Fat makes you fat. Margarine is better than butter. Canola oil is the healthiest choice for cooking. Always choose low fat dairy. Coconut oil will give you cholesterol concerns. Right?
No. Not right. And if you follow the marketing hype above, your health will be far from ‘all right’.
Myth: Fat makes you fat.
Fact: Sugar and other refined carbohydrates make you put on weight, not fats. Sugar is highly addictive, plus it bypasses the delicately balanced systems that control our appetite and blood sugar levels (David Gillespie, Big Fat Lies). In contrast, fats offer high satiety – your appetite is satisfied, so you stop eating.
Myth: Margarine is better than butter.
Fact: Saturated fats and cholesterol, as contained in butter, are vital for our body to operate well. Margarine was developed in 1869 as a cheap substitute for butter. Clever marketing since then has convinced us it is superior to butter. However, it is predominantly made from seed oil (more below) and processing errors have happened along the way – for example hydrogenation led to the creation of very dangerous trans-fats. The more natural a food item, and the less ingredients on the label, the better it is for our body. As Michael Pollan puts it, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
Myth: Canola oil is the healthiest choice for cooking.
Fact: Seed oils contain damaging ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This includes canola, sunflower, soybean and rice bran oils. Any processed food that states vegetable oil in the ingredients is likely to contain seed oil. Even commercial bread is a problem, as they are usually made with seed oils, so two slices can contain your entire maximum daily allowance of omega-6, without any spread on top! Omega 6 fats are strongly linked with many cancers and autoimmune diseases (David Gillespie in The Age).
Myth: Always choose low fat dairy.
Fact: Low fat items have added sugar and other ingredients so they taste good. Full fat items are less processed, more whole – and taste better.
Myth: Coconut oil will give you cholesterol concerns.
Fact: Coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides called lauric acid. Lauric acid can increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. It can help restore thyroid function. It can even help reduce abdominal fat, which is difficult to lose and contributes to heart problems.
Cholesterol, to me, is a super fat. Your liver produces and regulates cholesterol levels needed as building blocks for cells and hormones. Making up more than 50% of the cell membrane, cholesterol maintains membrane permeability and protects the core of the cell while still allowing the cell to be fluid. Cholesterol is the precursor for Vitamin D; when converting sunlight into vitamin D, cholesterol in the tissues acts as the catalyst for this important process. Vitamin D, in turn, is crucial for mineral metabolism and targets over 2000 human genes. Deficiency is linked to some cancers, heart disease and autoimmune diseases. Cholesterol maintains proper gender-specific hormonal levels. It is also important for the production of the hormone, cortisol (the stress hormone) and works to digest and absorb fats, nutrients and vitamins. Studies on cholesterol are beginning to unveil its role in metabolising calcium, boosting the immune system, cancer prevention and mental health. So you can see that cholesterol is a vital nutrient that is important for physical and mental health (Cyndi O’Meara, Changing Habits).
For cooking, choose coconut oil or butter.
For cold uses, such as drizzling on a salad, choose olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil – or avocado!