Understanding Healthy Fats in Your Diet

In a monounsaturated fatty acid, one carbon atom is missing its hydrogen buddies, and in a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), more than one carbon atom is empty. Because those carbon atoms don't really want to be lonely, they tend to react with other substances, trying to fill up the empty places. This makes them unstable and liable to become toxic, especially in the presence of heat, light and oxygen.

Heat, light, oxygen? These are the same conditions when you expose PUFAs to process, store, and cook with them. By the time a PUFA, like soybean, corn, or canola oil, gets from factory to grocery store to your frying pan and plate, it is denatured and harmful to your health. Stable saturated fats, like butter, natural lard, and coconut oil will hold up under the heat of your skillet and are a much healthier option for cooking.

More: The Goodness of Fat

A note about the most damaging fats of all: hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or trans fats

Never eat them. They are unsaturated fats that have been chemically altered to act like saturated fats, but they are bad actors. Far from providing the benefits of natural saturated fats, they wreak havoc on your body. Banish these pretenders from your pantry and your diet.

Remember those crucial roles of dietary fat? If you provide damaged fats to your body, you get damaged cell walls, poor hormone production, and dysfunctional metabolism, such as weight gain.

More: What's Your Healthy Weight?

If you're looking to return to a healthier weight, try the following:

  • Eliminate refined carbohydrates.
  • Eliminate hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or trans fats.
  • Eliminate deep-fried foods.
  • Eat lots of fresh, non-starchy vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit.
  • Cook with unrefined saturated fats like butter, homemade lard, or coconut oil.
  • Use unrefined olive oil for salads and low- to moderate-heat cooking.
  • Use unrefined PUFAs, like flaxseed and fish oils, for salads and as supplements—never heat them.
  • If you eat dairy, make it full-fat yogurt, milk and cheese; eliminate "low-fat" foods.
  • Eat meat, dairy, and eggs from grass-fed, pastured sources.
  • Include some healthy fat and protein with every meal and snack.

Follow these "new" old paths to healthy success.

More: Healthy Recipes

Enig, Mary. 2000. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Press.
Enig, Mary and Sally Fallon. "The Oiling of America." The Weston A. Price Foundation website: www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/the-oiling-of-america
Price, Weston A. 1939. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. La Mesa, CA: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.

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About the Author

Debra Meadow

Debra Meadow, NTP, of Blue Raven Wellness, inspires clients to achieve and maintain optimal health and weight with real food. Contact her for a free one-hour health consultation. Contact her at debra@blueravenwellness.com.

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