So, how much do we really know about this absolutely repugnant three-letter word? Polyunsaturated, saturated, lipoprotein, triglyceride, essential fatty acids (EFAs), trans fats – do any of these words sound familiar? Or how about ALL of the oils at the store : avocado, walnut, sesame, peanut, grapeseed, olive, canola, vegetable, cold-pressed, expeller pressed. No wonder why we are so confused! The food industry counts on the consumer to be willfully uninformed, and so we become inundated with options as well as things marketed towards us that may not be for our benefit…but oh look at that shiny label! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food businesses have zero interest in your health, all that matters to them is their bottom line and as long as you’re buying what they’re selling they couldn’t care less.
First we need to overcome our paralyzing fear of fat. We fear what we don’t understand, yes? So let’s get to know fat a little better. Fat is a crucial element of the human diet. It is the most efficient fuel source in the body, meaning it burns the longest once we reach the energetic level needed to burn, or oxidize it.
- Fats stored in the body are most commonly triglycerides (aka TAGs). TAGs are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. When increased oxygen is introduced to the human body, think exercise, the oxidation process means that fat breaks down
- Exercise: body temperature increase –> increases breathing rate or inhalation/exhalation to regulate body temperature (Think of a dog panting in the summer. These two are a positive feedback cycle until the physical effort decreases)–> fat in the body breaks down to CO2 and water –> more breathing means more blowing off CO2 –> more fat burning.
- Since our bodies are not 100% efficient, inevitably some of everything we consume will be stored as fat. It’s not the end of the world! If for some reason it became the end of the world you’d be glad for your fat storages so you wouldn’t starve to death in two days.
- What’s an Essential Fatty Acid?
- Essential Fatty Acids cannot be made internally, they MUST come from diet
- There are two EFAs for the human diet: Omega-3 and Omega-6
- Foods high in EFAs: walnuts, almonds, hemp, flax, cold water fish (salmon, mackerel), dark and leafy greens (spinach, kale), olive oil, eggs
- Saturated vs. Unsaturated
- high melting point and tend to be solid at room temperature, becoming liquid when exposed to heat.
- Most often found in animal fats like lard, cheese, butter, but also coconut oil.
- The word “saturated” has to do with the amount of hydrogen molecules on the fat chain.
- Good: While coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it is balanced by the presence of unsaturated Omega-6 (Linoleic) and Omega-9 (oleic) fatty acids .
- Bad: considered generally unhealthy and consumers should be more mindful of the amount of saturated fats in their diets
- usually liquid at room temperature,
- Most other plant oils, olive, avocado, peanut, etc.
- Mono/polyunsaturated: 1 or more double bonds in it’s molecule chain
- Good: More bonds = less hydrogen = less energy/fewer calories
- Bad: more prone to rancidity, lesser shelf life
- solution: antioxidants protect against rancidity
- Trans Fats
- AKA “partially hydrogenated” Read those food labels people!
- A type of unsaturated fat, uncommon in nature. Byproduct of exposing to unsaturated fats to hydrogen
- Manufactures hydrogenate vegetable oils to turn them into saturated fats to make them more desirable to cook with/”melty”, and to make their products more shelf stable.
- Health Benefits
- Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble
- fat soluble– only fats can introduce these elements into the body
- Vit.A- retinol, beta-carotene
- Vit.D – calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate absorption
- Vit.E – natural antioxidant
- Vit. K- completes protein synthesis for blood coagulation
- Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble
Now the part that everyone wants to know about. What about avocados??? I’ve been told that as a baby you couldn’t keep me away from them. Somewhere as my palate developed I stopped enjoying them until about two years ago (I was 28). I took a tiny bite of my friend’s guacamole and fell in LOOOOVE. I now put them on almost everything, including pancakes. *Life hack: kosher salt sprinkled on avocado makes the spread taste like butter. You’re welcome.*
Avocados are 77% of a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. This is the same fat that constitutes olive oil, and so the health benefits like we see with in an olive oil-based diet are implicated here as well. This oil from avocados is heat-resistant to oxidation making it a great option for cooking.
Avocados have more potassium than bananas (and less sugar) and are also high in fiber! You really can’t go wrong with avocados IMO. Ever.
Jessica’s Guacamole (I’m kinda famous for this in my circles, people always tell me to bring it to gatherings)
- 6 avocados
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot
- 1/2 onion (I like Vidalia, but red onion gives a different flavor and pop of color)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 3 limes (separated)
- Kosher salt
Slice avos length and crosswise to make larger avocado chunks, mince garlic and shallot, dice onion and chop cilantro. Mix. Sprinkle salt all over and dash of pepper. Mix. Add juice of TWO limes. Mix. TASTE! This point is crucial. You’ll know if you need more salt or cilantro here since those are the other two dominant flavors that the lime accentuates. Good sprinkle of cumin and paprika.Mix. TASTE. Add the third lime at this time if you feel like it needs more citrus. Eat the shit out of it.
Stay tuned for my post on cooking with oils, which ones to use when and why!