Saturday, March 14, 2009

choosing your fat

Choosing your fat..........

I recently did some reading on this & learned some new info that I found very interesting, just wanted to pass it along in case anyone is interested.

Omega-3 & Omega-6 essential fatty acids: there’s a lot of talk about these fats & how good they are for you, but the main issue in keeping them healthy is the ratio between the two.

Cholesterol: there is a huge campaign that has everyone convinced it’s soooo bad for you. In excess it sometimes ‘can’ be bad, but it also has some really valuable functions & is necessary to cellular functions. Not quite as bad as most people tend to believe. In the cell membrane it provides structure, stiffness, & stability to the cell. It also acts as a precursor to vital corticosteroids, hormones that help us deal with stress & protect the body against heart disease & cancer, & to the sex hormones like androgen, testeosterone, estrogen, & progresterone. It's also a precursor to vitamin D, a vital fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones & nervous system, as well as proper growth, mineral metablolism, muscle tone, insulin production, reproduction, & immune system function. It's also needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. This is the body's natural "feel-good" chemical. Low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive & violent behavior, depression & suicdal tendencies. Mother's milk is very high in cholesterol and it contains a special enzyme that helps the baby utilize this nutrient. Babies & children need cholesterol-rich foods throughout their growing years to ensure proper development of the brain & nervous system.

One argument you will hear for avoiding animal fats is that fat-soluble poisons, such as DDT, accumulate in the fat. But there are also water-soluble poisons, such as antibiotics & growth hormones, that accumulate in the water fraction of milk & meats. Vegetables & grains also accumulate some poisons as well.

Chicken fat: pretty high in omega-6, but the omega-3 levels can be raised by feeding the chickens flax or fish meal, or by allowing the chickens to range free & eat insects, which is rare these days, unless you hunt down pastured chickens & eggs from pastured hens (they are out there if you look).

Duck & goose fat: the preferred cooking fat of Jewish cooking. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 depends greatly on what the birds have been fed. This was highly prized in Europe for frying potatoes.

Lard (pork fat): again the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 will vary greatly depending on the feed. It is stable, a good fat for frying. It’s an excellent source of vitamin D. HOWEVER, there is research that supports that pork products should be avoided because they may be cancer-causing. Although it is unclear if it is only the pig MEAT that is cancer-causing or if the fat is also.

Beef & mutton tallows: very stable fats, good for frying, also a good source of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid.

Olive oil: about 10% omega-6 & 2% omega-3, it’s ideal for salads & for cooking at moderate temperatures. It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered & have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives. It is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don’t overdo it. The longer-chain fatty acids are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short & medium chain fatty acids found in butter & coconut oil.

Peanut oil: relatively stable, appropriate for the occasional stir-fry, BUT it has a high percentage of omega-6 & therefore it’s use should be limited.

Sesame oil: very much the same as peanut oil. Occasional use for stir-frys is fine, but limit the use due to the high percentage of omega-6.

Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean, & Cottonseed oils: they all contain over 50% omega-6 &, except for soybean oil, only minimal amounts of omega-3. Safflower oil contains almost 80% omega-6. Use of these oils should be greatly limited & they should never be consumed after having been heated, as in cooking, frying, or baking.

Canola oil: 23% omega-6 & 10-15% omega-3. This is the newest oil on the market. It was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family, which is considered unsuited to human consumption because it contains a long chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid & has drawn the attention of nutritionists because of it’s high oleic-acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of it’s own. It has a high sulphur content & goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola oil are transformed into “trans” fatty acids, similar to those in margarine. One study indicates that it can actually create a deficiency of vitamin E, which is required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is also low in saturated fat. And additionally there are no more versions of canola plants that are GMO free. All canola plants have now ended up cross-pollinating with GMO canola plants. (Corn is a close second to this, it might already be there by now)

Flax seed oil: 16% omega-6 & 57% omega-3. Because the ratio is reversed here (higher omega-3 than omega-6, which is rare) this provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance that is so prevalent in America today. New extraction & bottling methods have minimized rancidity problems. It should always be kept refrigerated, never heated, & consumed in ‘small’ amounts in salad dressings & spreads.

Tropical oils: these are more saturated than other vegetable oils. Lauric acid is found in large quantities in both coconut oil as well as mother’s milk, and it has strong antifungal & antimicrobial properties.

In my house we mostly use butter & olive oil (most of the time I make my own butter, LOVE the fresh flavor of it!), but we are starting to try out coconut oil (LOVE the smell of it!!). My home-made baby formula recipe calls for extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, cold pressed sunflower oil, & cod liver oil. So those are all in the house for the making of that. :) We used to cook with sunflower oil quite a bit, but since I did this research hubby & I have decided to not do that anymore & it will only be used cold (as in the baby formula).

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