Many Americans are still terrified of eating fats and feeling guilty when they do. After reading Real Food by Nina Planck, I learned some curious things. Consider this: lard and bone marrow are rich in monounsaturated fat, the kind that lowers LDL and leaves HDL alone. Saturated coconut oil fights viruses and raises HDL. Butter is an important source of vitamins A and D and contains saturated butyric acid, which fights cancer. As for the vaunted polyunsaturated vegetable oils, we eat far too many. Refined corn, safflower, and sunflower oil lower HDL and contribute to cancer.
Fats are not only delicious, but they are also necessary for health. Fats in the omega family are called essential because the body cannot make them; we must get them from foods. The brain relies on omega-3 fats; deficiency causes depression. Without fats, the body cannot absorb the fat-suluable vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats are key to many other functions, including building cell walls, immunity, and assimilation of minerals like calcium. Also, fats stimulate the secretion of bile acids, which are essential for digestion.
If you’re trying to remember which fats are healthy, follow this rule: eat the foods we’ve eaten for thousands of years in their natural form. All the traditional fats are healthy. With animal fats, the animal’s diet matters for our health. Cattle, sheep ,bison and other game should be grass-fed. Pigs, chickens, ducks, and geese should be pastured. Fish should be wild. With vegetable oils, processing also matters. Oils should be cold-pressed and unrefined.
It’s easy to remember the unhealthy fats: they are the industrial fats recently added to our diet. All hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, including lard and all vegetable oils. You also want to avoid corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oils, especially when refined or heated.