Fat is not bad.
Let me rephrase that…The right kind of fat is not bad.
In fact, the right kinds of dietary fat can promote healthy immune function, insulate vital organs, support cell growth, provide us with energy, and help us better absorb vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Yet, for decades, fat (especially saturated fat) has been vilified as this substance we need to avoid if we want to be healthy and avoid conditions like heart disease and obesity. Recent research has shown those claims have been largely over-exaggerated.
Not to mention, fat plays a critical role in our bodies.
Did you know the human brain is 60% fat…and that your fatty acid intake determines your brain’s integrity and ability to perform?
Did you know fats are the major components of every cell membrane in your body and that they play an important role in cell signaling—the communication within and between each cell?
Fat is important…and it’s something all of us need in our diets.
Chris Kresser has a great in-depth guide on all the different types of fats, their composition, and what they do in the body. You can find that here if you’re interested.
My goal is to keep it short and give you something actionable to take away right now.
Which fats should I avoid?
Avoid highly refined fats like industrial seed and vegetable oils used in many processed foods and some restaurant kitchens. Gluten-free restaurants like San-Francisco based Kitava, and Oceans & Earth in Yorba Linda, California, have intentionally created kitchens that completely avoid the use of these oils.
These seed and vegetable oils can quickly become unstable and oxidized when heated, forming harmful by-products like free radicals in the process.
To keep it simple, more free radicals equals more oxidative stress which leads to more inflammation throughout the body.
If you’re suffering from any autoimmune disease, including Celiac Disease, the last thing you want is more inflammation.
In most cases, it’s best to avoid using these seed and vegetable oils.
Rice bran oil
Also, avoid products that use the term “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated.” We’re already accustomed to reading and deciphering ingredient labels, so you should have no problem finding this one.
Now that you know why the right kind of fat is important, and which ones to avoid, here’s 4 healthy fats you should start incorporating into your diet today.
4 Healthy Gluten-Free Fats Every Diet Needs
1. Coconut Oil
What it is? Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat (about 90% saturated) made from the meat of fresh coconuts. At room temperature, it’s shelf stable and solid. You’ll want to choose a coconut oil that has these characteristics: organic, cold-pressed, unrefined, and virgin. This will help you avoid coconut oils that are refined, deodorized or bleached which only reduces the health benefits.
Why use it? Coconut oil has a smoke point of around (350°F/177°C) and goes great with sautéed seafood dishes and coconut curries. It’s also a great substitute for butter, shortening and oil in most cases for baking. Just make sure to add the coconut oil to ingredients at room temperature since coconut oil will solidify when it’s added to cold ingredients like eggs and milk. We always use melted coconut oil whenever we make a batch of Simple Mills muffins or cupcakes.
The health benefits: Coconut oil has long been used for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cholesterol improving properties. It’s also loaded with vitamin E and polyphenols. 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid—the precursor to monolaurin, a compound that helps boost the immune system by fighting viruses and bacterial infections.
Brands I personally use: I use Costco’s 84 oz. Kirkland brand organic virgin coconut oil. If you have a store near you, you can get it for under $20 in-store. If you use quite a bit of coconut oil like we do, this is a cost-effective option. If you’ve never used it before and just want to get your feet wet with a smaller size, Viva Naturals brand is a popular option.
2. Ghee (Grass-Fed)
What it is? Ghee is essentially the complete distillation of butter— the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all of the moisture, lactose and casein, making it completely shelf stable. If you’re lactose intolerant, which many on a gluten-free diet are, and have missed having butter in your cooking, ghee is a perfect option.
Why use it: Quality ghee from organic, pasture raised cows has a rich, delicious, caramelized and nutty taste. It also has one of the highest smoke points (485ºF) of any cooking fat, so it’s perfect for high temperature cooking. Use it as a substitute for olive oil, butter or vegetable oil in anything from blended soups and baked sweet potatoes to sautéed meats and roasted veggies.
The benefits: It’s loaded with high levels of medium-chain fatty acids for sustained energy and Omega 3 essential fatty acids which combat inflammation. It also contains butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that works to support a healthy gut. Ghee is rich in vitamins A, D, E and K and is one of the highest natural sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). Some research shows CLA may help lower the risk of various diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Brands I personally use: One thing I can say for certain about ghee is that quality matters and is reflected in the flavor more than most other fats. Organic Valley and 4th & Heart are both great brands that I use, but my personal favorite is Ancient Organics. My toddler daughter, who I would now consider a little ghee snob, can’t get enough of it.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What it is? Extra virgin olive oil is the top grade of olive oil. It’s rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and low in Omega 6 fatty acids. “Extra virgin” means that the extraction process didn’t alter the olive oil in any way. The olives are crushed at a mill, and the oil is extracted without the use of heat or chemicals.
You’ll want to choose an olive oil that’s extra virgin, first cold-pressed or cold-pressed (though it’s actually spun instead of pressed in modern systems), and in a dark container. If you find one you like that’s organic, even better.
Why use it? It’s great for dressings, drizzling over fish and vegetables, and low to medium-heat cooking. At temperatures over 380°F (193°C), it may start to break down and create free radicals.
Health benefits? Extra virgin olive oil is lauded for its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Numerous phenolic compounds that exert potent anti-inflammatory actions have been found in virgin olive oil. One in particular, Oleocanthal, possesses similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen. Olive oil with bittery, peppery tones is said to be higher in these health-promoting compounds.
Brands I personally use: For years I watched Ina Garten make these amazing meals on Barefoot Contessa, and she’d always say to use “good olive oil.” I never really knew what she meant until I started drizzling plain extra virgin olive oil on my salads.
Now I know: you can absolutely tell the difference in taste, quality, and in freshness between a “good” and “not good” olive oil.
I try to avoid using olive oils that are a mixture of olives from multiple countries, or are a “Mediterranean blend.” Take a look at the options next time you’re in the grocery store or on Amazon and see if you can find a single varietal, extra virgin olive oil, that’s first cold-pressed.
4. Avocado Oil
What it is? Avocado is a fruit rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. In most cases, avocado oil is produced by pressing the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit.
Finding brands that use expeller pressing or cold pressing is ideal. This helps ensure no chemicals were used to extract the oil from the avocados.
I’m always a fan of shopping organic, but in the case of avocado oil, I don’t think it makes much difference. Especially since avocados are #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15, and fewer than 1 percent of conventional avocados tested positive for pesticides.
Why use it? Avocado oil is a high-heat stable cooking oil with a smoke point of up to 500°F for most avocado oils and 350°F for virgin avocado oil. Remember, when an oil reaches its smoke point, it starts to break down and become unhealthy to consume. That’s why avocado oil’s high smoke point makes it great for marinades, sauteeing, stir-frying, and grilling. It’s also great for dressings, drizzling over vegetables, baking, and broiling.
Health Benefits? While avocado oil does not contain the same phenolic compounds as olive oil, it does have a similar fatty acid profile. It’s high in monounsaturated oleic acid which has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering your body’s LDL (“bad cholesterol”).
Brands I personally use: I’m a fan of Chosen Foods Avocado oil. It’s expeller pressed without the use of chemicals. It tastes great. Gluten-free, of course. Plus, Chosen Foods is committed to non-GMO products across its entire brand…which is a movement I’m happy to support.
To sum it up:
Fat is important. It makes up most of our brains and is a part of every cell in our body. So, eat good fat.
Avoid industrial seed and vegetable oils.
Don’t use products that use the words hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated on the label.
Start using coconut oil, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil in your everyday cooking. Don’t just use one of them. Mix it up. They all have different benefits.
The right kinds of fat shouldn’t be feared. In fact, they should be a staple of your diet.
Do you use any of these fats in your cooking already? In what ways do you use them? Let me know in the comments below!
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Feeling fatigued? Check out 7 Reasons Everyone With Celiac Disease Needs Vitamin D