- Comprising the myelin sheath that surrounds your nerves and assisting with transmitting nerve impulses
- Protecting the internal organs and regulating body temperature
- Necessary for the production of steroid and sex hormones and prostaglandins (hormone-like substances)
- Absorbing and transporting the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Adding flavor to foods and creating feelings of fullness after meals (thereby helping with weight loss)
- Forming the basis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—your basic molecule of energy
Here is a series of DON’T’s and DO’s when it comes to fats that can help guide you in making wise choices:
# 1: Cook with the right fats
DON’T use margarine, spreads, or any type of polyunsaturated oil for cooking, as they are extremely sensitive to heat and form toxic lipid peroxides, carcinogens and mutagens when heated. Also avoid using shortening since it is made with hydrogenated oils which are a source of trans-fats.
DO use butter, lard, tallow, chicken fat, bacon fat, coconut oil, palm oil, peanut oil and olive oil in cooking.
Polyunsaturated oils may be used in non-heated environments such as making a salad dressing, as a bread dip or drizzling over already-cooked vegetables or meats. Use butter or lard in homemade baked goods instead of shortening. (Lard makes the best pie crust in the world!)
# 2: Read labels
DON’T buy products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Also avoid ALL margarine (even those marketed as “trans-fat free”) since polyunsaturated oils are heated when margarine is produced, and this creates harmful compounds similar to trans-fats. Also, avoid bakery products since shortening is commonly used in doughs and frostings.
DO read food labels carefully. Choose organic varieties of packaged foods to help minimize harmful ingredients.
# 3: Get healthy sources of saturated fats
DON’T swear off saturated fats like meat, eggs, cheese and butter, but don’t overdo it either.
DO enjoy a variety of meats including beef, chicken, turkey, pork and bacon (look for organic, nitrate-free varieties), as well as eggs, cheese and butter. A reasonable serving size of meat is four ounces, or a piece about the size of the palm of your hand. Limit eggs to two per serving, and a sensible serving of cheese is one ounce. One to two teaspoons of butter on toast or vegetables is also fine.
# 4: Get the right sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids
DON’T rely on fish like swordfish, shark, mackerel, tuna or farmed-raised salmon as sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, as they have been shown to have high levels of contaminants including mercury and PCBs.
DO get sources of omega-3 EFAs including wild salmon, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Supplement with a high quality fish oil formula to ensure your needs are met.
# 5: Use caution when dining out
DON’T assume that restaurants make healthy fat choices. Fast food restaurants are notorious for using polyunsaturated oils for frying their French fries, chicken strips, fish filets and other deep fried items, and even higher end restaurants commonly use polyunsaturated oils in cooking.
DO ask questions of your server as to how the meals are prepared and request that your entrée be baked, broiled or sautéed in butter or olive oil. Any restaurant worthy of your business will accommodate your request.
# 6: Be aware of rancid, oxidized oils
DON’T buy unsaturated oils that are packaged in clear glass or plastic containers, as they may be rancid. Oxygen, heat and light can all cause unsaturated oils to become rancid.
DO buy unsaturated oils in dark (green or brown) containers. Store them in a dark cabinet or in the refrigerator, and recap them quickly and tightly after using.
# 7: Balance it out
DON’T concentrate on one type of fat to the exclusion of all others. Your body needs saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
DO incorporate sources of all three healthy fats into your diet. About 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fats, including saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This is easier than it seems.
For example, for dinner you can have broiled salmon (a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat), green beans with butter and garlic (a source of saturated fat) and a tossed salad with homemade olive oil-based Italian dressing (a source of monounsaturated fat).