Five Super-Healthy Fats You Need to Eat
Did you hear the news? After decades of demonizing fat, the federal government is changing its mind. And all I have to say is: It’s about time.
Recently, the committee in charge of creating the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans announced that it’s dropping restrictions on total fat consumption. This is the first time since 1980 that the committee didn’t recommend a low-fat diet—the very same diet that led people to load up on grains and sugar and kick-started our current epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
The new decision is a big step in the right direction. However, I’m not doing my happy dance quite yet, because these authorities are still touting the wrong fats.
While they now acknowledge that artificially produced trans fats like margarine are bad for you, I’m sure these “experts” will still be pushing canola, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils—heavily-processed industrial seed oils that are anything but healthy. These oils are heated, bleached, and chemically altered beyond recognition, and they’re usually going rancid by the time you buy them. In addition, seed oils have a high ratio of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in comparison to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. If you keep up with health news, you know that inflammation underlies everything from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and cancer.
So when it comes to the government’s expert advice, it’s only half right. Yes, you need to eat fats. But you need to eat the right fats—not heavily processed, unhealthy seed oils, but natural fats that create strong cell membranes, help you lose weight and make your skin and hair gorgeous. Here are my top five choices.
How do I love this oil? Let me count the ways.
First, coconut oil is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Think of these as the nutritional version of high-octane gas. Unlike other fats, MCTs shoot straight from your digestive tract to your liver, giving you a quick burst of energy and revving up your metabolism. So instead of putting weight on you, they take the weight off.
Second, coconut is the most abundant natural source of lauric acid on the planet. Your body turns lauric acid into monolaurin, which has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Monolaurin also increases your blood levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) and reduces your levels of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL).
Third, coconut oil is delicious. It has a light, ever-so-slightly coconutty taste that beautifully accents anything from curries to roasted sweet potatoes.
And finally, coconut oil is the best natural skin healer there is. I use it on my face every day instead of wrinkle cream, and I prescribe it for patients with eczema or psoriasis. It’s also a fabulous lip moisturizer, and it’s great for healing babies’ diaper rashes.
My take? Use this oil everywhere. Cook with it. Bake with it. Slather it all over yourself, from head to toe. You can’t go wrong. Just be sure to get virgin coconut oil, rather than the refined stuff.
I love the mild, slightly buttery flavor of this oil. It doesn’t overwhelm your food, and you can use it for anything from marinades to mayonnaise. It’s also good for sautéing and pan roasting.
Health-wise, too, avocado oil is a winner. It increases your absorption of carotenoids, those super-healthy pigments in foods like tomatoes, carrots, and leafy veggies. It also lowers inflammation, helps optimize your metabolism, and may help you ward off diabetes and obesity.
Want more? Avocado oil is a great addition to your beauty arsenal. Try using it to clean your face; it’ll whisk makeup off easily while smoothing your crow’s feet at the same time. Also, try using a tiny bit of avocado oil as a hair conditioner.
Tallow from Grass-Fed Cows
Tallow from grass-fed beef is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is anti-inflammatory, has cancer-fighting properties, and helps you burn fat so you can lose weight faster. Grass-fed tallow also gives you a big dose of omega-3 fatty acids—far more than you get from grain-fed beef tallow.
It may take you a while to get used to the taste of tallow because it’s a little “beefy.” After a little adjustment period, however, I think you’ll grow to appreciate the real-food flavor.
One problem with tallow is that it’s a little hard to find. However, these days you can order it in bulk online. Also, if you search on “making your own tallow,” you’ll find tons of do-it-yourself tips.
Butter from Grass-Fed Cows
Like tallow, butter from grass-fed cows is rich in nutrients. The key here, again, is grass-fed. Butter from pastured cows has much higher levels of vitamins and CLA than butter from grain-fed cows. In addition, it has a far better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. And once you discover how amazing pasture-raised butter tastes, you’ll never go back to the inferior stuff.
Here’s another reason to eat butter: It contains a short-chain saturated fatty acid called butyrate, which is a powerful inflammation fighter. Research indicates that butyrate—a word actually derived from the word butter—can help prevent everything from diabetes to inflammatory bowel disease.
If you’re avoiding dairy and can’t eat butter, it’s easy to make ghee, which is butter without the milk solids. Simply heat butter gently, wait until the fat and dairy solids separate, and spoon off the solids. Ghee (also called clarified butter) will keep for three to six months in your refrigerator.
Olive oil is my favorite “drizzle oil.” It’s loaded with healthy monosaturated fat that helps protect your cardiovascular system, fight inflammation, and reduce your risk of cancer.
The most important thing to know about olive oil is that it has a low smoke point. I recommend using it for salad dressings, dips, and other no-cook recipes—not for sautéing or frying.
Get in the Healthy-Fat Habit
No matter which healthy fats you choose to eat, don’t short yourself. Eat about a tablespoon of fat at each meal. (That’s about a thumb-sized portion.)
If you’ve bought into the fat-is-bad myth, I know that eating this much fat may freak you out at first. But try it for six months, and I’m confident that you’ll see a big change for the better in your skin, your hair, your weight, your health, and your energy. That’s because these fats aren’t villains, as the so-called experts told you for so many years—they’re super-heroes.