One of the urban food legends that those in the low-carb community are constantly struggling against is that eating fat makes you fat. Luckily, this past year saw a lot of positive gains on that front. As more and more people turn towards a low-carb/Paleo/primal lifestyle, the question now becomes how to practically and healthily increase your intake of fat?
Some of the first suggestions that many people hear are to buy grass-fed meat, start wolfing down fish oil (Omega-3) pills, or add a handful of nuts to each meal. While these are all well and good, I think that they miss a critical step. Grass-fed meat IS great for you, but you might not be able to afford it for every meal. Fish Oil – again, good, but for many people having to take 12+ capsules a day is off-putting, and we don’t want that to be a deal-breaker. Nuts are delicious and DEFINITELY help people get over the hump of their first 30 days, but long-term the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio is concerning and the costs can add up. So instead of forking out for these things first, why not start with a simple, cheap, and effective change that will affect almost every meal you cook? Switch out your cooking oils.
But which oils should you use? The list of available oils can be daunting. There’s: Vegetable Oil, Canola Oil (which is suspect), Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Palm Oil, and Peanut Oil, just to name a few. And what about Coconut Oil, which is loaded with SATURATED FATS? You could go out and buy a bunch of cooking oils, but what good does having 8 different oils in your cupboard do you? And how do you know which oil to use for what?
Personally, I have found that owning TWO of these oils suits all of my baking/grilling/cooking needs, and provides me with all the healthy fats I could want.
If I had to choose only one oil to use, this would be it. The saturated-fat-loaded Coconut oil. Although we have been warned about SATURATED FATS in cooking oils by the popular media, this information is misleading. It supposes that ALL saturated fats are bad – not just the man-made hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils (AKA trans fats) that have been linked to degenerative diseases and banned in at least 2 European nations as well as several cities and states in the US.
That seems to be a pretty strong case for knocking
Vegetable Oil off the list, but what about coconut oil? In fact, some saturated fats (including the natural kind found in coconut oil) are ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU. Coconut Oil is chalk-full of Lauric Acid (also found in Human Breast Milk) which has novel antiviral properties and protects against diseases such as HIV and chicken pox. It also:
- Promotes Heart Health
- Promotes healthy weight loss
- Boosts your immune system and metabolism
- And helps your thyroid function properly
Put simply, Coconut Oil rocks. (For more info on the health benefits of coconut oil, check here and here.) Add to that that it cooks well under medium-high heat (making it ideal for pan-grilling), leaves no coconut-aftertaste, and can be used to bake amazing Paleo goodies, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
(Tip: Coconut oil can be solid at room temperature, which can make getting it out of the bottle difficult. What I like to do is cut open the bottle at the top to have easier access to the oil with a spoon. You don’t have to worry about leaving it out – as long as it’s solid, it shouldn’t go rancid.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The second oil that I always have handy is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil has long been recognized not only for its health benefits, but for its rich flavor. Because of its flavor, it is perfect for making homemade salad dressings (a dash of olive oil and a dash of white-wine vinegar is my favorite), and for cooking at lower temperatures on the stove. I like to keep a big jar of common olive oil around for cooking, and a smaller bottle of “nice” olive oil for salads. The taste just can’t be beat.
When starting a new nutrition lifestyle, it’s important to keep things simple. By using healthy cooking oils like Coconut Oil and EVOO as your main fat sources, you bake goodness right into your meals without ever having to weigh, measure, or worry.
Stay healthy everybody.