Fat, Friend or Foe?


Oh, the drama that surrounds this 3-letter word: fat !  Though we now know that low-fat diets are not the best for our health, there is still trauma involved in what kind of fats can we eat, and how much is good for us.  Consuming moderate quantities of healthy fats is essential our health and well being.

What is fat?

Fat is a nutrient that is essential for normal body function. It supplies energy and makes it possible for other nutrients to be absorbed.  It is necessary for us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also helps with satiety; it helps us to feel full, and prevents hunger soon after meals.  Calorically, there are 9 calories in a gram of fat compared to 3 calories for protein or carbs.

What kinds of fats are there?

Fats are generally separated into whether they are saturated or unsaturated.  Saturated means that each molecule of fat is covered in hydrogen atoms. These fats are solid at room and refrigerated temperatures. Animal products, and coconut and palm oils are saturated.

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and can be found in vegetable (canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean, sunflower) oils, most nuts, olives, avocados and fatty fish (salmon). Unsaturated fats can be divided into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

Polyunsaturated fat is found in fatty fish, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil.

Monounsaturated fat is found in olives, ground nut oil, and avocados.

All of the fats mentioned above are naturally occurring. Trans Fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. These fats are not essential for human life, and do not promote good health. These fats are found in fried foods, pies, pastries, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, stick margarine, shortenings and baked goods. They are also called partially hydrogenated oils, so check the label!


Which fats are the healthiest?

Extra Virgin Olive oil – a great monounsaturated oil that is good for salad dressings, cold foods and low-heat cooking. The smoke point is 325 degrees F.

Coconut and Palm oil – both are saturated fats. Coconut is good for low or medium heat cooking, palm is good for higher heat cooking. These oils have a great shelf life, and both use up energy when metabolized. They raise body temperature, which boosts energy and metabolic rate, promoting weight loss. They have no cholesterol.

Butter-preferably from grass fed beef. It’s a rich source of vitamins A, E, K and D. It is good for medium heat cooking.


Which fats should I avoid?

-Polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower: these are high in Omega 6s. Also, they are vulnerable to oxidation. Oxidized oils can cause free-radical damage, which is implicated in heart disease and cancer. Most soy and corn oil is from GMO crops

-Canola: mostly from GMO crops

-Trans Fats: big ick! See above.

-Margarine and butter replacement spreads: mostly hydrogenated and made with emulsifiers, vitamins, coloring, flavoring and other ingredients.


What’s a great autumn recipe using fat?


Serves 4  Prep time: 30 minutes

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 cups thickly sliced carrots

2 thin slices of ginger

1 med. Onion, chopped

5 cups chicken broth

¾ Cup full fat coconut milk

¾ teaspoon red curry paste

salt and pepper to taste

1 scallion, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and stir in the carrots and ginger. Cook over medium heat until the carrots start to brown, about 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Stir in the broth, coconut milk and curry paste.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes.Remove from heat, and puree in a blender or food processor. Do it in batches, as the full amount will be too much for the blender.

Pour soup back into saucepan, and add the shredded chicken (if you are adding).

Serve with some scallions and cilantro sprinkled on top and additional salt and pepper if needed.