Category Archives: saturated fat
Fats Made Simple by John Meadows, CSCS – 7/11/2011 Our acceptance of dietary fat has come a long way. Just a few short years ago, Fats Made Simple
Fats Made Simple
Our acceptance of dietary fat has come a long way. Just a few short years ago, athletes, bodybuilders, and health nuts alike set aside their differences in agreement that every low-down dirty member of the oily “9 calories per gram” gang should be rounded up and hanged at sunset from the tallest tree.
Thankfully, times have changed. Health authorities today accept that monounsaturated fats can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6) are required just for life itself. Even the once-vilified saturated fat is now being re-classified as “not so bad after all,” considering it’s necessary for proper cell membrane function.
It’s not just about boring ol’ health and wellness, either. According to warrior nerd Dr. Lonnie Lowery, a low fat diet can lead to a 10-15% drop in serum Testosterone and an increase in SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin), a protein that binds to Testosterone, rendering it ineffective. So not only is less T being made, whatever’s left is being increasingly bound up, gagged, and whisked away to an unmarked government office for “reeducation.”
So an extra tablespoon or two of oil is a good little T booster, especially if you’re not into fatty cuts of meat or seafood, or swell up like a puffer fish at the very sight of eggs or nuts.
The trouble is, certain fats are better to cook with, while some are better used as a topping. Others have extra nutrients that make them nutritional powerhouses, to borrow an overused phrase.
Let’s examine what oils you should be using and why. I’ll give each a “squat rack rating” with 4 squat racksbeing best. First, I’ll describe the considerations I took in ranking the oils.
Usefulness for Cooking
The more saturated a fat is, the less likely it is to go rancid when used in cooking. Rancidity means that the fat is breaking down chemically due to oxidation and ingesting these fats is the reason we see increased rates of heart disease and atherosclerosis. To avoid eating rancid fats, you should cook with oils higher in saturated fat.
The chart at the bottom shows the percentage of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in various oils, which should help make choosing a good cooking oil easier. For example, coconut oil would be a good choice for cooking as it’s 91% saturated fat, whereas safflower oil shouldn’t be used as it’s 75% polyunsaturated.
Do not let oils reach their smoke point during cooking. The smoke point is where the oil reaches a temperature at which it starts to break down rapidly. The oil may turn darker in color, get thicker, or even start to stink. Obviously a higher smoke point is best for cooking purposes, but rather than break out the trusty thermometer, just use a more stable oil to cook with.
Usefulness as a Topping
When I say a topping, I mean to add to a shake, drizzle on top of a salad or meal, or just drink like a fatty acid shooter. You can even use that gold-rimmed shot glass you stole from TGI Fridays.
Since you shouldn’t cook with highly polyunsaturated oils due to their fragile state and propensity for oxidation, this is the perfect way to get your EFA’s – especially if you’re not a fan of fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon. This is also a great way to add monounsaturated fats.
Evaluate the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. Cutting-edge nutrition authorities now advise a 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats, a radically different approach from the 20:1 ratio found in the typical Western diet. To reach this ideal ratio, oils too heavy in omega 6 should be avoided as they promote an inflammatory environment.
By the way, in case you believe that arterial plaques are mostly saturated fat, here’s some fatty facts for you: Over 50% of arterial plaque is polyunsaturated, while only 20% is saturated fat.
Any Additional Powerhouse Nutrients?
This is where you have to look beyond the poly, mono, and saturated percentages. Some oils contain high levels of natural antioxidants, while others contain virtually none. Some strengthen the immune system and promote healthy skin, while others are pro-inflammatory and can lead to degenerative disease.
Top 6 Oils
So without further ado, here are my top 6 oils and their “squat rack ranking.”
Red palm oil. Most pundits say to avoid this oil; I couldn’t disagree more. The oil has a very unique, reddish-orange color due to it being loaded with carotenoids including alpha carotene, which is even more cancer protective than beta carotene. To put this in perspective, palm oil has 300 times more carotenoids than tomatoes! Interestingly, even though Vitamin A levels can get too high (which is rare), this isn’t true for their precursors, the carotenes.
It doesn’t stop there. The Vitamin E in red palm oil contains all the tocopherols and tocotrienols. Evidence continues to mount that the tocotrienols are very powerful antioxidants, possibly even stopping LDL oxidation. You can even cook with this oil as it’s very heat stable. I like to add a tablespoon or two onto my eggs in the morning.
Coconut oil. Another very misunderstood oil. Early studies concluded that it raised triglyceride levels but failed to mention that the studies used hydrogenated or refined versions.
Unrefined coconut oil is almost all saturated fat, and a great deal of the fat is medium chain triglycerides, which are sent to the liver and converted into quick energy. Interestingly, farmers in the 1940s used coconut oil as a feed, thinking all the saturated fat would help their cows put on weight quickly. It didn’t work. The cows were all active and lean, and went on to win “most ripped” at the heavyweight class at that year’s Mr. Olympia. Not surprisingly, the idea was deemed a failure.
What I like most about coconut oil is its lauric acid content. This fat, typically only found in breast milk, is a powerful immune system strengthener and is part of the reason breastfeeding is so healthy for infants. There’s a huge body of evidence showing lauric acid to be a great anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial substance as well.
Macadamia nut oil. This oil is a powerhouse. It has even more monounsaturated fat than olive oil (85%), with a large portion being oleic acid. This is important because that particular fatty acid helps to incorporate omega 3 fatty acids into cell membranes. Experts Mary Enig and Fred Pascatore have documented how these fats lessen the need for EFA’s. Lastly, it’s also a very stable oil to cook with and can withstand temperatures as high as 410 degrees.
Extra virgin olive oil. America’s darling, and with good reason. There’s a mountain of evidence showing that EVOO raises “good” cholesterol or HDL due to its high amounts of oleic acid. This is my preferred oil for salads, but don’t be afraid to just drink it or put it in your shakes. You can cook with it on low heat, although it’s not as heat stable as the more saturated fats out there, or even as stable as other monounsaturated fats like macadamia nut oil.
Hemp seed oil. This oil actually has the ideal balance of omega 6 to 3 (57% omega 6 and 19% omega 3) and even has GLA in it. Don’t cook with it, but feel free to toss it in shakes or on salads.
Walnut oil. This oil is a great salad topper. 59% of it is omega 6, 16% is omega 3, so it’s not far off from the ideal ratio, either. Unfortunately, it has a really low smoke point, so stick to using it with salads.
Avocado oil. This oil has an extremely high smoke point of 520 degrees and is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids (70%). However, the taste is a little odd, even for those diagnosed with avocado fetishes.
The Crappy Eight
These oils weren’t allowed to participate due to their horrendous omega 6 to 3 ratio. Do NOT consume these oils.
|Oil||Omega 6 to 3 ratio||Oil||Omega 6 to 3 ratio|
|Safflower oil||78 to 1||Peanut oil||34 to 1|
|Sunflower oil||69 to 1||Pistachio oil||31 to 1|
|Corn oil||59 to 1||Pumpkin seed oil||20 to 1|
|Sesame oil||45 to 1||Soybean oil||11 to 1|
These popular oils were chased out of town by angry villagers armed with pitchforks and torches for having a “Frankstein-ish” genetic manipulation to them.
- High oleic safflower
- High oleic sunflower
- Canola oil
The Raw Stats
|Oil||Monounsaturated %||Polyunsaturated %||Saturated %||Smoke Point|
|Flax seed oil||19||72||9||225|
|Grape seed oil||17||71||12||400|
|Macadamia nut oil||85||6||9||410|
|Hemp seed oil||12||80||8||330|
|Red Palm oil||40||10||50||450|
|Rice bran oil||48||35||17||490|
We all have our favorite foods, but as you go about your clean-eating ways, don’t be afraid to swap in a few other healthy choices from this list. Much the same as with the foods in your diet, a little fatty acid variety will provide you with a broader spectrum of nutrients, so don’t get stuck on using just one oil.
I hope you enjoyed this, and maybe even learned a thing or two!
By Jennifer LaRue Huget
Thursday, March 4, 2010; VA14
For half a century, we’ve been told that saturated fats are bad for our hearts. That belief led to what many now consider the disastrous switch from saturated-fat-filled butter to trans-fat-filled margarine as the bread-spread of choice. It also led to the government’s recommendation, through its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that we limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of our daily calories.
But the latest science has many experts reconsidering saturated fat. A study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for instance, found insufficient evidence linking saturated fat intake to cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease. Another study in that issue suggested refined carbohydrates and being overweight are the true culprits. And they’re just the latest to suggest that sat fat has gotten a bad rap.
Riding high on the wave of saturated fat’s rehabilitation, the famous Atkins Diet has been revamped with an eye toward making it easier to understand and maintain. “The New Atkins for a New You” (Fireside, 2010) allows dieters to eat more vegetables than the old version did. But the diet’s core concept — that carbohydrates, not saturated fat, are what makes us fat — remains intact.
Atkins old and new aim to rejigger metabolisms so people burn their fat, including stored body fat, instead of carbs. The new book, written by Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek, guides dieters through four phases, from “Induction” through “Lifetime Maintenance.” Atkins followers are encouraged not to count calories and are told that their cravings for carbs will swiftly diminish.
Westman says one of the chief differences between the new and old Atkins (made popular in the early 1980s with the paperback release of “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution”) is the clarification that the most-restrictive Induction phase accounts for just the first two weeks of the diet and that people with less weight to lose might choose to skip that part altogether. In any case, the Induction phase allows dieters to eat some “foundation” vegetables: leafy, fiber-filled and unstarchy ones such as cauliflower and spinach.
As the diet continues, followers can gradually add carbohydrates until they find an amount they can accommodate without gaining weight. Long-term adherence is one of the problems the new Atkins hopes to solve, giving followers options that include adding more fruits, grains and legumes to the mix.
The case for Atkins has been bolstered a bit by two developments. First, the nutrition community has largely accepted that low-fat diets tend not to work because people replace the missing fats with extra carbohydrates. Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, notes that the “Snackwell phenomenon” demonstrated that people assume low-fat cookies are low in calories, too, and they overeat.
The second development is the widespread embrace in nutrition circles of the Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes heart-healthy fats such as those in olive oil and nuts. Of course, there’s not a lot of bacon or butter in the Mediterranean diet, which is favored by the American Dietetic Association. It focuses on a healthful balance of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and that most empty of all carbs, alcohol.
Atkins breaks with current weight-management thinking in two notable ways: allowing followers to incorporate as much (or little) exercise as they want, and encouraging sodium consumption. “If you don’t have a salt-sensitive condition like heart failure, salt in the diet is not restricted on Atkins,” Westman explains by e-mail. Adequate sodium intake, the book notes, helps counter the low-carb diet’s diuretic effect.
The new Atkins, like the old, emphasizes that “fat is your friend,” even as it encourages folks to eat protein. If you prefer a lean skinless chicken breast, go ahead and have it — just add a dash of olive oil or a pat of butter. Wrote Westman: “On Atkins, bacon is a healthful protein! . . . The New Atkins is placing more emphasis on the four phases which gradually reintroduce carbs, to get away from the stereotype that ‘Atkins is all-you-can-[eat]-bacon.’ “
The book cites more than 50 studies that support its approach, and its new, more flexible and friendly presentation will undoubtedly make it attractive to former Atkins-ites and new adherents.
For my part, until we fully understand the dietary implications of saturated fats and unsaturated fats, I’m not going to put all my, er, eggs in one basket by going gung-ho with Atkins, new or otherwise. On the other hand, the Atkins approach has made many reconsider the basics and un-demonize some dietary demons. So, for the freedom to enjoy a pat of butter now and then, I thank the authors.