Learning about why fats are actually good for you is confusing, paradigm shifting, and once you think you've got it you learn something new that changes your perspective! I thought it worthwhile to compile a summary of fats using current information to help us all understand a little better.
Fats are important in the diet because they have two main functions: they help repair tissues and provide a concentrated source of energy. They also help transfer fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) through the body, and form protective pads around delicate organs. The essential fatty acids are omega-3's and omega-6's, not made by the body on it's own and must be consumed through food.
Best sources of omega-3's: flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, and cooked soybeans. Find the complete list with percentages here.
Sources of omega-6's: seeds, nuts, nut oils, refined vegetable oils, soy oil, and many other places. Omega-6's are also essential, but most processed snack foods contain high amounts of refined vegetable oils throwing the balance way off. Reducing the amount of processed foods and increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, is a great place to start working towards a healthier diet.
Fact: A healthy diet should contain 2-4 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. The standard american diet (SAD) contains roughly 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3's!
The exact percentage of fats you should consume depends on your constitution, and your specific caloric needs. The most important thing to remember is to eat a variety of fats, from a variety of sources. If you don't know, stick to the 30% of calories from fat as a general rule, and don't avoid all saturated fats, stick to coconut oil, butter, ghee, and animal fats for cooking. Use olive, flax, and nut oils for cold dishes and store in the refrigerator. If an oil smells rancid, THROW IT OUT!
Stay away from transfats. These fats can be natural or artificial, natural sources in small amounts contained in beef and dairy products. These fats have a terrible effect on cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of heart disease. These are stiffer, harder, artery clogging fats that are best avoided. Artificial sources are mostly snack foods, cookies, microwave popcorn, etc... It is now required that products list if they contain transfats.
What is the problem with rancid oil? May cause oxidative stress and free radical damage in your body. Here is a great resource for understanding what oils to use for what purposes: spectrum organics.
Vegetable oils: soybean, canola, safflower, corn.The good: considered heart healthy, may help lower cholesterol. The problem: they are highly processed and very perishable, become rancid easily
Sesame oil: good choice for cooking. mostly monounsaturated fats (heart-healthy), rich in antioxidants, very stable. Contains high amounts of vitamin E, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6.
Olive oil: not a good choice for cooking, great choice for cold dishes such as salads and dipping sauces. Rich in monounsaturated fats, but very perishable.
Coconut oil: a very saturated fat, but is special because it is very stable and contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's). MCT's are not stored in the body as fat, and have been found to be antimicrobial and antibacterial. The use of coconut oil has been controversial, and you can read more about it here.
If you REALLY want to know the whole story, read Mary Enigs book: Know Your Fats.
And now, what you know you have been waiting for! A delicious holiday cookie recipe from Eating Well Magazine:
Spiced Pumpkin Cookies
2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup canned plain pumpkin puree, (See Ingredient notes)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, (or sucanant see note)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 3 baking sheets with cooking spray.
- Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl.
- Whisk pumpkin, brown sugar (or Splenda), eggs, oil and molasses in a second bowl until well combined. Stir the wet ingredients and raisins into the dry ingredients until no traces of dry ingredients remain. Drop the batter by level tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Bake the cookies until firm to the touch and lightly golden on top, 10 to 12 minutes, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. TIPS & NOTES: Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container, with wax paper between the layers, for up to 2 days or freeze for longer storage.
As a replacement for refined brown sugar, try sucanant as a replacement (1 to 1 ratio with
brown sugar). Contains iron, calcium, potassium, chromium, and B vitamins.
source: Eating Well Magazine, November/December 2009 issue