With so much conflicting information from the media, oils and fats can be so confusing! Use this list of healthy fats to determine which ones you should be consuming, and how to use them.
Not all fats are created equal
Today’s modern eating habits are based on a lot of conventional wisdom, which, unfortunately often times is inaccurate. We've relied on the media for so long - and it turns out, they haven't been telling us the truth for a long time.
You must do your own research, and learn what is truth and what is fiction. This list of healthy fats will help you learn some of the truths about healthy fats.
Fats & oils used for cooking
It is often thought that the oils we should use for cooking include things like vegetable, canola, soybean, peanut and sunflower oil. However, all of these oils are made from seeds, grains, and legumes.
They are usually pretty neutral in flavors, have high smoking points for cooking, and are cheap! There's a reason for that.
All of these are polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. PUFA's can cause a number of health-related issues to include heart problems, obesity, and systemic inflammation.
If you're interested in the science behind saturated and unsaturated fats, and why you should avoid PUFAs, Fit Bomb provides a fantastic article here.
They also outline how heavily processed these oils are and how they are often soaked with hexane, an ingredient used in gasoline and roofing. That right there is enough reason for me!
So what oils should you be using, and what fats are healthy fats?
Saturated ones! Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, ghee, nut oils, and organic grass-fed butter. You can also get healthy fats from foods that have a high level of Omega-3s (the good kind!) such as fish, nuts, olives and more.
These fats can boost fat burning and provide your body and brain with quick energy. They also raise the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is linked to reduced heart disease risk.
Let's look at this list of healthy fats and talk about some of the benefits and uses for each.
Coconut oil is the MVP of the list of healthy fats. It has a high smoking temperature, so it can be used for roasting and other high-temperature cooking, when other oils would just burn.
There are two kinds - refined and unrefined. Both are good for you; the refined will have a less prominent coconut taste to it while the unrefined will add a hint of coconut flavor to whatever you are cooking in it.
Coconut oil will also change forms - when it is kept below 76 degrees it will be in solid form, if it is kept above 76 degrees, it will be in liquid form.
And it’s not just for eating! There are literally HUNDREDS of uses and benefits of coconut oil. Here are some evidence-based benefits of coconut oil. Carrington Farms produces a 54 ounce jar that is the best deal around. If you have a Costco membership, or you have a friend that does, you can get a 54 ounce jar for $16! Money well spent.
In addition to cooking, coconut oil can be used for a myriad of other things–a few are listed below. What do YOU use coconut oil for?
Skincare–can be used as a shaving cream, moisturizer, lip balm, makeup remover, and sunburn soother.
Hair care–leave-in overnight conditioner, or tame flyaways!
Other benefits–boosts metabolism, supports a healthy thyroid, and provides energy. It can also be given to pets to improve their health and let them reap the benefits too!
Here’s a list of 101 Uses for Coconut Oil from Wellness Mama, just to get you started.
Avocado oil is my go-to, all the time cooking oil. It's neutral in flavor, doesn't solidify, and works for pretty much anything.
It has a high smoking point, so you can get it pretty hot (520°, to be exact) before it starts to smoke. That means it works for roasting and broiling when other oils wouldn't. Use it for sautéing,
Some things I use avocado oil for regularly are things like my 30 Minute Sheet Pan Meal, or to make condiments like my Homemade Mayo. You can read all about why this is a good oil for making homemade mayonnaise here.
I tend to use the Chosen Foods brand of avocado oil when I'm using store-bought, but others will work just as well!
Olive oil is best used in situations where it is not heated up. It has a low smoking point (around 350°), so if you've ever tried to put it in a pan on high heat, you've probably experienced a bit of scorching and/or smoking.
When olive oil gets heated up, it actually breaks down, and you lose some of the healthy benefits of it. Additionally, TRUE olive oil has an amazing flavor all on it's own - it's peppery and sharp and can bring so much to a meal when the right kind is used correctly!
Did you know that most olive oil that you purchase in the grocery store isn't actually olive oil at all? After doing the research for my article, "Will The Real Olive Oil Please Stand Up?" , I have only used my favorite, single origin olive oil from Kasandrinos. Their oil is like nothing you have ever tasted, I promise you that.
Use olive oil on salads or drizzle over steamed veggies (AFTER cooking) to get the true flavor and health benefits of olive oil!
Ghee is an Indian term for clarified butter. To make clarified butter, butter is heated to separate the milk fat, and then the milk fat is skimmed off the top. The remaining liquid is typically strained (when I make mine I use cheesecloth) to catch any remaining milk fat.
The end product is a gorgeous, rich, and flavorful healthy fat called ghee. Ghee has a much richer flavor than butter and is great in dishes where you can really let it shine. I recommend using it with other neutral flavors.
Ghee has a high smoking point of 480°, which makes it great for roasting veggies. It's also great brushed on steak before grilling!
Look for a grass-fed, organic brand if you're not ready to try and make your own. Indian Foods ghee is a great option that is available on Amazon.
Nut & seed oils
A lot of other nut oils exist that are good sources of healthy fats. You might see things like walnut oil, pecan oil, or almond oil on the shelf at the store.
These tend to carry a higher price tag, as the source they are coming from and the process to obtain them can take a bit longer. They're usually seen in smaller jars or bottles, and will have a bit more of a flavor to them.
I don't use a lot of these, just because they are a bit pricier, and the list of healthy fats above are all my go-tos. The only exception to that is toasted sesame oil - I LOVE the flavor of toasted sesame oil, and I use it in things like my Beef Bulgogi Sauce and my Easy Weeknight Chinese Stir-Fry.
Organic grass-fed butter
If you're someone who tolerates dairy, organic grass-fed butter is another great option. Butter has a smoking point of 300°, so it's not good for high heat cooking.
You'll want to use butter for low temperature things, such as melting on warm sweet potatoes. You can steam your sweet potatoes, or, if you have an Instant Pot, cook them in there. If you're not sure how, here's a post on How To Cook Sweet Potatoes in the Instant Pot!
In my opinion (and apparently the opinion of many other Americans), Kerrygold butter is the best butter around. It's creamy and smooth and tastes like you think butter should taste.
They attribute the creaminess and taste to the grass-fed diet of the cows - butter from grain-fed cows tends to be more brittle and flaky. This article explains how and why Kerrygold is so popular, even though it comes all the way from Ireland!
Other foods that contain healthy fats
Oils are not the only source of healthy fats. Many foods contain healthy fats and can be consumed at meals or as snacks.
Eggs are not only a great source of protein, but also a great source of healthy fats. If you can, try and buy them locally from a farm. If that's not a possibility, then try to focus on cage free and organic varieties.
Eggs aren't just good for breakfast. Keep a stash of hard boiled eggs in the fridge for a great anytime snack!
Salmon & fish
Yes, salmon is a fish. I isolate it in the title because it's a unique fish, in both color and flavor. It has a very distinct flavor and is a great source of Omega-3s.
Other oily fishes that are a good source of healthy fats include tuna, swordfish, and mackrel.
Nuts & seeds
Let's start this section by clarifying that peanuts are not nuts, and peanut butter is not a nut butter. Peanuts are technically a legume, otherwise known as a bean.
That's not to say you can't use them as a healthy fat source. But if you're someone who experiences inflammation from beans, you might want to skip the peanuts.
Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts are all great nut sources of healthy fat. Try some roasted or crushed up on a salad. (I love putting my Salted Maple Bacon Pecans on a salad!)
Seeds include sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
You can often find nut butters of these nuts as well. Almond butter is the most common. Cashew butter is rich and creamy and is as close to peanut butter as you'll get. Sunflower seed butter is also pretty easy to find.
Remember to read your ingredient labels! Often times these will include unnecessary sugar. You're looking for just the nuts, and maybe a little bit of salt.
Healthy snacks with healthy fats
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of which fats to be consuming. If you're not sure how to work them into your routine, here are a few snack ideas that are both delicious and packed with this list of healthy fats!
Remember, despite what you've been told in the past, fat is not the enemy when you consume the right kinds. You NEED healthy fats in your diet, and consuming fat actually helps your body to burn more fat.
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