Prior to June 2012, my family consumed an average of one pound of butter per week. We had never heard of coconut oil or tallow, and I wouldn’t have touched lard with a ten-foot pole. All in all, butter was our only source of saturated fat.
Compare the one pound per week statistic to the last four months of 2012 where our consumption of saturated fat doubled.
Sounds normal? Sure it does, to you real food foodies. Compared to the average American family’s intake of only 1/3 of a pound of butter per week, we sound gluttonous!
Could it be a correlation with our love for freshly baked bread (which we all know MUST have butter)? Or the realization that saturated fat, like butter, is actually good for us?
Honestly, it was a little bit of both. Knowing that butter is a good fat made me want bread (with butter). Eating a thick slick of freshly baked bread with a thick layer of butter made me want another piece (with more butter). It was a viciously delicious cycle. 😉
Your Monday Mission – should you choose to accept – is to try a new healthy fat.
Say what?! Doesn’t fat make you fat?
As is customary with our missions, let’s round up the research (for those who need the background).
- Home Base for Katie’s original “A Fat Full Fall” Series
- The Cheat Sheet for Substituting Good Fats for the Bad Fats
- A Reminder to Continue Making Healthy Fat Progress
Instead of offering all the details of this FANTASTIC information that Katie put so much time and effort into, I’m going to do the opposite. I’m giving you the “for dummies” version.
Information is our weapon if we are going to fight the good food fight, but from the beginner’s point of view, it can be overwhelming. This series is all about the baby steps, so let’s talk fat in baby terms.
Fat is Healthy?
Yes and no. There are three main types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All pure, unaltered saturated fats are good. Most monounsaturated fats are good. Nearly all polyunsaturated fats are bad. Here are some examples to illustrate:
tallow (beef fat)
palm kernel oil
most “yellow” cooking oils
Note: I know that omega-3’s and omega-6’s are good for our body and that technically, they’re polyunsaturated oils. We could also get into expeller-expressed and unrefined oils. But those topics are not basic and quite frankly, they can be confusing for non-beginners. So we’ll save those for another discussion.
In Summary: If all pure, unchanged saturated fats are good, we should use these fats the most. If most monounsaturated fats are good as well, we should be comfortable with consuming them regularly. If nearly all polyunsaturated fats are bad, we should use these the least (if at all).
What does this look like in the kitchen?
If we’ve ditched all the trans fat from our first Monday mission, then some of us are left wondering how to make cookies without shortening. How do we fry chicken without oil? Is tossing out trans fat a contradiction to eating peanut butter?
For every trans-fat filled item in our kitchen, there is an applicable and more than sufficient substitute. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that in most cases, the substitute is better than the original!
Real Fats for Baking
With margarine and shortening gone, now’s the perfect opportunity to try butter or coconut oil. (Already use butter? Make sure your butter is better.)
We’ve all heard of butter right? Just in case you’ve been sheltered by an umbrella made of margarine, it’s the fat from the cream of milk.
Heard of coconut oil? It’s the edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts. So it’s kinda like eating fruit, right? 😉
Cooking at High Temperatures
Yellow “vegetable” oils should officially be considered off limits. Instead use tallow, lard, ghee or palm kernel oil. These were all new to me, so here’s the easy answer to “what in the world is that?!”
- Tallow is made by rendering raw fat (also known as suet) from beef or sheep. It’s solid at room temperature and can be stored in an airtight container without refrigeration.
- Lard is made by rendering raw pig fat. Again solid at room temperature, but it should be stored either in the fridge or through the canning process.
- Ghee is clarified butter, made by cooking butter. It too is solid at room temperature (noticing a trend here?) and is safe to store (covered) for about one year.
- Palm kernel oil comes from the edible seed of the oil palm tree and is also (you guessed it!) solid at room temperature.
We’ve been brainwashed to think that low-fat or fat-free foods are better for us than the full-fat versions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ponder this questions: if the fat (which is found naturally in most of these foods) is removed, what is added?
Additives, preservatives, sugar, unnecessary chemicals, toxins in some cases. It’s time to ditch the low-fat and fat-free foods that are lingering in our kitchens. Opt for the full-fat versions instead.
Here’s a list of items of common items that are often found in low-fat or fat-free varieties:
- evaporated milk
- sweetened condensed milk
- butter (the spray stuff or even powdered butter flavorings)
- eggs (think egg substitutes)
- nut butters (seek out natural or organic varieties to avoid trans fat)
- sour cream
- cottage cheese
- salad dressings
Many of these things can be made from scratch, but if you do buy any of them, take a baby step by choosing the full-fat version. Be sure to read all labels though just in case the manufacturer starts sneaking in weird stuff.
What about foods that are naturally high in fat – do we or do we not eat them?
You eat them. And enjoy them. Thoroughly.
Ask yourself this – does this food look different on my table than it does in nature (minus some butchering or cleaning)? If the answer is no, then eat up!
What does this look like in MY kitchen?
Embracing saturated fat is not difficult. Erasing the “fat is bad for you” mind-set is.
While it has gotten easier over time, I often find myself unable to choose full-fat versions of some items because low-fat or fat-free is the only choice available.
For example, just last week I went to the grocery store to buy milk and a single serve container of yogurt as a starter to make homemade yogurt (we ate it all without saving some for the next batch – oops!).
Usually I use Greek yogurt as a starter because it’s thicker, and it yields a thicker homemade version too. However, I scoured the Greek yogurt section and could only find fat-free varieties. There was not a single full-fat Greek yogurt on the shelf.
I conceded and scooted over to the regular yogurt section to find the next best option – a plain, nothing fancy, regular full-fat yogurt. Lo and behold, there were none!
It wasn’t until I began to leave the dairy section altogether that I saw a separate mini-refrigerated end-cap (near the diapers and travel-sized items no less) with half of one shelf dedicated to yogurt. I grabbed one cup of the only yogurt that had fat. I can’t even be sure it was full-fat though because there was none other to compare to!
The bright side though is that there are some simple steps that we’ve taken to embrace healthy fat. These steps are easy for any beginner to incorporate too.
- Switch from skim to whole milk
- No longer purchase butter spreads, instead use regular butter
- Use coconut oil and butter in baked goods
- Add coconut oil to meals
- Buy only natural or organic peanut butter
- Buy full-fat sour cream
- Make our own salad dressings (with full-fat olive oil)
- Buy full-fat cheese
Again, none of these changes were difficult. But there is a conscious effort to seek out the full-fat versions, especially with the prevalence of the “less fat” options everywhere we turn.
There’s much room for improvement too. We don’t deep fry often, but we sauté regularly with olive oil and that’s a big no-no since olive oil has a low smoke point (essentially turning the good parts of olive oil bad). Using butter and bacon grease (YUM!) is the immediate solution and adding palm kernel oil to the kitchen will happen in the next couple months. Locating a good source for local grass-fed beef so that I can acquire the suet (at a reasonable cost) is something I’d like to accomplish in the next six months or year.
How do you plan to incorporate healthy fat into your kitchen? Which new-to-you healthy fat are you trying next?
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Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
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