Knowing which fats are good for you and which are bad can be a tough balancing act so we’ll attempt to illuminate the path ahead for you. You may have heard the phrase “artery-clogging saturated fat”. There is some truth to this phrase but knowing which fats are good and which are bad is difficult to master, particularly with all the misinformation out there. The easiest way to make sure you are consuming the right fats is to make sure you are getting them from the right sources. These include coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed meat and grass-fed butter (like Kerrygold butter).
What Causes Saturated Fat to Clog Your Arteries?
When oil is saturated, that means the hydrogen molecules have been removed meaning that the molecule is susceptible to attack by free radicals. These free radicals are basically unstable jigsaw pieces looking to steal a piece from the nearest stable cell. Since free radicals steal from healthy cells, they cause damage to your hormonal and immune systems in the process. When free radicals are exposed to unsaturated oils, they can cause a chain reaction of free radicals to spread throughout the cell resulting in the build up of fatty materials on our artery walls. The arteries are the tubes that carry blood from the heart (1).
The more bad fats you eat, the more plaque that builds up on your artery walls. It is commonly referred to as a fibrous(or furry) cap or atherosclerosis. This build-up of fat can manifest itself years later into full blown metabolic syndrome which is your body’s red emergency light. If you develop metabolic syndrome, you are in deep trouble (2). If you stick to a clean paleo diet and don’t smoke then developing a furry cap on your artery walls should the least of your concerns.
The Problem With Vegetable Oils
When we refer to problems with vegetable oils, the oils we are referring to are soybean oil, corn oil, canola, palm and others that are labeled as unsaturated or polyunsaturated. What makes these oils dangerous is the material that is used to produce these oils. They come from seeds that have had their genetic heritage drastically changed in the last 60 years to make sure there is a steady supply of food in the world. These oils are so ingrained into our culture that it is almost impossible to buy food without one of these oils present.
Oils produced from seeds are actually used, by the seeds themselves, as a poison by nature to defend the germination process.
You may be wondering why the oil from seeds are dangerous. You have to think of seeds as animals too. Seeds want to survive and over millions of years they have developed a clever way to do it. When you swallow seeds, the seeds protect themselves by preventing your body from using its digestive enzymes to break them down. This is so the seeds can be passed out safely and fully fertilised.
Let’s go back a minute to when the seed is still in the body. The enzymes seeds block are not just needed to breakdown food but also for a whole raft of activities such as the production of thyroid hormones, clot removal, immunity, and the general adaptability of cells. This means increased risk of abnormal blood clotting, inflammation, immune deficiency, shock, ageing, obesity and cancer. Since these unsaturated oils, produced by the seeds, block protein digestion, we can feel full despite being malnourished. Eating seeds or consuming the oil produced from seeds can actually make you feel overfed but actually leaves you undernourished.
Vegetable oils also upset the delicate omega-3 to Omega 6 balance – the ratio of these fats we consume. Studies indicate that our primal ancestors ate these fats in a ratio of about 1:1. This is far more in-line with our ideal balance. The modern Western diets are closer to 1:9. Our modern western diet is deficient in omega-3s and because of substances like vegetable oils, we have too much omega-6(3).
Consuming vegetable oils such as canola, soybean and corn can result in 3 kinds of damage: These are hormonal imbalance, oxidative damage and damage to the immune system.
How bad vegetable oils cause a hormonal imbalance, immune and oxidative damage?
Unsaturated oils blocks thyroid secretions and their movement around the circulatory system. When these hormones are deficient, the body is exposed to increased levels of estrogen (which results in the infamous manboobs or “moobs” for men). The thyroid hormone also helps to keep the bad cholesterol in check by eliminating and using it.
Vegetable oil is used these days by doctors to suppress the immune system in patients who have undergone an organ transplant. There was a time in the past when when vegetable oil was given to cancer patients to help cancer patients recover. Alarmingly it was discovered to actually be doing the reverse and suppressing the immune system. The unsaturated fats are now known to directly kill white blood cells. These cells are like the police in your body and they eliminate infection and viruses(4).
What are the good fats?
The saturated fats that have been found to have no ill-health linked to them include olive oil, butter and coconut oil.
When it comes to buying olive oil, you should choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). When you see that it is labelled EVOO, you can assume it has been cold pressed from the olives and the oil is undamaged by heat or other processes. Good quality olive oil contains antioxidants which prevent the spread of free radicals, cancer and heart disease.
Avoid any variations of olive oil such as “light olive oil” or pomace oil. Only go with extra virgin. The other variations of olive oil are usually produced from the dregs left over after producing higher grade oils.
Butter is another excellent source of healthy fats. Grass fed butter such as Kerrygold contains an abundance of vitamin A and D. It is less fattening than the fats found in vegetable oil and margarine.
Be careful to avoid margarine. Margarine is a cheap imitation of butter and in the manufacturing process, a lot of toxins are produced. These include dyes, additives and preservatives. In the current “biotech food” revolution, a lot of new chemicals are added that have not been proven to be harmless to human health.
Fish oils are another excellent source of good fats, particularly the fats found in salmon. However, you should prefer wild fish. The fish that are raised on fish farms contain a disproportionate amount of toxins(5,6).
Avoid the fats that come from vegetable seed oils such as corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed and canola oil as well as margarine. Only consume the fat from coconut, olive oil or grass fed cow butter. Other excellent sources of good fat include wild fish, grass-fed meat and free-range chickens. Lard is another excellent source of good fat but only if it comes from an organic source. Many animals are fed corn and seeds which are high in omega-6 fat, and changes the ratio of fats in their bodies.
Remember that sometimes you can be indirectly consuming these oils through the man-made processed food you eat and grain-fed meat. For safety and for rapid weight loss or muscle-gain, only consume meats that come from grass fed farms.