When folks ask me for advice on how to change their diet for the better, I tell them that the quickest way to improve their health and just feel amazingly better in general (like, feel better tomorrow – that’s how fast this works) is to get the right healthy fats into their diet and the wrong (factory) fats out. Eating organic fruits/vegetables and grinding their own flour/making their own bread are usually the two changes that people want to do first, but the truth is, while important, these two things will have the least impact on your health in the immediate term.
I am very much a results oriented kind of gal, so I try to tell folks what will give them the most bang for the buck right away. Making significant changes to your diet with minimal impact on how you feel everyday is very discouraging. That is why I tell people to get the fats right from the get go. The sad truth is that most folks have the fats totally wrong, even if they claim to eat healthy. Another eye opening truth is that you have absolutely no chance at health if you don’t have the fats right! This is the critical first step toward your best health.
Get the healthy fats right and even if you continue to eat conventional produce and meats (I don’t necessarily advocate this – I am just trying to make a point), your health will blow away anyone who eats everything organic and has the fats wrong! I know this from personal experience. Getting the fats right was the single change that I made almost ten years ago that finally made me feel terrific after years of eating organic fruits/veggies and meats and still feeling pretty lousy much of the time.
Surprised? Well, consider this. The cell wall of every single cell in the human body is made up of fat. Our very brain is made up of approximately 60% fat. Don’t those two factoids right there indicate in flashing neon lights the incredible importance of getting the right fats into our diet and how devastating eating the wrong ones can be? I hope anyone reading this blog isn’t still under the incredibly dangerous notion that eating a lowfat diet is a healthy thing to do. If you are new to Traditional Eating and haven’t yet had your bubble burst about this, then please make sure to check out my blogs on Why Skim Milk Will Make You Fat and The Untold Story of Butter.
With that, I will now reveal the Five Healthy Fats that you MUST have in your kitchen – assuming vibrant health is your goal, of course.
Ah, what can I say about butter? It is one of the most perfect foods on this planet. Like Julia Child, I have discovered over the years that you simply can’t eat too much butter (and if you think you’re eating too much butter, you can always substitute cream, as Ms. Child was rumored to have said!). I like to joke with people that the more butter I eat, the slimmer I get! If you are a butter lover as I am, you know from experience that there’s quite a bit of truth to that statement!
Deep yellow/orange butter from cows eating rapidly growing spring grass was considered a sacred food by the Traditional Swiss culture, a culture with young men so perfect and pleasing in physique, strength, and character that the Vatican favored these young men over all others to serve as the Papal Guard at the Vatican. Want your children to have strong, robust physiques and healthy bone structure? Eat lots of butter when you are pregnant and load up their food with it while they are in their growing years. Ignore the lowfat nonsense and see and feel the results for yourself. Eating lots of butter stabilizes the blood sugar and significantly reduces or even eliminates sugar cravings. Overconsumption of all things sweet and starchy and Factory Fats are the real villains for those with ill health, NOT whole, healthy, traditional fats like butter.
The cell wall of every cell in the human body is supposed to be composed of saturated fat, the wonderful fat that is so abundant in butter. Replace the real thing with margarines or butter substitutes and the body will incorporate these inferior fats into the cell walls instead. With the wrong type of fat making up the cell wall, intercellular communication breaks down and the cell itself is weakened. Skin cells whose cell walls are composed of the fats from polyunsaturated vegetable oils (the main fat in the Western diet) instead of the much stronger saturated fats like in butter are more prone to damage from the sun, and (can anyone say) BROWN SPOTS? If, for no other reason than vanity, switch to butter and throw out those nasty vegetable oils. Your brown spot-LESS skin will thank you.
Coconut oil is loaded with medium chain saturated fats which are utilized by the body for immediate energy! Want to feel better and have more energy? Incorporate this wonderful, healthy fat into your diet in copious amounts. Coconut oil is a highly stable oil, so much so, that you can keep it unrefrigerated in your pantry for years and it will not go rancid (I have a 5 gallon bucket in my garage .. it stays perfect through the long, hot, humid Florida summers!) It remains stable even at very high heat, so it is the ideal cooking oil. I use coconut oil anytime a recipe calls for cooking oil or shortening. Coconut oil used in your baked goods will result in cookies, cakes, and pastries so moist – you and your family will be delighted.
Pepperidge Farm used to use coconut oil in their line of cookies years ago, only to replace it with very unhealthy, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (aka, Factory Fats) when saturated fats became erroneously regarded as heart unhealthy. Coconut oil, however, is now known to be extremely heart healthy .. the Traditional Cultures that consume coconuts and coconut oil have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world (not to mention are some of the slimmest people in the world).
Physiologically, coconut oil stimulates the thyroid gland, so is a fantastic addition to the diet for those that tend toward hypothyroidism (by some estimates, some 80% of Westerners over the age of 25 fall into this category).
Lauric acid, a very important medium chain saturated fatty acid, is found in abundance in coconut oil. Lauric acid is highly antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. And guess what? The human mammary gland produces lauric acid and it is contained in breastmilk! Anyone with candida issues of any kind should be regularly consuming coconut oil in their diet. Rubbing coconut oil into the scalp and then shampooing out is a wonderful home remedy for dandruff, a fungal infection of the skin.
If you have an allergy to coconut, try palm oil or palm kernel oil, two other healthy tropical oils.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Without a doubt, extra virgin olive oil is the best oil to use for salad dressings. Why don’t all salad dressings at the store contain this wonderful Mediterranean oil? What’s up with the Annie’s brand of salad dressing at the healthfood store using canola or soybean oil? Has this company lost its mind? Yes it has and you guessed the reason. Canola and soybean oil are cheap oils and increase the profit margin for companies that use them instead of extra virgin olive oil. In case you haven’t noticed, extra virgin olive oil is rather expensive in comparison. You trade a cheaper price on low quality oils with your health, so make sure you buy only extra virgin olive oil and not the cheap, highly processed vegetable oil substitutes like soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn, and safflower.
Best to make your own salad dressing at home using olive oil, used traditionally for centuries for just such a purpose! Oh, and please don’t use olive oil for high heat cooking! Olive oil is a delicate oil and is best used unheated, or at most, in a very low heat saute. NEVER fry with it. It’s nutritional value is lost this way and the oil becomes damaged and unhealthy to consume.
If, by chance, you are one of the folks who has trouble with olive oil and tends to put on weight quickly when you consume it, then try another traditional oil such as sesame or peanut oil with a tsp or two of added flax oil for your salad dressings instead.
Animal fats such as chicken, goose, duck, tallow, and lard have nourished Traditional Cultures for centuries. Most people don’t even realize that McDonald’s used beef tallow to fry it’s french fries until the sea change in the restaurant industry some 30 years ago in favor of partially hydrogenated fats caused the unfortunate switch to these very unhealthy Factory Fats!
When I make homemade chicken, beef, or duck stock, I freeze in one quart containers and then easily peel off the fat that freezes on top to use for cooking. Animal fat imparts valuable nutrition and wonderful flavor to roast vegetables. The reason many kids won’t eat veggies is because they are so tasteless! Roasting organic vegetables in a bit if chicken fat makes them absolutely delicious. My kids frequently ask why the veggies in restaurants are so tasteless and why the ones cooked at home are so yummy. Now you know the secret that Traditional Cultures always practiced!
Beef tallow can’t be beat for making healthy homemade french fries! Whoever thought that healthy eating could taste so fantastic! Liberal use of traditional animal fats in the kitchen makes this possible.
COD LIVER OIL
Rounding out the Five Fats you must have in your kitchen is Granny’s favorite, cod liver oil. Cod liver oil contains omega 3, essential fatty acids which most Westerners are severely deficient in. Deficiency in these delicate omega 3 fats invites inflammation in the body which leads to innumerable conditions and illnesses. Unlike plain fish oil, cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D in their natural state.
Vitamins A and D, when taken together in a whole food like cod liver oil, work synergistically to improve the function of every system in the human body!I wrote a blog a few months ago about my favorite brand of cod liver oil, the completely unheated, fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures (purified by centrifuge). The importance of Vitamin D in cod liver oil cannot be underestimated with regard to its positive effects on health. For more information, please refer to my blog: Flu is Vitamin D Deficiency Disease.
Well, there you have it. The Five Fats that when incorporated into your diet will most certainly improve your health and vitality. Once you throw out the Factory Fats you are currently using such as butter substitutes and vegetable oils and replace them with the Five Healthy Fats described in this blog, you will very likely begin to feel improved energy right away. The most striking change that occurred immediately for me when I got my fats right was a rapid reduction in sugar cravings!
Getting the fats right is the only way I have ever found for people to reduce and eventually eliminate their sugar addiction. Any other approach is temporary at best and relies solely on will power rather than the body being nourished and not needingthe sugar (remember that the body converts sugar to saturated fat, so if your diet is low in saturated fat, you will be plagued with sugar cravings that cannot be controlled). If this is your experience as well, I would love to hear about it as well as any other improvements you’ve noticed in your health once the fats get fixed.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist