Fatty acids are one of the most culturally confusing macronutrients and foundations, and thus, could use some tender attention. Consider what you have learned about fat through the years. Have you noticed that the verdict of its health impact constantly changes? This is because beginning in the 1940’s, fat suddenly became the bad guy. Trends pushed “low fat diets,” “vegetable fat vs.animal fat”, and “mono and polyunsaturated fats vs.saturated fat”. Much of the confusion can be traced back to certain oil industries that funded medical research results. This led to an iceberg of political corruptness which impacted our food industry. Within this article, I will dispel this confusion by equipping you with the “common sense” of fatty acids.
First of all, the role of fats far surpasses greasing a pan, as they:
• Provide a source of energy
• Act as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
• Aid the absorption of the fat‐soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
• Allow for the proper use of proteins
• Serve as a protective lining for the organs of the body
• Help regulate energy absorption by slowing the absorption of food
• Increase satiety
• Make food taste good
Not all modern fats are created equal. In order to perform all these roles, we must consider the VARIETY and QUALITY of fats.
Fats are composed of a variety of nutrients depending on their structure. Fatty acids are organic molecules made up of chains of carbon atoms. The length of the chain determines the degree of saturation. All fats and oils are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, rather than purely one of the three. Instead of asking which is better, it is important to ask, how is it processed?
The process of oil production is what has changed over the last one hundred years; which, along with low fat diets, has led to an epidemic of fatty acid deficiency. Many oils are made from genetically-modified vegetables that require a chemical process (chemical solvents, dewaxing, bleaching, deodorizing, etc.) to extract the oil. Some are then pumped with hydrogen molecules (hydrogenated) to make them solid at room temperature and “acceptable” for cooking. For the producer, the result is a cheap fat with a seemingly long shelf life. For the consumer, it is a fat that wreaks havoc in the body. This altered fat not only leads to fatty acid deficiency, but also other complications as cells are damaged by this toxin.
So, from what food can you get your quality fatty acids? Here’s your “go to” list: coconut, coconut oil*, butter* (raw/grass-fed), ghee* (clarified butter), animal fats* (tallow, lard, duck fat,) olives, olive oil**, avocado, avocado oil** , fish oils**, nuts and seeds.
While some of these may be foreign to your kitchen, I hope you will have fun welcoming some new nutrient-dense, pure fats!
*Best oils for cooking due to a higher smoke point (the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and release free radicals.)
**These oils have varying sensitivity to light and heat. It is best to buy them in a dark container and keep refrigerated.