There’s a lot of confusion and controversy swirling around the topic of fats and oils, particularly which ones are good for you and which ones can actually harm you. The truth is that fats can boost your health or they can tear it down, depending on what type they are and how they are processed.
Let’s start with healthy saturated fats such as extra virgin coconut oil, which contains unusually healthy fats known as medium-chain fatty acids that the body can use differently from most other forms of fat. For example, medium-chain fats don’t have to mix with bile from the gallbladder in order to be digested and assimilated by the body. Instead, they are absorbed directly by the liver, which then converts those healthy fats into what’s called ketoacids, or ketones—which, among other things, feed and protect the brain.
But let’s not forget about organic butter and other healthy saturated fats. For decades, these have been touted as being detrimental to arteries and to the heart, but that’s not so. Studies are showing that eating healthy saturated fat is actually good for the heart and arteries, while margarine and other unhealthy fats as well as high-carbohydrate intake result in negative heart and artery effects.
As mentioned earlier with coconut oil benefits, healthy saturated fats are also essential for brain health, since a high percentage of the brain is made up of saturated fat and cholesterol—yes, cholesterol. Cholesterol is necessary for proper hormone production and for cell membrane health, allowing for nutrients to enter cells and for wastes to leave cells. Cholesterol also assists with digestion of fats, through the making of bile salts.
Even our bones need saturated fats so that bone-building calcium and other minerals can be transported by the body to support bone health. Additionally, saturated fats are also needed for omega-3s to be assimilated properly—and we all know how important omega-3s are for health. Omega-3s—especially DHA and EPA—are necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system, healthy joints, inflammation levels, eyes, bones, skin and even for healthy aging and a healthy mood.
Then there are vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, soy and cottonseed, which have erroneously been promoted as healthy alternatives to saturated fats. They’re not healthy. They promote unhealthy, chronic inflammation in the body and are filled with omega-6 fatty acids that can lead to ill health, including cardiovascular problems, “too sticky” blood and more. Plus, substituting vegetables oils for healthy saturated fats can rob the body of basic elements necessary for health. For example, the canola oil refining process or deodorizing process almost always leads to by-products of highly unhealthy trans fatty acids.
Add that to the fact that these oils are typically made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and you multiply the possible ill health effects, since GMOs are increasingly being cited for digestive problems, organ damage and cellular fallout.
What about olive oil? Extra virgin olive oil is typically a very healthy oil—as long as it doesn’t go rancid or isn’t heated above 374 degrees Fahrenheit. Olive oil isn’t alone in this category of healthy oils that can turn unhealthy—if not toxic—due to higher heat, however. Other oils that simply “can’t take the heat,” are most unrefined oils as well as macadamia nut oil, which shouldn’t be heated above 392 degrees Fahrenheit, and flaxseed oil, which goes sideways at approximately 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
And now a word about “cold-pressed” cooking oils. You would think that “cold-pressed” oils are healthier for you, but according to Dr. Udo Erasmus, author of the book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, many cooking oils labeled as “cold-pressed” have been cooked or treated with toxic solvent chemicals such as hexane, which makes them potentially toxic. Erasmus emphasizes that the best and safest cooking oils are those that are expeller pressed using low temps and are pressed from organic seeds and fruits. Non-denatured oils are also protected from light, oxygen and heat during their production—and you’ll usually find them in solid, dark-glass bottles labeled “unrefined.”
So, the next time you consider fats and oils, be sure you know the facts vs. the fables.