Happy Health

About Fats & Oils

"About Fats & Oils" is an info bit from the 2nd edition of my cookbook, "Vegetable Joy: Eating More Vegetables for Health and Love of Life". I think this is very important information to consider and to pass on to others especially through a time when saturated fats are wrongly labeled as 'bad guys', when in fact research shows that it is the synthesized oil spreads that cause serious health problems. At least for the sake of growing children, please look into the possibility of some fats as a necessary part of a healthy diet.


Of all the different groups of daily foodstuffs, I reckon that the fats, which include vegetable oils, are the most plagued by 'con's': confusing, controversial, contradictory. Shining through the mainstream cant of, "Fats are bad!" I have found fascinating and reliable information in from Fallon & Enig's Nourishing Traditions about how the crusade against fats – and for synthetic margarines and spreads (note 1.) – is based on part- and mis-information, and led by profit rather than health. In Good For You (info pages 66-7 in Vegetable Joy) I consider some reasons why we are misled about foods.

My purpose here for this vast subject is to help overcome some myths, give basic information to encourage us to think again along with pointers to find out more, and details for deciding the most appropriate choices for cooking and serving our meals – and for adjusting any Vegetable Joy recipe as you see fit. The following extracts are from Fallon & Enig’s chapter "Fats" pages 4-20, (though in a different order). My added comments are in italics.

In summary, our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter [at best organic, from grass fed cows – ref Harvey2.] as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome – indeed, an essential – food for you and your whole family.

Again, simlarly to the big salt debate, part of the confusion is over what kind of fats and oils; and their condition (e.g. heated or otherwise changed).

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet. Fats as a part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes. . . The demonized saturated fats – which Americans [and British] are trying to avoid – are not the cause of our modern diseases. In fact, they play many important roles in body chemistry [including]:

  • Saturated fats constitute at least 50 percent of the cell membranes, giving them necessary stiffness and integrity so they can function properly.
  • They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50 percent of the dietary fats should be saturated.
  • They lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease.
  • They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins.
  • They enhance the immune system.

Cholesterol? Surely, we may well ask, aren't high-cholesterol foods harmful to eat? Can so many doctors be so ill-informed or misled? 2. (See also note on page 66. The short answer is 'yes, easily'.)

The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that "artery-clogging" saturated fats cause heart disease.3. . . Like saturated fats, the cholesterol we make and consume plays many vital roles [they give a long list]. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease but rather a potent antioxidant weapon against free radicals in the blood, and a repair substance that helps arterial damage. However, like fats, cholesterol may be damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen. This damaged or oxidized cholesterol seems to promote both injury to the arterial cells as well as pathological buildup of plaque in the arteries. Damaged cholesterol is found in powdered eggs4., in powdered milk (added to reduced-fat milks to give them body) and in meats and fats that have been heated to high temperatures in frying and other high temperature processes.

The cause of heart disease is not animal fats and cholesterol but rather a number of factors inherent in modern diets, including excessive consumption of vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats; excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies . . . and the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply, namely animal fats and tropical oils. These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of pathogenic plaque leading to heart disease.

The media's constant attack on saturated fats is extremely suspect. Research does not support the claim that butter causes chronic high cholesterol values – although some studies show that butter consumption causes a small temporary rise. . . Margarine, on the other hand, provokes chronic high levels of cholesterol and has been linked to both heart disease and cancer. The new soft margarines or tub spreads, while lower in hydrogenated fats, are still produced from rancid vegetable oils and many contain additives.

Rancid fats / Free radicals This is a major part of why we need to take a lot of care in choosing, storing and cooking (or not) our fats and oils as well as nuts and seeds. Most vegetable oils are drawn from seeds using heat processes (cheaper and quicker), so buy only cold pressed oils, and store them away from sunlight. Rancidity can't always be tasted, like old nuts (yuk!) or the bottle of oil forgotten in the back of the cupboard (bin it!).

One reason the polyunsaturates [including those 'good for you' not-butter spreads] cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture during cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals . . . 'marauders' in the body for they attack cell membranes and red blood cells, causing damage in DNA/RNA strands that can trigger mutation in tissue, blood vessels and skin.

FATS OILS FOR COOKING Not 'Stable' means not easily becoming rancid / toxic when heated. Details about saturation percent and omegas are included in the full Fallon / Enig material.

  • Duck, Goose and Pork (lard) Fats are all stable enough for frying.
  • Beef and Mutton Tallows, Suet very stable, can be used for frying. Traditional cultures valued these fats for their health benefits.
  • Butter Because of its natural milk solids and water, butter burns at a low-medium temerpature (245ºF). Clarified butter (‘ghee’) can take higher temperatures. I use butter for my pancakes, and rarely burn. You can melt butter and scoop the clear fat off the top to use; or buy ghee.
  • Olive Oil ideal for salads and cooking at moderate temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants. It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow colour, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives. Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don't overdo. [It is] more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than. . . butter and coconut oil.
  • Sesame Oil can be used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat. However the high percentage of omega-6 militates against exclusive use.
  • Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils [too much Omega-6, too little Omega 3 therefore] Use of these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking. [Also, unless truly cold-pressed they have probably been heat treated for extraction.]
  • Flax Seed Oil (unrefined) New extraction and bottling methods have minimized rancidity problems. It should always be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads [never cook].
  • Tropical Oils [e.g. coconut] are stable and can be kept at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid. [See Fallon's "Eat Fat Lose Fat" cookbook. Coconut oil/fat is the only fat 100% safe for frying.]

    1. See also note on page 66, note re statins and cholesterol
    2. Graham Harvey points out in We Want Real Food, p.121, "The theory [that animal fats cause heart disease] has now been largely debunked. (Uffe Ravnskov, The Cholesterol Myths, New Trends Publishing, U.S.A., 2000). . Evidence finally refuting it emerged in the early 1980s. (James Le Fanu, The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, Abacus, 1999, p. 149)."
    3. Their paragraph continues, “Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26 percent is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.”
    4. Powdered eggs are among the most common food additives. Powdered milk is the main ingredient in baby dairy milk formula. Soya based formula is probably not healthier. I suggest doing your own research to find healthier ways of feeding children, perhaps looking to traditional means.
    Further info www.westonaprice.org Well worth finding out about Dr. Price, his research and the current educational non-profit organization – the work Fallon and Enig are furthering. In Britain: www.naturalfoodfinder.co.uk

All information, recommendations and instructions are given intending to support and not replace medical care. Please use "Happy Health" and all other Lifepower teaching responsibly, and seek medical help as appropriate.

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