It’s the last night of Chanukah as I write this and what a whirlwind it’s been. I am grateful that Thanksgiving and Chanukkah will not overlap again for another 70 thousand years! I didn’t think much of it, but it’s really nice to have some time between the holidays to really appreciate each one. I also think it’s been a lot for my almost 5 year old to take in. That being said, I’ve made it through and can now take a nice deep breath and relax.
This year I made potato latkes 3 times during the eight days and thought I’d take the opportunity to bring up a very important topic, healthy fats. Not to toot my own horn but I make DELICIOUS latkes! Want to know my secret? I cook them in duck fat. When I tell people this I generally get two responses. One, they look at me like I’m crazy or two, they think it’s incredibly indulgent.
As a culture we have been brainwashed to fear and avoid fats, especially the saturated ones. We have been told that we will get fat or die if we eat fat. If you’ve noticed this became really popular in the 80's and 90’s and since then obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc have reached epidemic proportions.
Most of the fats we have been guided to consume are either rancid or primarily come from genetically modified crops such as soy, cottonseed, corn and canola. These vegetable oils, which by their very polyunsaturated nature, are highly unstable oils that are processed using high heat and or chemical solvents. They start out being unfit for consumption. Yet we’ve been told to use these oils. We’re told they won’t lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. The truth is our body doesn’t know how to process them. They actually interfere with the roles essential fatty acids play within the body, namely inhibiting our body’s natural anti-inflammatory process called prostaglandin formation.
Then we’ve been told to stay away from saturated fats such as lard, coconut oil, duck and other animal fats. These are the fats (when sourced from pastured, organic and humanely raised animals) that are highly stable which means they make great cooking fats. They are filled with nutrients our bodies need. Did you know that cholesterol is essential to our health? It helps form and maintain our cell walls and structure.
This subject of fats is a big one. So first I want to encourage anyone who has a fear of fat to be open to the idea that there is nothing to be afraid of. Then I’d like to give you a few more facts about good quality fats;
* Fat tastes good and makes our food satisfying so we eat less.
* Fat helps regulate blood sugar. It is a slow burning source of fuel for the body.
* We need fat in order to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
* Fat is the preferred source of fuel for the heart.
* We need fat in order to make hormones.
* Saturated fats are the most heat stable making them ideal to cook with.
* Saturated fats help us digest protein.
Here are a few tips on what to look for when buying fats;
* When you buy polyunsaturated oils, (these are liquid at room temperature) they should come in a dark, preferably glass bottles and be stored in the refrigerator.
* You want them to be cold pressed (not cold processed)
* Organic and/or Grass-fed or pastured when buying animal fats
* Unrefined expeller pressed
* Extra Virgin
If you’d like to learn more about fats, cholesterol and heart health I recommend taking a look at Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride's excellent book “Put Your Heart in Your Mouth”. She does an outstanding job simplifying this subject and really breaking down many of the unfortunate myths we've been taught about this subject.