Good Fats – Bad Fats
The Good Fats
The only concentrated sources of good fats are found in whole plant foods like:
- Nuts – all tree nuts, i.e. macadamia, almond, cashew (limit Brazil nuts to 4 or less per day, because of high selenium content)
- Seeds – especially ground flax, hemp, and chia for their Omega 3 content
- Whole nut butters or flours
- Whole seed butters or flours
Eat very small amounts of these good fats to provide the Omega fatty acids that are essential for health. The more fats and oils we eat, the less oxygen we will have in our blood, sometimes for many hours after ingestion. Oxygenated blood is crucial in fighting off the viruses and bacteria that underly many of our chronic and life-threatening diseases. A high-fat diet also contributes to developing type 2 diabetes. So, if you have any health issues at all, please limit your fat intake to between 5 and 10% of your total calories.
Which nuts and seeds contain the best good fats?
I like to look for foods with the best Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, because that is particularly important for those on a plant-based diet that is high in seeds and grains – especially since high-Omega 6 oils are used in almost all prepared foods in restaurants and grocery stores. The best nuts for omega fatty acid balance appear to be – macadamia nuts, almonds, and cashews. Walnuts are also widely considered to be an excellent nut that contains some Omega 3s.
The best seeds for providing Omega 3 fatty acids are hemp, chia, and ground flax.
Tip – It is always good to include a small amount of fat, and an acid like lemon or vinegar, with salads and other leafy green dishes, to help with nutrient absorption. Best fat options are avocados, seeds, or nuts. You can make delicious dressings from blended raw cashews, blended hemp seeds, avocado, or sesame tahini with lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar, and whatever herbs or garlic you like.
The Bad Fats
The most obvious bad fats are the hydrogenated trans-fats created in laboratories. Next on the bad fat list are saturated fats from animal products. They have been clearly implicated in heart disease and diabetes for many years. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rash of media hype promoting the benefits of animal fats. As far as I have been able to find, there is no scientific evidence (unless paid for by the meat, egg, and dairy industries) supporting any health benefits of animal fats – aside from Omega 3 fatty acids which we can easily get from plant foods.
A Word About Coconut Oil
Saturated fats from plant foods, like coconut oil, have also been widely and mistakenly promoted. They don’t seem to be as detrimental as animal fats, but they can still raise your cholesterol and thicken your blood. Avoid them completely if you have heart or circulation issues.
However, we do need some cholesterol. Your body can create it, but if your cholesterol is too low, coconut oil can help to raise it to a healthy level.
You’ve probably seen a lot of controversy about coconut oil in the health media news. It is the darling of some and a villain to others. My conclusion is that very small amounts of coconut oil can be used occasionally in baking or sautéing without much harm. Anthony William even includes coconut oil in a few of his recipes.
One good thing about coconut oil is that it helps the body convert Omega 3 from flax and other plant sources into the important EPA and DHA forms, so you might want to eat a small amount of coconut oil with your high-Omega 3 foods. The important key is great moderation.
All oils are fractured foods and ideally should be avoided, with the possible exception of high lignan flaxseed oil (see bottom of this page).
Though not part of an ideal diet, if you don’t have any health or weight issues, oils can be safely used in moderation for the occasional baked or sautéed treat, provided that you do not heat them above their smoke point. It is best not to heat oils at all, because high heat can create free radicals – and NEVER use any oil that smells or tastes rancid, because it already contains free radicals.
Best oils for salads and raw dishes, because they are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are: (Do not ever cook with these oils.)
- flaxseed oil (goes rancid fast – buy in small bottles, refrigerate, and use quickly)
- hempseed oil (refrigerate)
Cooking with Oils
I wouldn’t recommend cooking with oils at all, but if you do choose to occasionally cook with oils, use the list below to find out which ones can be more safely used at the temperatures you will be using.
Smoke Point of Oils
- Avocado oil (from the fruit, not the seed) – 400°F/204°C
- Coconut oil – Unrefined – 350°F / 177°C
- Coconut oil* – Refined – 450°F / 232°C
- Flax seed oil – Unrefined – 225°F / 107°C
- Hempseed oil – Unrefined – 330°F / 165°C
- Olive oil – Extra virgin – 375°F / 191°C
- Olive oil – Virgin – 420°F / 216°C
- Peanut oil – Unrefined – 320°F / 160°C
- Peanut oil – Refined – 450°F / 232°C
- Sesame oil – Unrefined – 350°F / 177°C
- Sesame oil – Semi-refined – 450°F / 232°C
Oils best for baking (up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit) are avocado oil, refined coconut oil, and virgin olive oil – because of high smoke point. Refined peanut oil and semi-refined sesame oil also have high smoke points, but they are much too high in Omega 6 fatty acids.
Frying (if you must)
*Refined Coconut oil is best for frying, because of high smoke point and saturated fatty acid content, which makes it less subject to oxidation (however, frying is always detrimental to your health and NOT recommended).
Worst Oils for Health
Avoid the following oils:
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
- corn oil (all of it is GMO contaminated)
- cottonseed oil (GMO and pesticide contaminated)
- sesame oil
- peanut oil
- soy oil oil (all of it is GMO contaminated)
- canola oil (all of it is GMO contaminated)
- walnut oil
– because they are all much higher in inflammation-causing Omega 6 fatty acids and/or polyunsaturated fats than in inflammation-soothing Omega-3 fatty acids. Inflammation is considered to be one of the major causes of heart disease and diabetes (though it is actually just a symptom of poor diet, toxins, and/or viral issues).
Canola, corn, cottonseed, and soy oils have all been heavily contaminated with GMOs and are highly refined. Cotton seed oil is often contaminated with pesticides as well.
I occasionally use tiny amounts of organic toasted sesame oil for flavor, but otherwise I avoid all these oils as much as possible.
To sum it up, bad fats include all oils, especially hydrogenated trans-fats, and animal fats. Animal fats, including fats in meats, eggs, and dairy products, have been shown to thicken blood and raise cholesterol.
Again, all oils are fractured foods and should be avoided if you are aiming for optimal health. One possible exception is flax oil, which is the only oil allowed on the Gerson Diet which has successfully been used to treat cancer since 1928.
For information about other nutrients see Plant Based Nutrition
Now Let’s Look at the difference between Whole Foods & Fractured Foods