I never thought much about this saying, but while prepping for a little talk on Refreshing Your Pantry in the new year at our local library, I was reminded about the essentiality of fats and oils in our diet.
These long winter days spent quarantining while feeding a new baby have certainly demanded high quality fat. Though I haven’t found research pointing to needing MORE fat while nursing, there is evidence that eating high quality fats is important for mom and baby’s brain.
Suffice it to say, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to try to answer my body’s call for fat (dry, cracked heels and fried food cravings) with salmon, cream, and my husband’s straight-from-the-farm-made butter.
I jokingly tell my husband he’s buttering me up when he brings home a half a gallon of cream…. and I suddenly find myself making crème brulee and forcing the grandparents to shake a container of cream to make butter because, inexplicably, we are out of it AGAIN!
A visit to my grandmother’s house a couple weeks ago revealed an interesting artifact inspiring me to think more about fat… a roster for The New England Fat Man’s Club from 1912. In an article inside, my great, great grandfather is reported to be the largest man in Western Massachusetts, weighing in at 430 pounds. A nod to an era gone-by, the club celebrates fat as the ultimate symbol of prosperity and well-being. Even if it did kill Frank J. Hunt at 51. An article from the local newspaper marvels at the largest pair of trousers ever made for him by an Orange trouser company, a 72 inch waist, speaks to FJ Hunt’s girth with a candid description, “For many years he’s operated a milk route and done hard manual labor, but in his case it’s never acted as a flesh reducer in his case.” One can only imagine what a little Nutritional Therapy wisdom may have revealed about dear Frank’s fatty acid balance.
It’s important for all of us to avoid too much of a good thing. When it comes to fat, avoiding trans fats, and balancing our omega-6 fat intake (think most roasted nuts, fried food and our favorite processed food snacks) with omega-3 fats (think seafood, eggs, and grass-fed beef) is essential. I’ve been enjoying re-reading Lily Nichol’s “Real Food Pregnancy” and visiting her website for updates and inspiration in the sphere of pregnancy and postpartum nutrition.
Let’s just say the fat isn’t melting off my postpartum body, it’s getting melted into my cornbread, made into creme brulee, chocolate lava cakes and hot chocolate. And I’m trying to embrace it more knowing that fat is neccessary for:
- Improved food flavor and satiety
- Absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Digestion speed regulation
- High caloric energy for long-low-intensity activity (breastfeeding perhaps?)
- Construction of cell membranes- creating the protective lining on organs (healing & happy skin!)
- Proper hormone function (keeping up the oxytocin levels!)
- Regulation of inflammatory response
Now I just need to make sure I’m getting the best quality I can.
So, what are some simple ways to make the most of our fats?
Purchase and use high quality fats. Store them properly.
Look for olive oil and nut oils in tin containers that are not exposed to light and stored in cool conditions to maximize benefits of their antioxidants. Use up before expiration date and keep in a cool location to avoid oxidation.
Avoid hydrogenated fats (i.e- crisco and margarine) which when heated, pressurized & combined with a catalyst (usually nickel) are made solid & less able to rancidify at room temp. Unfortunately this can cause an increase in total cholesterol, a decrease in HDL & increase in LDL, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The more saturated fat a product contains, the more stable (essential for hormone & immune cell function… ever notice when you’re feeling moody you crave peanut butter or french fries? Consider if you are treating your body to a nice balance of fats in your diet.)
Cook at the right temperature.
What do rancid fat & cooking fats at too high of a temperature have in common?
They can result in oxidation*
*the off-flavor you may notice in old oil or oil cooked above it’s smoke point for too long that contributes to forming…
FREE RADICALS: (n.) ions or molecules that have an unpaired electron in their outermost shell that is unstable and destructive to surrounding molecules. These free radicals create havoc on the cells causing cancer, atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty material in the blood vessels), Alzheimer’s disease, emphysema, diabetes mellitus, cataracts, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, among other aging-related deterioration.
FOR HIGH TEMP COOKING, FRYING, BAKING, BROILING, ROASTING: beef tallow, ghee, chicken & duck fat, coconut oil, lard, butter
FOR STIR-FRY, LIGHT SAUTEING, or FINISHING: (look for cold extracted or expeller pressed) avocado oil, butter, macademia nut oil, olive oil**, peanut oil, sesame oil
FOR RAW USE ONLY: almond oil, black currant seed oil, flax oil, evening primrose, pumpkin seed oil, hemp oil, nut oils, rice bran oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil
**A 2018 study suggests that extra virgin olive oil may actually produce the least oxidation after being heated.
“…under conditions used in this study, smoke point does not predict oil performance when heated. Oxidative stability and UV coefficients are better predictors when combined with total level of PUFAs. Of all the oils tested, EVOO was shown to be the oil that produced the lowest level of polar compounds and oxidative by-products (in contrast to high-levels of by-products generated by oils such as canola) after being heated closely followed by coconut oil. EVOO’s fatty acid profile and natural antioxidant content allowed the oil to remain stable when heated.”