A recurring theme on this blog is the critical importance of utilizing Traditional Fats for cooking rather than industrialized factory fats such as margarine, spreads and vegetable oils that are rancid from processing and devoid of nutrients. The type of fats used for cooking can make or break your health regardless of other kitchen practices that may be right on target such as sourcing local and organic produce, consumption of antibiotic/steroid free grassfed meat and use of freshly ground flour to prepare traditionally made baked goods.
Factory fats such as hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils and processed liquid oils like soy, corn, safflower and canola are modern fats introduced to the human diet only in the last few decades and can cause cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, sterility, learning disabilities, growth problems and osteoporosis. They must be vigilantly avoided to achieve maximum health and vitality.
Nutrient rich traditional fats best used for cooking include the following:
- Lard from pigs outside in the sunlight
- Tallow and suet from beef and lamb
- Chicken, goose and duck fat
- Coconut, palm and palm kernel oil
These traditional fats are primarily composed of saturated and monounsaturated fats which maintain their integrity when heated and do not become denatured forming free radicals during the cooking process as long as the heat is kept below the smokepoint (if you’re wondering why olive oil is not on this list, click here for the reasons I choose not to cook with it although it is great for salad dressing).
Not All Traditional Fats Are Created Equal
What many folks do not realize is that all fats are actually a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are the rancid ones full of free radicals that are used in processed foods. They are also the bad fats that when consumed to excess as is the case in the Western diet, inflammation and degenerative disease is the result. Vegetable oils also contribute to a tendency to gain weight.
The traditional fats listed above are all very low in polyunsaturated fats with the exception of chicken fat which is about 21% polyunsaturated.
This compares with a polyunsaturated fat content of 4% for butter and ghee, 4% for beef tallow, 8% for mutton tallow, 11% for goose fat, 12% for duck fat, 3% for coconut oil, 9% for palm oil and 2.3% for palm kernel oil.
Here’s where the caution about using chicken fat comes in:
If you are new to Traditional Diet and your pantry is still fairly loaded up with processed foods in the form of chips, crackers, cookies, etc – even if organic – it is best to use another traditional fat for cooking than chicken fat.
This is because eating even a moderate amount of processed foods will likely result in an excessive intake of polyunsaturates. As a result, cooking with chicken fat will exacerbate the problem as it is the highest in polyunsaturates of all the traditional fats with the exception of sesame oil. A much better choice would be to cook with one or more of the traditional fats listed above that are very low in polyunsaturates.
On the other hand, if you have eliminated most processed foods from your diet and are eating nearly all whole, home prepared snacks and meals at home, then cooking with chicken fat poses no problem whatsoever as there will not be an excessive amount of polyunsaturated fats in your diet.
I hope this post has not put anyone off chicken fat! That was certainly not the intention. This wonderful traditional fat is fabulous to include in the diet, however, the caveat is the rather high polyunsaturated content that many are not aware of and they really need to be.
I hope this post has instead motivated you to further reduce you family’s use of any remaining processed foods. This way, the budget friendly convenience of chicken fat that you can simply peel off the top of a jar of chilled homemade chicken stock can be fully implemented in your kitchen without the risk of it harming your health.
Rule of Thumb for Using Chicken Fat
A good rule of thumb then is to open your pantry and take a look. If you see a lot of boxes from the store in there, you should be doing your cooking with a traditional fat that is really low in polyunsaturates like butter, ghee, coconut oil, tallow and suet. Palm, goose and duck fat, while a bit higher in polyunsaturates would also be fine for cooking occasionally even if there are some processed foods still to be removed from your family’s diet.
Save the chicken fat, however, for when you are more fully transitioned to Traditional Diet so there is not an inadvertent overconsumption of polyunsaturates which would most definitely keep the brakes on as you continue your journey to optimal health.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist