Our bodies are gifted with their own innate wisdom–they know what they need, and will tell us if we will stop to listen. This winter in Nashville has been unseasonably warm, making the few cold days feel so much colder. A couple of weeks ago it finally dipped below freezing for a few days, and my whole body responded uncomfortably. Most notably, everything felt so dry–my skin and my throat felt like I was trapped in a desert! I drink water all day long every day, but this one particular day I couldn’t get enough water and it wasn’t doing anything to alleviate the dryness in my throat. I joked with my husband that I felt like I needed to drink some oil..but as it turned out, that joke was really my body telling my brain what it needed! The oil that did the trick came in the form of salmon for dinner, chock-full of omega 3 fatty acids.
Here is a little run-down on fats: Every cell in our bodies must have essential fatty acids for maintenance and construction. From Rebecca Wood: “We can’t live well without fats, and if they are denatured, we can’t live well with them. The choice is obvious: consume quality fats and oils.” For cooking with quality fats and oils, choose butter (organic), unrefined coconut, palm, olive, and sesame oil. For raw use, try unrefined oils such as hemp, avocado, walnut and flax (these should be refrigerated). Unrefined is key when purchasing–refined oils are heated to temperatures above 500°F and therefore denatured. Fats are either saturated (butter, coconut oil, etc.//these are solid at room temperature) or unsaturated (omega 3s & 6s//essential fatty acids). Saturated fats can be healthfully enjoyed at temperatures between 240 & 375°F. Unsaturated fats are slightly more complicated: omega 3s cannot healthfully be heated over 100°F// omega 6s cannot healthfully be heated over 240°F.
Again from Rebecca Wood: “Forget the misinformed ‘fat-free’ craze. We all need both saturated and unsaturated fats. Dietary fats produce body fat needed to insulate and keep us warm and to protect and hold our vital organs in place.” Energetically, fats help us feel grounded, soothed and comforted.
As obesity rates continue to skyrocket, it is increasingly valuable to understand the difference between real, life-giving foods and synthetic substitutes. Of course you can go overboard with good fats too–a good rule of thumb is to enjoy 1 tablespoon of fat for every meal (not including the oils/fats used in cooking). Enjoy those fats!
Fats to avoid: butter substitutes/margarine, canola oil, corn oil, hydrogenated fat, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, mustard oil, rice brain oil, soy oil, tea seed oil; they lack historical precedent of healthful use.
Source: The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood