed for healthy nerves.
- Fat makes us feel full, and fat, most importantly, carries flavors.
There are four common types of fat: saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fat, and trans fat.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and the type of fat found in red meat, dairy, and coconut oil. Mother’s milk is more than 50% fat and mostly saturated fat. We need some saturated fats but we want to avoid saturated fats exposed to high heat or chemical contamination. Cooking meat at a high temperature causes chemicals called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form. These carcinogens can cause changes in DNA that can lead to cancer. (This does not happen to blackened vegetables. They don’t have the combination of creatine and sugar found in meats, nor do vegetables have the fat drippings that smoke up into the other grilling-induced carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).)
- Well-done meat has 3.5 times more HCA than medium-rare meat.
- When you compare different types of meats, the highest concentration of cancer causing chemicals comes from bacon.
- The second highest is from fried pork, followed by beef, and then chicken.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in most vegetable oils including sunflower, corn, flaxseed, and soybean oils. Polyunsaturated fat is liquid at both room and refrigerated temperatures and it is heat sensitive. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant foods and some fish. Omega-6s and Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats. Omega-6 is found in most vegetable oils, some seed oils, and commercial dairy and beef (because of the animals’ diet). Omega-3s are found in cold-water fish and oils like flax, pastured chicken, dairy and beef.
Monounsaturated fats are in-between saturated and polyunsaturated. These are oils like olive oil, almond, avocado, peanuts, and most other nuts. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats don’t raise total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol.
Research shows that people who eat a moderate or high fat diet lose just as much weight or more than people who eat a low-fat diet. Dietary fat doesn’t automatically convert to body fat. It is true that fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, but all calories aren’t the same. Excess calories from carbs and protein are also converted to fat. Fat slows down digestion and helps you to feel more satisfied after a meal.
Omega-6s are in processed, fast foods, beef, dairy and chicken and farmed fish. Omega-6s contribute to inflammatory processes. BUT, it is important to consume them in moderation and they must be balanced with omega-3s. Most people get very little omega-3 and far too much omega-6, most of which is badly damaged by oxidation due to processing.
One of the reasons your brain is so susceptible to aging and age-related diseases is because you have high quantities of these highly reactive, easily oxidized fatty acids in your brain. To maintain optimal brain function, you need high-quality, undamaged omega-3s and omega-6s along with antioxidants to protect them from oxidation.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are under-consumed. They are found in flax, hemp, pumpkin seeds, cold water fish, organic free-range grass-fed beef, chicken, and dairy. Omega-3s are also found in algae and walnuts. Omega-3s reduce inflammation, speed metabolism, lower cholesterol and triglycerides and keep the blood thinner and healthier. Omega-3s are necessary for brain development and function.
EPA and DHA are omega-3s and are primarily found in certain fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), is another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. EPA and DHA can lower triglyceride levels, help with the pain and stiffness of joints. Omega-3 fish oil supplements boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. There is research that shows high levels of omega-3s have lowered levels of depression and seems to boost the effects of anti-depressants and symptoms of bipolar disorder. DHA is important in the neurological development of infants.
Dark green vegetables like kale, chard, parsley are also sources of Omega-3. The milk of cows fed on grass, or the meat from grass-fed beef has good quantities of omega-3s not found in feed-lot animals. Goats nearly always graze on wild grasses and herbs, so the dairy products from these animals are generally better.
Trans fats are created by an industrial process that forces hydrogen atoms into liquid vegetable oils – hydrogenation. This process saturates the oils, making them more solid and giving them, and the products that are made with them, longer shelf life, desirable texture, and flavor stability. Trans fats are found in margarines, shortenings, crackers, cookies, chips, and other baked goods on your grocery store shelves. “Partially hydrogenated,” “hydrogenated,”or “shortening,” on the label means that the product contains trans fats.
Trans fats make free radicals which damage our cell membranes, slow metabolism, and harm the brain.
Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides. Due to their shorter chain length, medium-chain triglycerides are more rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body. This makes them a fast energy source and less likely to be stored as fat.
- MCTs raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is linked to reduced heart disease risk.
- Several populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of coconut. Research shows low heart disease among these populations.
- The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase how many calories you burn compared to the same amount of calories from longer chain fats.
- The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This could potentially help to prevent infections.
- The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may lead to reduced body weight over the long term.
- The MCTs in coconut oil can increase blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic children.
- A few studies have shown that coconut oil can raise blood levels of HDL cholesterol, which is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of heart disease.
- Coconut oil can also be applied topically, with studies showing it to be effective as a skin moisturizer and protecting against hair damage.
- Studies suggest that medium-chain triglycerides can increase blood levels of ketones, supplying energy for the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients and relieving symptoms.
Use coconut oil in homemade beauty products. Warm coconut oil between your palms and run the oil through your hair. Rinse it out for shiny, healthy-looking hair. You can also use coconut oil instead of lotion to moisturize dry skin.
- If you use coconut oil every day for beauty products, you may want to transfer some oil into a small container. You can store the smaller container in the bathroom if you know you’ll be using the oil quickly (within a week).
- Consider mixing coconut oil in with essential oils to create lip balms or salves.
How to Buy
There are no GMO varieties of coconuts, and there are very few pesticides used on coconut trees, although some do exist. Coconuts grow very high up in the air, however, so they are never sprayed.
There are two categories of coconut oils. Those that are mass produced at an industrial level and need to be refined, and those that start with fresh coconut and have much less refining. The process of extracting the oil from coconuts makes it “refined”. Look for “virgin coconut oil” – it is the least refined coconut oil.
The types of refined coconut oils one currently finds on the market include:
Expeller-pressed Coconut Oils: These are typically RBD (refined, bleached, deodorized) coconut oils produced in tropical countries through mechanical “physical refining” from copra, the unprocessed meat of the coconut. Physical refining is considered “cleaner” than chemical refining that uses solvent extracts like “hexane”.The “bleaching” is generally not a chemical process, but rather a filter process to remove impurities. A “bleaching clay” is used for this filtering. Steam is used to deodorize the oil, since the starting point was copra. So the resulting product has a very bland taste, with little or no odor.
Coconut Oil: If no description is given and just the plain term “coconut oil” is used, it is probably an RBD coconut.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil: This is the one refined coconut oil you want to stay away from as an edible oil. The small portion of unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated, creating some trans fats. It also keeps coconut oil solid at higher temperatures.
Liquid Coconut Oil: A new product that appeared in stores as an edible oil in 2013 was “liquid coconut oil” that is promoted as “coconut oil that stays liquid even in your refrigerator”. It is also referred to as “MCT oil“. It is “fractionated coconut oil” that has had lauric acid removed. It has typically been used in the past in skin care products, and more recently as a dietary supplement. It is a refined product that is now marketed as an edible oil.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: There is no difference between “virgin” and “extra virgin” like in the olive oil industry.
How to Store
Store the coconut oil in a dark container. If you purchased coconut oil that came in a clear jar or bottle, you can transfer it to a dark container to protect it from light or keep it in a dark cabinet. Avoid storing the coconut oil in reactive metal containers since these may add an undesirable flavor to the coconut oil.
Store the coconut oil in a cool, dry place. Place the coconut oil in a dry, cool space in your kitchen. Try to find a storage space that’s below 75 °F (24 °C) to prevent the oil from melting. It’s common for coconut oil to melt since it has such a low melting point. Don’t worry; this won’t damage the oil.
- Avoid storing the oil in the bathroom even if you’ll be using the coconut oil for beauty products. Bathroom temperature can fluctuate and introduce moisture into the oil. Use smaller containers, refill often so it doesn’t spoil.
Refrigerate the oil to firm it up. If your coconut oil melts and you want to return it to a solid state, place the container in the refrigerator for several hours. Chill the coconut oil until it’s the texture you want.
- You can store the coconut oil in the refrigerator all the time to keep it completely solid.
Check the coconut oil every few months. Since coconut oil can be stored for several years, it’s important to look it over for mold or signs that it’s become rancid. Look at the coconut oil every month or two and discard the coconut oil if you see or smell:
- An unpleasant odor.
- Yellowish color.
- Brown or green flecks of mold.
- Chunky or curdled consistency.
How to Cook
Cook and sauté with coconut oil. Use a few spoonfuls of coconut oil in place of cooking or vegetable oil. Melt a little of the coconut oil in a skillet and sauté your favorite vegetables or meats. You can also stir melted coconut oil into mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. The smoke point of coconut oil is 350. This is medium-high and good for sautéing and most baking. (The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which enough volatile compounds emerge when a bluish smoke becomes clearly visible from the oil.Something to avoid!)
Bake with coconut oil. Replace butter or cooking oil with coconut oil in your favorite baking recipes. For example, substitute coconut oil in recipes for biscuits, cakes, cookies, or muffins. When it comes to baking, coconut oil makes a wonderful substitute for butter and other oils, like olive oil. Regardless of the type of fat used in a recipe, you can swap in an equal amount of coconut oil.
- You may be able to buy coconut oil in stick form which makes it easy to cut and measure. Look for this in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. Set the sticks out at room temperature to soften a little before you bake with them.
- When mixed with cold ingredients, liquid coconut has a tendency to seize up and coagulate. The best way to prevent this from happening is to bring other ingredients, like milk and eggs, to room temperature before mixing ingredients together.
- Because coconut oil has a relatively high smoke point, it can also be used to grease cake pans, muffin tins, and baking dishes. Use a pastry brush or paper towel to spread a thin coating over the surface of bakeware.
Everyday Maven by Alyssa Brantley
24 1/2 cup servings
24 1/2 cup servings
1 pound raw cashews, roughly chopped (NOT roasted) – could substitute pecans or walnuts
8 ounces raw almonds, roughly chopped
4 ounces raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 ounces sesame seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1/2 t sea salt
pinch of nutmeg
8 ounces unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup melted, virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract – optional
1/4 cup almond meal – optional – Use if you want more clusters.
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- With a food processor (if not chop by hand), pulse the hazelnuts and then the cashews until they are in small chunks, and finally the almond. Do NOT over process or they will become powdered.
- Combine hazelnuts, cashews, and almonds with the remaining dry ingredients – sesame seeds, flax meal, palm sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut and almond meal if you re using. Mix well.
- Combine melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and almond extracts and stir to mix.
- Pour liquid over dry mixture and use your hands to mix until evenly distributed. (Works better than a spatula or spoon.)
- Spread the granola on two baking sheets – use parchment paper for easier clean up.
- Place in the oven and bake undisturbed for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, mix and return it to a single layer.
- Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove and allow to cool completely before serving or storing.
- Store in an airtight glass container for up to a month.