The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils – What to Cook With (or not), What to Avoid and Why

Guide to Fats and Oils | Real Food Kosher

Choosing the right fats and oils in your food preparation has a dramatic impact on your health. There is much information and misinformation on what constitutes healthy fats. This Guide to Fats and Oils chart simplifies the best choices of fats for cooking, fats that should not be heated, and which to avoid altogether. 

It took our health community decades to recognize the dangers of trans fats in margarine and other butter replacements. And only recently are the anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing benefits of coconut oil, a saturated fat, being publicized. How long do we need to wait until  “heart-healthy” vegetable oils are recognized for its inflammatory effects and as a major contributor to modern disease?

Do what healthy traditional societies free of disease have done for generations, eat fats from foods that nature provides, including the highly stable animal and tropical fats and avoid industrial, factory – made processed fats and oils.

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Kitchen Guide to Fats and Oils | Real Food Kosher

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Fats and Oils 101

All fats and oils are made up of a combination of three main kinds of fatty acids; saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated linoleic (LA) or linolenic acid. These refer to the kind of structure these fatty acids have between their carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Saturated Fatty Acids

The carbon chain in a saturated fatty acid are filled, or saturated, with hydrogen atoms.
This saturation creates a compact and highly stable structure that resist oxidation, even under high temperatures.
Saturated fatty acids are found in animal fats and tropical oils.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

The carbon chain is missing two hydrogen atoms and has one (mono) double bond instead between two of its carbons – so it is not saturated (unsaturated) by hydrogen atoms.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are not densely packed and bends at the double bond – why these fats are liquid at room temperature and cannot be exposed to high heat like saturated fatty acids.
They are found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)

The carbon chain is missing several hydrogen atoms and contain two or more (poly) double bonds.
PUFAs are highly unstable and sensitive to heat and light that can cause free radicals which harm your body.
They are found in corn, canola, soy, sunflower, safflower, rice bran, and grapeseed oils.

Vegetable Oils and the Omega ratio

“Back in the MI (myocardial infarction) free days before 1920, the fats were butter and lard and I think that we would all benefit from the kind of diet that we had at a time when no one had ever heard the word corn oil.”
- Dr. Dudley White speaking at an American Heart Association fund raiser in 1956.

Vegetable oils may sound healthy but they are highly processed foods that require industrial processes to extract its oils. Part of the process involves using toxic chemicals like hexane and bleaching agents to help extract and deodorize these oils. Even organic expeller-pressed vegetable oils undergo tremendous processing and are exposed to heat and therefore oxidize easily resulting in a toxic food.

A crucial factor for good health is the proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids in the diet. (Omega 3 fatty acids are triple unsaturated (3 double bonds) linolenic acid and omega – 6 is a double (2 double bonds) unsaturated linoleic acid). The exponential rise of vegetable oil consumption in our diets (found in all processed foods) and grain feeding of cattle and poultry has altered the ideal healthy omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.

The high omega – 6,  polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn, canola, soy, sunflower, safflower, rice bran, and grapeseed oils, increase inflammation in the body and are associated with;

  • cardiaovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • IBS
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • auto-immunity diseases
  • high blood pressure
  • infertility
  • weight gain
  • blood clots

These polyunsaturated vegetable oils – especially when heated – damage your cells, metabolic function, gene expression, and hormone functions. (Borage, evening primrose, and hemp oil are exceptions, though they are PUFAs they function as anti-inflammatories: are GLA Gamma-linolenic acid). This is why the addition of fish oils and cod liver oil supplements (omega – 3) are so popular in the natural health care industry.

Vegetable oils, if not organic, are likely derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), another important reason to avoid them. Read more about the health dangers of GMO’s and how to avoid them.

What about Saturated Fats?

“The greatest scientific deception of this century, perhaps any century.”
- Geroge Mann, American scientist, criticizing the diet-heart hypothesis; the idea that high cholesterol foods cause heart disease.

The diet-heart hypothesis or lipid hypothesis first proposed by Ancel Keys surprisingly has little evidence to support it.  Heart disease was rare in the early 1900′s when our diets were much higher in animal fats. The elevated triglycerides in the blood linked to heart disease do not come from dietary fats, but are produced in the liver from excess sugars from carbohydrates like refined sugars and white flour and from fructose. What is contributing to heart disease is the excess consumption of vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats, and refined sugars in our modern diet.

Essential Roles of Saturated Fatty Acids

  • enhance the immune system (needed by the white blood cells)
  • needed for strong bones (helps absorb calcium)
  • provide energy and structural integrity to the cells
  • protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins
  • healthy lungs (saturated fatty acids create the surfactant that and protect coat the lungs airspaces)
  • building blocks for hormones
  • assist in mineral absorption and
  • cardiovascular health
  • building blocks of a healthy brain and nervous system

Recommended Reading

Websites:

The Truth About Saturated Fat – Mary Enig
The Oiling of America – Mary Enig and Sally Fallon
What Should my Blood Cholesterol Be? – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
9 Steps to Perfect Health – #1 Don’t Eat Toxins – Chris Kresser
Smart Fuel: Macadamia Oil - Mark’s Daily Apple
How Canola Oil is Made – The Coconut Mama
The Ugly Truth About Vegetable Oils – Thank Your Body
Understanding Cooking Oils – Fearless Eating
The Surprising Nutrient that Nourishes Your Heart – Wise Roots Nutrition
The Truth About Saturated Fat – The Savory Lotus
Is Cooking with Grape Seed Oil a Good Idea? – Eat naked
5 Cooking Oils You Think Are Healthy but Aren’t – Healy Real Food Vegetarian
5 Reasons You Should Eat Butter – Carly Shankman
5 Reasons to Stop Using Crisco – Oh Lardy!

Books:

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food – Catherine Shanahan, MD
Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Know Your Fats – Mary Enig

"PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog." I only endorse products that align with the ideals of Real Food Kosher and that I believe would be of value to my readers.

Comments

    • Lisa says

      Hi Elsa,
      Thanks for your comment. Grapeseed oil is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, high in omega 6, which most people have too much of in their diet. It may not be as bad as some of the other oils on the list, but I think there are better options.

      From the Weston Price Website:

      “Question: Is grapeseed oil a good choice? We hear so much about it. I have read that grape seed oil has a very high smoke point so it is a good oil to use for cooking.

      Answer: Grapeseed oil contains phenols that raise the smoke point. However it is very high in omega-6 fatty acids, so it not a good choice for our diets–we need to avoid excess omega-6 fatty acids as much as possible. Also, grapeseed oil is industrially processed with hexane and other carcinogenic solvents, and traces will remain in the oil.”

      http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/530-questions-and-misconceptions-on-fats-and-oils.html

      If you do decide grapeseed oil works for you, look for organic expeller – pressed.

  1. Laura says

    Thank you so much for simplifying all this information! I printed the chart and hung it in my kitchen so my husband can learn without me ‘nit-picking’ at him!

    • lisa says

      Hi Beth,
      That’s a personal thing and it probably depends on how much processed food is in your diet as well. If you’re already eating a real food healthy diet you can probably do more then that. But if you’re having health issues/inflammation it’s worth researching this more.
      You’ll find researchers and health professionals with strong opinions in both directions so like everything else in nutrition – just keep on learning…

  2. says

    What a great article! Thank you so much for posting this. I have been trying to find a simplified and easy to understand breakdown of fats and oils to share with some of my family members who have been looking to me to help them with their diets lately. It helps when I Have great articles like this to share with them. Now I am looking forward to checking out the rest of your site. I found you on the Monday Mania Carnival btw :)

  3. says

    Hi Lisa,
    I found your blog from a food carnival. Your article on fats is one of the most informative I’ve seen. I am in the process of writing posts about fats as well and really appreciate your thorough investigation of the issue and your clear outline of the chemistry. The other features of your blog are also beautiful. The hamentaschen look fabulous! I also celebrate Purim. I am curious how you find grassfed Kosher meat and poultry? I am not Kosher, but some relatives of mine are. I subscribed and look forward to your next post!

    • lisa says

      Thank you for subscribing Jill! I hope you had a great Purim.
      Regarding grass-fed kosher meat depends where in the US your relatives live. In California, our only option right now is ordering from Kol Foods – http://kolfoods.com/ – they are the only company I know of that will ship to the West Coast, though sometimes our butcher gets grass-fed beef from Uruguay. Another option is Red Heifer Farm in NY –
      http://redheiferfarm.com/.
      Hazon may be a good resource for them – if there are any local Hazon CSA’s in their area they may be able to suggest the best options; http://www.hazon.org/ .

  4. says

    Thanks for a great article. Everybody should be educated on the dangers of vegetable oils (margarine). There is plenty of scientific evidence for their unhealthy effects. http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/search/label/Margarine%20Dangers

    There’s also many studies on the benefits of saturated fats http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/search/label/Saturated%20Fat%20and%20Heart%20Disease

    I’ve just printed the guide to fats and oils. Should be in every Doctors surgery!

  5. says

    I LOVE this! This should be printed out on that fridge magnet paper and distributed to every household! It is great that you have the foods to avoid list, some people need reminding. Good on you!

  6. says

    makes so much sense when you think about it! any info on the best places to get grass fed fats for cooking? i could probably get beef suet from the whole foods butcher (where they sell grass fed meat), but is lard/tallow different than suet? also the shelf life might not be very long.

    thanks in advance!

    • lisa says

      Hi Nina,
      Eat Wild, http://www.eatwild.com/, is a good source to find grass-fed animal products. You can also look for a Weston Price Chapter in your area, they would be able to refer you to the best sources, http://www.westonaprice.org/find-a-local-chapter. I keep kosher, so my experience with these fats and their availabilities are more limited.

      Suet is raw beef fat that is rendered (melting and straining the fat) to make tallow, which has a longer shelf life. Lard is pig fat (both rendered and unrendered).

  7. Dan Savage says

    Though you have multiple citations none of those studies come from very respectable sources. Anyone can write a blog or book but to get an article from a PEER REVIEWED journal is much more difficult but legitimate.

    • lisa says

      I appreciate your feedback, Dan. But people aren’t coming to my blog looking for peer reviewed scientific research. I blog about the conclusions I have made from what I read, and from how eating this way keeps my family healthier than eating the recommended low-fat, highly processed food diet.

      Many of these traditional fats have been part of our diets for thousands of years, I don’t need “peer reviewed” scientific research (where the source of funding could be coming from the very industry they are studying) to tell me that the diets we’ve evolved on is detrimental to our health.

      Lastly, what makes the doctors I quoted from not a legitimate source? They are healing people everyday with real food diets that include these fats. I agree research is necessary, but research doesn’t always get it right.
      Have you read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes?

  8. natalie says

    Do you know anything about ricebran oil? We use it as the children dislike coconut oil ( I only use coconut oil)

    Great article :)

    • lisa says

      Thanks Natalie!

      I have some family members that strongly dislike the coconut oil as well, but I’ve been using the “Ultra Clean Expeller Pressed” coconut oil from Wilderness Family Naturals (http://www.wildernessfamilynaturals.com/category/expeller-pressed-organic-coconut-oil.php) and no one ever detects a coconut flavor.

      I don’t know much about rice bran oil, but I did find some good info at Mark’s Daily Apple;

      “Rice bran oil is 39% monounsaturated fat, 35% polyunsaturated fat, and about 20% saturated fat. It has a smoke point of 490 to 500 degrees F, making it a popular up-and-coming fry oil for chefs. It’s also fairly rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant called gamma-oryzanol, and several different plant sterols, all of which should offer some protection for the fat against high heat oxidation. That said, it remains fairly high in PUFAs, which are already high in the standard American diet.

      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/rancid-fat-store-bought-mayo-and-ric-bran-oil

      • natalie says

        Thanks for the fast response :) will look more into it. I am located in Australia, so will have to research the other coconut oil you mention..

        We have been using rice bran oil in the fryer (which is rarely used) as it takes so much oil and is too expensive for coconut oil to fill it.

        Other than that, we dont use a lot of oil (except myself, who drinks coconut oil ;) )
        I was concerned as I couldn’t find much information on Rice bran oil.
        My DH uses it in the pizza sauce, cooking roasties etc… They hate anything with coconut oil in :(

        • Jayne says

          Natalie,
          You can ask your local butcher for the waste fat. They are usually happy to give it to you free of charge as they must pay someone to take it away. Then you can render it into lard yourself. Myself and some of my friends are now doing this and it is almost exclusively our cooking fat now. It is a super cheap alternative to fill your fryer.
          I use my wok for deep frying things, then pour off the fat into a small stainless steel bowl to be used again for whatever.

  9. Hether says

    I’m looking for a good and affordable oil for popping popcorn in a large commercial machine. Coconut oil is not in the budget.

    • lisa says

      Hi Hether,
      I’m not really sure what the best option would be. Please let us know if you find out more information that can help you with that.

  10. says

    I am sorry but you have got one seriously wrong. Once again the oft repeated lie about olive oil only being good for low temperature or unheated uses is proliferated. I do 90% of my cooking with a local (Texas) extra virgin olive oil with a smoke temperature in the 400-420°F range, depending on which year’s press. There plenty of headroom to fry with it, as I do regularly and I have no problem using it to sauté either.
    I don’t know who started the misinformation, but to have it repeated without testing, is annoying to say the least.

    • lisa says

      Hi Chef Jeremy,
      Thanks for your feedback.
      I’ve read different views regarding frying with olive oil, and still feel that the more stable saturated fats are better options for frying because of its more stable structure but there are times when I’ve used olive oil for sauteing and roasting.

      All that said, this blog is about me as a mom making the best choices for my family based on what I’ve read. I don’t pretend to be an authority in any way and people should always follow up with their own research to make their educated choices.

      The misinformation regarding saturated fats being bad for us and vegetable oils being better choices is really the main point I want to get across.

  11. Chrystal Shelley says

    Lisa, Could you please point me in the right direction to read more about your above statement “The elevated triglycerides in the blood linked to heart disease do not come from dietary fats, but are produced in the liver from excess sugars from carbohydrates like refined sugars and white flour and from fructose.” I don’t recall reading that statement anywhere before…

  12. Luke Brennan says

    Great Article – Thank you!

    I have been using/drinking coconut oil for some years now and cannot recommend enough the benefits (on so many levels)

    Family, friends, clients and strangers all get terribly bored with my discussions on fats and particularly Coconut Oil, that they have little or no option but to start taking it and reaping its rewards

    Onwards & Upwards

    Luke

  13. says

    What a great resource guide for fats and oils, thank you! Because we do a lot of baking of vintage cakes over here (remember, just a moderate slice on special occasions) :) we’re always looking for ways to improve vintage recipes when we tweak them. Do you have any tips for baking with fats and oils? For example, we’ve heard that Sunflower oil is healthier to use than corn or canola oil and that using lard in a crust is not as bad as it was thought to be.
    Leslie Macchiarella recently posted..Cake Adventures – and a King Arthur Flour Giveaway

    • says

      Hi Leslie,
      I don’t personally use lard because of kosher restrictions, but lard is a great option for pie crust, I’ve heard it makes it very flaky.
      If you don’t have any dairy issues use butter – that’s the best for baking cakes etc…
      You definitely want to stay away from corn and canola oil.

  14. Ann Rein says

    Which one of the oils to cook with should you consider the equivalent to ‘vegetable oil’ when cooking/sauteing things like onions, garlic, etc.? Wouldn’t coconut oil give a flavor? I guess what I’m asking is which one is the most flavor neutral for general cooking?

    • says

      Ann, I’ve been using expeller pressed coconut oil since my family doesn’t like the coconut flavor of the raw coconut oil, but the expeller pressed has been fine for sauteing onions etc… I also like using ghee which is a clarified butter. I do use extra virgin olive oil for low heat sauteing when neither option works.
      Lisa recently posted..Salsa Verde

  15. Danny says

    The linked information about hemp oil is incorrect in a few different ways. One thing it says is that hemp oil extraction is unhealthy, but I get my hemp oil from Manitoba Harvest where it is cold-pressed. MH says it’s 3:1 omega 6-omega 3, and the linked article says it’s 4:1. I use hemp oil and it has improved my health in many ways, most noticeable is the increased brain function.
    Any oils from animals, unless it’s organic meat, will have gmo’s in them, in some capacity, as non-organically raised chicken, cows, geese, whatever get gmo feed. They also get antibiotics in their feed.
    Palm oil production is destroying rain forests, including the only areas where a few orangutans survive in the wild. Reportedly, in Africa, palm is produced less destructively–at least not specifically destroying the last niches of orangutans.
    There are plenty of healthy plant omega oils. Udo Erasmus has a great website with a lot of information.
    Weston Price followers are….well, a little cultish, to my sensibilities, so when I read the WP name, I am circumspect about the information.
    Lots of good info in your blog. It was linked by a fb friend.

    • lisa says

      Hi Danny,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the hemp oil. If you notice I left that off my chart since I haven’t done enough research on it to have any strong feelings either way. But hemp is very high in PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) so it may be prone to rancidity.

      What are your thoughts on Mark Sisson’s take?: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/hemp-primal/#ixzz1kJWFcDRX

      You also raise an excellent point regarding animal fats. Organic is the best option – animals probably tend to accumulate toxins in their fats under industrial type conditions and the gmo in their feed is frightening.

      I know about the controversy on palm oil production but there are a few companies who claim to be producing it sustainably in large plantations that don’t destroy surrounding rainforests. People need to shop responsibly.

      I think the Weston Price Foundation is putting out amazing information on nutrition and health and educating people on how non-industrial societies live in optimal health on animal based foods in a current environment that blames chronic conditions on those same foods.

      I don’t agree with everything the foundation supports (I don’t think everyone does well on grains and dairy no matter how fermented, sprouted, etc..) but am grateful for all I learned from the foundation. Bringing back traditional foods like fermented vegetables and bone broths and just getting back to eating real food would do wonders for our nation’s health.

      People tend to get “cultish” no matter what their stance is (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc..). I think you should be circumspect on any nutrition information you read not just Weston Price.
      We all have our biases and personal health journey – this kind of exchange of information the internet offers can be used as way to grow and learn.

      Thank you for visiting my blog – please continue to leave your thoughts.

      • Linda H. says

        It is interesting to read your comment, “I don’t think everyone does well on grains and dairy no matter how fermented, sprouted, etc…”

        My husband has suffered from Ulcerative Colitis for many years (decades, in fact). About 3 years ago, when the medications would no longer keep it under control and he was prescribed a treatment that he deemed unacceptable (immune-suppressant therapy), he found the “Specific Carbohydrate Diet”.

        One of the main restrictions on the diet is *absolutely no grains of any kind – EVER*, including no corn. Also no processed sugar, no uncultured dairy (although homemade yogurt is part of the protocol), no starches or starchy vegetables…the list goes on.

        It was a very hard transition from our seemingly healthy diet (lots of fresh veggies and salads, whole grains, and home cooking), but it has changed his life! Apparently the “Specific Carbs” that are eliminated were contributing to a bacterial imbalance in the gut, damaging it and causing the disease.

        He has been in remission for two years, and is weaning off of the last of his medication – on his way to a normal life. We will never go back to the old way of eating (except, perhaps, at Thanksgiving and Christmas)! :-)

        • says

          Hi Linda,
          I know all about the SCD diet – that is how I healed my son from his digestive issues. All the “specialists” told me he would have IBS his whole life and would have to suffer and proceeded to give me a prescription for when his stomach aches got too painful.

          He no longer suffers but if he does overdo it on gluten/sugar/pasteurized dairy (at birthday parties etc…) he gets rashes on his face. Many of the recipes on my site are SCD friendly – I keep our diet at home gluten-free and mostly grain-free and limited raw/fermented dairy.

          So glad to hear about your husband’s healing and weaning off of medication. Amazing how diet can heal!!

  16. says

    Hi Lisa, this is an excellent guide, and I enjoyed reading it. One oil that I noticed missing was Macadamia Nut Oil. I’ve been using this instead of olive oil for cooking for a while now. It has a high flash point, doesn’t seem to go rancid, and it has a great ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.

      • says

        Hi Philip,
        I love mac nut oil – I use it to make homemade mayonnaise.
        I didn’t do enough research regarding cooking with it to come to a conclusion. If you have any information on how heat stable it is please link to it.

  17. Cherie says

    What a terrible article! So unresearched, biased, no study references to speak of. Thanks to you maybe a handful more people will die of heart disease, nice one. You have no idea what you’re talking about, studies consistently show saturated fats are the main cause of heart disease. Do your research!

    • says

      I have a hard time believing that the foods we have been eating for thousands of years (millions depending on your beliefs) are suddenly the root cause of our health issues. There are many societies around the world that have based their diets on animal fats, coconut, and other saturated fats and show good health.

      Cherie, you are welcome to link to those studies if you like and let people make their own educated choices but I think you can find a study to back up anything you want to prove. And there is much written about how biased those studies have been.

      Most readers are aware that the current nutritional dogma blames saturated fats for heart disease – my chart is not going to change their minds. It’s here for those of us who have not seen robust health following mainstream health advice.

      Removing saturated fats from our diets almost always means processed foods take its place. This thinking is what created trans fats and look where that got us. Vegetable oils are not any better (try making that in your kitchen). Stressing whole unprocessed real foods is what this blog is about.

      Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own health – I don’t claim to know it all, I’m just sharing what I believe works for my family.

      If you want more scientific based analysis, I recommend Chris Masterjohns’s blog
      http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/.
      Gary Taube’s book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” explores how the idea evolved that saturated fat causes heart disease.
      Uffe Ravnskov’s (MD, PhD) book “Fat and Cholesterol are Good For You” analyzes serious issues with many of those saturated fats studies – one being that the trans fat intake of study participants are not always taken into account.
      For an amazing testimonial on how real food can heal check out Dr. Terry Wahl’s Tedex video on youtube; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc.

      Cherie, I don’t think the answer to any health issue is that simple – if saturated fat is the answer why is statin drug use increasing?

      • X says

        “I have a hard time believing that the foods we have been eating for thousands of years (millions depending on your beliefs) are suddenly the root cause of our health issues.”

        Our lifestyle has greatly changed since the Creation, I’m afraid. We are now sedentary and eat more calories than we expend. Back in the day, people burned off much more energy, had stronger hearts from all the exercise, etc, etc, etc. They could afford to eat just about anything. Trying to eat in the same way our great-grandparents while still wanting to live a modern life is not really realistic.

        One more thing: one can’t just say that oil is responsible for health/heart problems simply because we are eating more oil than we were 100 years ago and the rates of health problems have gone up. That is a correlation, and correlation never, ever, should be used to imply causation. There could be a confounding variable (like lack of exercise) which could be responsible for the health problems, but instead we’d be blaming oil. And our oil consumption is not the only thing that’s changed: how about the huge increase in portion size, childhood obesity (from all sorts of different sources), and hydrogenated oil use? All potential confounds. There is no way you can make one single causal statement about all of this and be 100% right.

        I respect your right to share your views, but I strongly recommend you take a basic Research Methods & Designs class at a local college.

        Have a good Pesach!

        • lisa says

          Hi “X”,
          If you read my post, I write that vegetable oils are “associated” with current health conditions. I certainly don’t claim that oil is the only thing responsible for our health problems. (Where did I make that statement that vegetable oil consumption is the single cause for these health issues?). No – correlation does not imply causation – I don’t need a college course to understand that, but we can use observations as a starting point for further research.

          We will never live the lives of our grandparents but you can read Weston Price and others who observed traditional peoples eating diets high in animal foods and saturated fats and did not exhibit the high rates of heart disease and other health conditions and learn from that. I don’t think our grandparents could afford to “eat just about anything”. Weston Price was able to observe what happened when these traditional societies introduced modern foods into their diets – their healthy lifestyles could not protect them from these processed foods and their health did deteriorate.

          Our current medical establishment continues to blame health issues on saturated fats and cholesterol and ignores our evolutionary history and anthropological observations. This dogma leads to our current low fat diet recommendations and replaces whole foods with supposedly processed “healthier” versions.

          It’s a multifaceted and complicated issue – there are more toxins in our food, water, and air, genetically modified foods, artificial ingredients, and other modern stressors.

          But I still feel that getting back to real foods (yes- the way our grandparents used to eat) can improve our chances for healthier lives.

          Lastly, I don’t make claims to be a scientist, researcher, or medical expert. I express my views based on what I read and how eating this way healed my family – I never hide that fact. People that want to delve deeper should certainly do so and can start with some of the sources that I list.

          • Paleo Huntress says

            Hi Lisa,

            I know immediately that someone hasn’t done any of their OWN research when they make the claim that “saturated fat causes heart disease”. That is, unfortunately, a myth that simply won’t die- and they are simply repeating it. For what it’s worth, I spent two years as a whole-food vegan and though initially I lost about 25lbs, over the course of those years I gained it back plus 65 more to top out at 300lbs. The day I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I changed my diet. I’d been following the vegan cult so blindly that even my own poor health couldn’t open my eyes until a specialist said, “Your diet is killing you.” I was astonished– I’d been weighing and measuring and counting out my 1800 vegan calories/day for 2 years and I just couldn’t believe it.

            I started low-carb and that morphed into Paleo/primitive, and within 3 months, my diabetes was gone- as was the awful GERD I’d suffered with- my cholesterol dropped over 100 points and the ratio idealized. Keep in mind, this is going from a diet with NO saturated fat, to a diet that included 2-4 eggs/day cooked in butter or lard, coconut oil, red grass-fed meats, raw cream in my coffee, etc. I ditched those veggie oils and the grains and legumes they’re pressed from and never looked back. The Seasonal Depression I’d struggled with for years just vanished. I went from 3 prescriptions/day to radiant health in under 4 months- and I lost 100 lbs in 10.5 total.

            It pays to do your own research! Even vegan guru Dr. Gabriel Cousens says the vegan diet is WAY too low in fat, especially saturated fats like coconut and palm. He is curing diabetes with diets that are as much as 50% calories from fat. I wish that people understood that it is carbohydrate that is the “activity macro”, and not fat. The less active we are, the less CARBOHYDRATE we need- carbohydrate is the “quick” fuel- the human body evolved getting the bulk of its energy from fat.

            Wonderful blog post!

            ~Huntress

          • lisa says

            Thank you, Huntress, for that amazing and detailed testimonial!! I appreciate you sharing your story, I think it can offer inspiration to many suffering from health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

          • Paleo Huntress says

            Oh! I should add too that my CRP (inflammation marker) dropped so dramatically that my endo repeated the test because he couldn’t believe the first results were real. =)

            ~Huntress

  18. says

    Thank you for putting together this terrific resource that will help SO MANY people with their weight and especially their health! After all, what is going on outside your body is a reflection of the condition INside your body!
    The Paleo Plan is eating plan for Humans!

  19. Sandy Newman says

    Hi there! Thank you for putting this wonderful guide together.

    What is your take on Spectrum’s Organic Palm Oil Shortening? It claims to have no hydrogenated / trans-fats. It is made through mechanical processing.

    Also what about Earth Balance/ Smart Balance and their fake butters? What are the main cons for these?

    Thank you!

    Sandy

    • lisa says

      Hi Sandy,
      I keep meaning to do research on Palm Oil shortening – I didn’t add it to my list since I haven’t read enough to make a final choice for my family. But quickly glancing at the Weston A Price Foundation Shopping Guide, Spectrum’s Organic Palm Oil Shortening is listed in the “Good” category (they list different categories of food as “Best”, “Good”, and “Avoid”). If I come across more information I’ll update my chart.

      Regarding the fake butters – I see no need for them. They are highly processed ingredients. Even the earth balance with its “natural oils blend” – how do they get these oils to act like a solid fat without hydrogenation? I say go for the real thing, butter is good for you! If you can’t tolerate dairy, coconut oil is an excellent baking substitute.
      There’s so much research coming out on how vegetable oils are contributing to our health issues, using them as replacements for natural fats are not a good idea.

      Earth Balance ingredients “expeller-pressed natural oil blend (palm fruit, canola, soybean, flax and olive).

      Smart Balance “Omega 3 Buttery Sticks” ingredients “butter, blend of natural oils (palm fruit, soybean, flaxseed, and purified fish oils), water … soybean lecithin, natural flavor, whey, lactic acid, vegetable monoglycerides and sorbitan ester of fatty acids (emulsifiers), vitamin E, Vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene color.”

      Though I do give Earth Balance credit for using non-gmo oils, I would stay far away from Smart Balance.

      I say when in doubt – go for the least processed and most natural choice.

  20. says

    What a clear, well-researched post. I’ve read many books and blogs on this topic and this might be the best I’ve seen. It sums everything up quite concisely. I’m putting this chart in my kitchen and sending the link to my parents, who recently decided to change their SAD diets after my daddy had a scare with a blocked artery. I read all the comments and I admire the way you respond to the dissenters. Very measured. Great job!

  21. Muhammad Aamir says

    Hi Lisa,
    I appreciate your effort for sharing this information. I am in vegetable oil process industry so I can better understand how hexane, bleaching, hydrogenation & Deoderising at 300-450 C of palm oil & canola, cottonseed, soybean and sunflower oil will affect these source of fats.
    After reading this article I got confused regarding the use of palm oil, as in my locality,coconut oil is rarely available,olive oil is too expensive. So after reading this, hydrogenated palm oil & all other veg oil are not good source of fats, so does that mean should we go for pure unprocessed palm olein for cooking & frying.

    I will appreciate your feedback.

    • lisa says

      Ellen, you can find a study to prove whatever you want.

      I don’t know why everyone forgets basic anatomy and physiology when they condemn saturated fats and cholesterol. If you look at the basic structure of the human cell (which we have trillions of), you can see that the cell membrane is made up of fats and cholesterol – without those they cannot function properly. Our brains need fats, our steroid hormones are made up of fats, even human breast-milk is full of cholesterol and saturated fats.

      Coconut oil is much more stable than other cooking oils – I would definitely stay away from using polyunsaturated fats for cooking – and that’s what people use who are afraid of saturated fats and it’s probably one of the most inflammatory foods in our diets.

      Coconut oil is also being used for alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. I think if your husband researched studies on MCT oils for brain health he will be surprised by how much is out there now.

      Like I stated in my post – many traditional societies relied on the fats that were available to them and they were not dropping dead from heart attacks.

      I have a hard time accepting the common dogma of avoiding saturated fats, we don’t need food processors to “save” us from thousands of years of eating natural foods that included saturated fats and cholesterol. The only way to eat with the current food guidelines is to eat processed foods and that’s exactly what’s getting us all sick.

      No matter what study you throw at me – I’m always going to stick with real food – nature, God, evolution (whatever your beliefs are) really does know best.

  22. says

    Hi! I read that sunflower oil that is organic and expeller pressed is a great choice for high heat cooking. I read that this oil is a high oleic monounsaturated fat- which is good. Am I misinformed? You have sunflower oil listed under the avoid column. I understand that there are various ways of getting the oil out of the seed (high heat, chemicals, etc) that make a big difference in the quality of the oil. Thoughts on this? Thanks for your reply!

    • Lisa says

      Hi Priscilla,

      I’m just curious how they press the oil without exposing it to heat or damaging it. If it truly is cold-pressed without solvents then it may be another good option for dressings and mayonnaise, but I still wouldn’t cook with it at high heat, the more stable a fat is the better it is for high heat (saturated fats are the most stable and still my first choice, also why I don’t use olive oil for high heat uses).

      Part of this fats breakdown also takes in to consideration the omega3/6 imbalance in the American diet which is very inflammatory. So I choose oils in that context as well.

      If you come up with new insights as you research this let me know – I think we all need to make our own educated choices but am sharing what I would do.

  23. Melanie says

    What constitutes high heat? I use various oils (moving toward coconut) in baking granola at 275-300 degrees. Is that high heat? And are there some to avoid more than others?

  24. Justin Costa says

    Not sure I agree with you that canola oil is bad for humans. I would like to see some solid evidence, research, studies etc. proving that canola oil is bad for you. I am no nutritionist, nor doctor, but from my reading it sounds like its one of the best oils to use. Can you explain why canola oil is bad for us? I would surely be greatful.l

    • Lisa Rose says

      Did you actually read the whole post? I explain my reasons under “Vegetable Oils and the Omega ratio”.

      It took a long time for the research to come out showing how harmful trans fats are to humans… I am not going to wait around for the mainstream to catch up on the evidence against canola.

      If you feel canola oil is a good choice for you, I am not going to try to convince you otherwise. I share what I choose to do for my family based on all the research that I’ve done.

      I truly believe traditional fats are better choices than processed vegetable oils.

      If you want to read more about canola oil specifically, I like this recent post from Authority Nutrition;
      http://authoritynutrition.com/canola-oil-good-or-bad/

  25. Irishred507 says

    Thank you for the great info! I totally agree with you on the oils! I have a question though. At my whole foods store I found some organic unrefined first cold pressed sunflower oil. It says on the bottle that it’s not ok for cooking but good for salad dressing/mayo. I wonder if this would be ok to eat or if it’s still considered pro-inflammatory? I know the typical refined sunflower oil is super processed, but being cold pressed I wonder if this one is safe?

    • Lisa Rose says

      Organic, unrefined, and cold pressed sounds great if that’s what it really is… I don’t know enough about the processing of sunflower oil if it is indeed possible to extract the oil without heating it. But if it is possible then the oil is fine to use. Regarding its inflammatory nature depends on your overall diet. It is when the ratio between the omega 3 and omega 6 oils get out of balance that causes the inflammation, so if you’re diet is overall a low inflammatory diet than it would be fine to use.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils – What to Cook With (or not), What to Avoid and Why.I have been spending some time, probably too much, in the blogisphere looking for healthy baking blogs and recipes, and boy are there a lot out there.  I will post a few of my favorites after I try some of the recipes, but for now here is helpful link to clarifying all the oils and their uses.  i don’t know about you, but it sure can be baffling with so many darn choices.  Hope you cookup something yummy with this new knowledge. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted in In the Kitchen [...]

  2. [...] There are so many reasons to love guacamole.  Aside from the fact that it is absolutely delicious, it’s healthy too.  Avocados are full of healthy fats, and eating them has actually been shown to improve cholesterol. (1)  It might take the mainstream medicine community a while to catch up, but gone are the days of high (healthy) fat diets resulting in heart disease.  More on that here.  More on which fats are healthy and which are not here [...]

  3. […] Yes, fats! I’m talking good quality fats here.  Stay with me now.  We have long been taught to avoid saturated fats, but research is now telling us that saturated fats like butter and coconut oil are actually better for us than inflammatory vegetable oils like canola and sunflower.  Your body NEEDS fat to produce your hormones, including sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Both are essential for a healthy sex drive.  Want to learn more?  Read  The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils. […]

  4. […]  In addition, the smoke point marks the start of nutritional and flavor degradation. Temperatures above the smoke point of an oil are undesirable, as the acrolein starts to be produced, and the oil goes rancid. Several factors determine the smoke point of an oil. Saturated fatty acids provide stability and are more resistant to high heat, while polyunsaturated fats are more sensitive to both light and heat. This means that excessive heat can cause production of heat free radicals and harm the body if consumed. […]

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