There have been quite a few conflicting articles this week regarding the 2015 FDA Dietary Guidelines that will be approved in a few months. These guidelines will also dictate school lunch guidelines as well as what is on the labels of processed foods. Rather than the benefits being discussed they are being politicized. It is difficult enough to decide what is healthy to eat. Now, we not only have pesticide lobbyists, beef industry lobbyists & climate change naysayers to name just a few; we also have politicians making unscientific claims about the guidelines. What do we do with all this misinformation? We ignore it! We trust what our bodies are telling us to eat.
I have put together definitions of types of oils/fats plus a list of the most common ones that we use to help you navigate through the misinformation. But first, here are a few of the headlines from this past week that I wanted to comment on.
Fat is back: New guidelines give vilified nutrient a reprieve “We wanted the emphasis to be on fat quality rather than total fat, because the evidence really emphasizes that saturated fat is the driver of risk rather than total fat intake,” said Barbara Millen, president of Millennium Prevention and chair of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.” Hmmm, that makes sense. So the headlines stating that bacon is back may be “a bit” misleading. Rather than worrying about how much fat we eat, we want quality. That leaves bacon in the eat once a month category 🙂
Since about the 1950’s there were many non-fat, fad diets introduced. Yet we remain an obese nation with heart disease, diabetes & cancer on the rise. We now know that blood cholesterol levels are not affected by diet choices ~except for those who are diabetic~ & that the body needs fat to be able to function.
High-Sugar Diet Can Impair Learning And Memory By Altering Gut Bacteria “The typical American diet is loaded with fat and sugar, and it may be hurting not only our physical health, but also our ability to think clearly. New research from Oregon State University finds a high-sugar, high-fat diet causes changes in gut bacteria that seem to lead to significant losses in cognitive flexibility, a measurement of the brain’s ability to switch between thinking about one concept to another, and to adapt to changes in the environment.” The crux of this article is that the typical American diet is laden with FAT & SUGAR. This is true & the fat used when teamed up with the sugar is not quality fat! As I have said in a previous post; if you listen to your body you will notice a “foggy brain” after eating a couple of donuts, King Size Snickers or a large piece of cake. Where there is high sugar content in processed foods it is holding hands with an unhealthy fat.
Here is the headline that left me stunned! Texas Ag Commissioner: Bring Back Sodas and Deep Fat Fryers to School. “Put simply, the state agency which, according to its own website, “striv[es] to put Texans on the path to wellness” is now being led by an individual who seems bizarrely determined to fatten up Texan children as quickly and efficiently as possible. Or, to use Mr. Miller’s own words from yesterday’s press conference: “ “We’ve been raising big, strapping, healthy young kids here in Texas for nearly 200 years. We don’t need Washington, D.C., telling us how to do it.” This one is definitely a political move; or so I hope. This is a very good article & I suggest you read it.
Last article: Experts Applaud Dietary Guidelines That Lift Dietary Fat Cap “The limit on total fat [in current recommendations] presents an obstacle to sensible change, promoting harmful low-fat foods, undermining attempts to limit intakes of refined starch and added sugar, and discouraging the restaurant and food industry from providing products higher in healthful fats,” wrote the authors.” Great article.
Let’s look at fats/oils in our diet.
What are “healthy fats” & “unhealthy fats”. Whenever I read an article about diet I invariably see a reference to “healthy oils/fats”. It occurred to me that “healthy oils/fats” are rarely listed, other than Olive Oil, and rarely defined. I have made a list of oils that I see most often. I may have left off the one you love or want more information about. If that is the case, please email me & I will answer any questions you have.
All fats have 9 calories per gram, protein has 4 calories per gram & carbs have 4 calories per gram. Your body needs fat to absorb micro-nutrients. It is also an energy source when carbs and protein stores are low. 9 calories/gram is a very dense calorie to weight ratio. You want to make sure that those calories are from a quality source of fat.
Trans Fats: Being banned by the FDA. See my post from last week. This is a type of fat that occurs naturally in some foods in small amounts. But most trans fats are made from highly processed oils; called partial hydrogenation. By partially hydrogenating oils, they become easier to cook with & are less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils. Research has shown them to be unhealthy for consumption and that is why they are banned in European countries & are being banned here.
Saturated Fats: They are solid at room temperatures. Less than 7% should be in your diet.
Polyunsaturated Fats: They are always liquid even when refrigerated. Each type of polyunsaturated oil contains a different Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. Check the labels. Your body needs both but the Omega 3’s should be higher.
Monounsaturated Fat: Liquid at room temperature but becomes cloudy when refrigerated. Choose oils that are highest in monounsaturated fats. These are the “healthy oils”. These oils contain more Omega 3’s.
Avoid saturated fats & limit polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats such as butter & coconut oil should be used in moderation but are good substitutes for margarine.
My list of oils/fats that you see most often. Choose quality & use in moderation. It really doesn’t take more than a teaspoon or two to get the desired effect.
Butter: Certified Organic is best to avoid added antibiotics, growth hormones & GMO’s.
- Monounsaturated: 29% | Polyunsaturated: 4% | Saturated: 62%
- Flavor: Buttery!
- Uses: Low heat. Flavor.
- Problems: High in saturated fat.
- Health benefits: There is an ever increasing use in butter as a natural, healthy food instead of the chemical laden margarine or spreads. It has vitamins A, D, E & K2. Healthiest is Certified Organic or Grass Fed.
Canola Oil: Rapeseed oil, can be labeled simply Vegetable Oil.
- Monounsaturated: 62% | Polyunsaturated: 31% | Saturated: 7%
- Flavor: Neutral to mild
- Uses: For baking, frying & sauteing
- Problems: 90%+ GMO unless Certified Organic, highly refined which is why it has a long shelf life. Rapeseed oil was originally used as a petroleum oil. After WW2 its use declined. Farmers decided to figure out a new use for it. It is highly refined to be able to be consumed.
- Health benefits: Antioxidants; lower than in olive oil.
- Monounsaturated: 6% | Polyunsaturated: 2% | Saturated: 92%
- Flavor: Light coconut flavor
- Uses: High heat. Baking, stir fry, roasting & for popping popcorn!
- Problems: None. This saturated fat is not a problem because it is a medium-chain triglycerides which in research is seen as heart healthy.
- Health benefits: There is not a lot of research that suggests it is a “super food”. It is a good choice when cooking but shouldn’t replace better choices such as Olive Oil. Here is a good article: What are the health benefits of coconut oil This is a fair assessment of coconut oils health benefits.
Corn Oil: Maize Oil.
- Monounsaturated: 25% | Polyunsaturated: 62% | Saturated: 13%
- Flavor: Mild
- Uses: High heat, all purpose oil.
- Problems: High in Omega 6’s. Used as a bio-fuel & is heavily processed to produce food grade. Unless Certified Organic, corn oil is more than 90% GMO.
- Health benefits: None documented by reliable research that I could find.
Grapeseed Oil: Oil from the grape seed.
- Monounsaturated: 17% | Polyunsaturated: 73% | Saturated: 10%
- Flavor: Mild to a grape flavor~when imported.
- Uses: All purpose oil, can be used with high heat.
- Problems: High in Omega 6.
- Health benefits: Considered healthy. Further studies are needed to see if it actually lowers the risk of cancer.
Nut/Seed Oils: Walnut, Almond, Sunflower Seed
- Flavor: In general, nutty to bold
- Uses: for flavor in stir fry, roasting, & baking
- Problems: Short shelf lives. Buy in small amounts
- Health benefits: High in Omega 3’s Good article on health benefits of nuts: Nuts May Reduce Risk Of Death From Multiple Causes, Study Finds
Olive Oil, Extra Virgin: Extra Virgin or Extra, Extra Virgin are best. This refers to how many times the olives have been pressed.
- Monounsaturated: 78% | Polyunsaturated: 8% | Saturated: 14%
- Flavor: Mild to bold depending on the pressing.
- Uses: Heart healthy staple of the Mediterranean diet.
- Problems: None.
- Health benefits: High in antioxidants if extra virgin. Olive oil also contains beta carotene, and vitamins A, E, D and K.
Red Palm Oil: According to Dr. Weil, “Fresh palm fruit oil, sometimes called ‘red palm oil,’ is a nutritious and beneficial oil. However, it’s important not to confuse this raw oil with palm kernel oil, or the highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods found in most Americans’ diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.” Palm oil is called “conflict oil” & rightly so. The destruction of the planets rain forests is extremely important to consider when buying products from there. Red Palm Oil is now replacing coconut oil on the shelves of Trader Joe’s & other natural food stores. Red Palm Oil can come from Ecuador but Ecuador is seeing its rain forests replaced by Palms due to the increased demand for red palm oil. Don’t ride the “Super Food” train. Think about what you purchase and where it comes from. Recent article if you buy from Trader Joe’s: So What’s the Deal with Trader Joe’s Red Palm Oil?
- Monounsaturated: 38% | Polyunsaturated: 10% | Saturated: 52%
- Flavor: Red Palm Oil has a buttery flavor
- Uses: In processed & packaged foods.
- Problems: High in saturated fat. Not recommended.
- Health benefits: High in Vitamin A & E.
- Monounsaturated: 48% | Polyunsaturated: 34% | Saturated: 18%
- Flavor: light peanut flavor
- Uses: High heat use. Stir fry, roasting, baking.
- Problems: Short shelf life, buy in small amounts.
- Health benefits: In my research of peanut oil I found studies showing that it is “heart healthy” but I also found recent studies that show it clogged the artery. Obviously more research needs to be done. Use it in moderation; drizzle it on foods for flavor.
- Monounsaturated: 13% | Polyunsaturated: 73% | Saturated: 14%
- Flavor: Mild
- Uses: All purpose. High heat oil.
- Problems: High in Omega 6’s.
- Health benefits: Rich in Vitamin E. Considered a very healthy oil.
- Monounsaturated: 41% | Polyunsaturated: 44% | Saturated: 15%
- Flavor: Light sesame is nutty; dark sesame is a bold sesame flavor.
- Uses: Flavoring after sauteing, dark sesame for dressings & sauces.
- Problems: Short shelf life, buy in small amounts. Smokes easily. Better to toss the cooked food with a small amount for flavor.
- Health benefits: Has antioxidants. Studies in India have shown that consistent use of sesame oil lowered blood pressure; possibly due to its diuretic affect.
Soybean Oil: When you buy standard vegetable oil it is usually soybean oil. 94% of non organic soybean oil is GMO.
- Monounsaturated: 25% | Polyunsaturated: 60% | Saturated: 15%
- Flavor: mild.
- Uses: Processed foods & as an all purpose oil.
- Problems: Half of the soybean used in the US has been hydrogenated, due to it being an unstable oil, to be used in processed foods.
- Health benefits: None: High in Omega 6’s & as a partially-hydrogenated oil is a trans-fat.
- This chart was found on Spend Smart Eat Smart website.
I sincerely hope this helps you decide which oils you want to use. The “take away” from this post is to concentrate on eating QUALITY oils/fats & not be so concerned with limiting the fat in your diet. That dreadful M word again 🙂 Use in MODERATION!
Until next week….Mary
***Charts & quote taken from google images. Origin of Oil Comparison Chart could not be found.