The Best Fats to Eat on the Paleo Diet and Where to Get Them
So. Let’s talk fat.
Fat still gets a bad rap when in fact it should be whole-heartedly embraced! Not only is it super delicious – it also offers tremendous health benefits that make it one of the most important nutrients in our diet.
Let’s put fat back on the table. Our mission today is to unravel the myths which have led us to believe it’s bad for us and look at easy ways to incorporate fats into our daily diets.
Ready? Let’s go!
Why we need fats in our diet
When most people think of fat, they associate the word with the stuff we’re all aiming to have less of on our bodies. This is why it’s so easy for people to view fat negatively. After all, why would we want to ingest something so unappetising?
The thing is, we need fat. Not just to thrive – we need it to survive.
FAT HELPS WITH VITAMIN ABSORPTION
Too little fat in the diet can prevent vital fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from being absorbed properly. These include vitamin A, D & E which are essential for healthy skin, vision, circulation, clotting, bone health and mood.
What does this mean, tangibly?
Well, it’s not good! Deficiencies in these can lead to a wealth of physical and mental health issues such as dry hair, skin, nails, scalp or eyes, an inability to concentrate, mood swings and insomnia… among others. Yikes!
These can act as precursors for more serious conditions. The good news is, they can often be alleviated by increasing the amount of fat in our diets; something the doctors fail to mention.
FAT CAN HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS
Yep, you heard me right! If ingested in the right quantities and – most importantly – if the right kind of fat is used, it can either directly (as is the case for coconut oil) or indirectly (by making us feel fuller for longer) help us with our weight loss.
There is a caveat: not all fats are created equal.
While it’s a great idea to add GOOD fats to our diet (we’ll look into how to do that in just a sec), it’s important to avoid the BAD kinds – the ones that will have adverse effects on our health.
So what is the difference between animal fat, fat found in plant based foods such as coconut, avocado and seeds and fat found in a cake?
Let’s dig in!
The low-down on fats
Like we said, fats aren’t created equal. Some of them we like, but others should be avoided at all costs. Let’s take a look:
These essential fatty acids are known to be one of the best of all the superfoods.
They improve overall health with anti-inflammatory properties to fight conditions such as eczema and arthritis, maintain good eyesight, prevent heart attacks and regulate moods and behaviour.
A lack of omega-3 can lead to depression, ADHD, dyslexia and chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, faster aging, asthma and allergies. Omega-3 abundant in foods such as wild fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds and greens, but it’s a-ok to supplement with high quality capsules if you need to!
Polyunsaturated fats are a broad category of fats that include omega-3 and omega-6. While some of them are excellent – like the omega-3 essential fatty acids we mentioned just a minute ago – by their very nature, they are unstable and prone to oxidation.
What does this mean? When heated (like in cooking, for instance), these oils oxidise and break down, creating free radicals that really aren’t that great for you.
As a rule of thumb, while healthy, fresh sources of omega-3 are OK (like fresh, sustainable fish, the occasional handful of nuts and high quality omega-3 supplements), you’ll want to avoid cooking with corn, canola, soybean, sunflower and safflower oils. (Besides, they’re not Paleo!)
Monounsaturated fats occur mostly in plant foods such as olives, avocados and macadamia nuts, but also in delicious tallow and lard. These fats are commonly praised as “good fats” because they contain antioxidants, making them more stable than polyunsaturated fats.
They’ve also been shown to be good for our hearts. As always, though, the source of the fats is important: always go for the highest quality you can find.
Saturated fats are the guys the media loves to hate! We’re talking crackling, crispy chicken skin, bacon, grass-fed butter, all other animal fats and products as well as coconut oil.
There’s minimal evidence to suggest these fats are damaging yet still a lot of mainstream negative propaganda against them except coconut oil, which it seems to have finally been accepted as the wonderful multi-functional food and cosmetic that it is.
Trans fats are the worst. These are formed from solidified, cheap vegetable oils – wherever you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ on the label, avoid the product.
They’re deemed unsafe by many governing boards of health and, unfortunately, are still everywhere. Found in takeaways, cakes, biscuits, crisps, dressings and margarine.
Ok, you’ve got the facts. So, how do we get more of the good stuff?
(We’re giving away a free jar of our favourite coconut oil. Click here to find out more and get your hands on one of the healthiest fats!)
The healthiest sources of fat on the Paleo diet
Luckily, on the Paleo diet there are plenty of sources of delicious, healthy fats!
Let’s take a look at your best options:
Coconut oil has reached superfood status, and it’s no wonder! It’s incredibly versatile and offers tremendous health benefits, mostly due to the type of fat it contains.
As a plant-based saturated fat it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans, it’s been shown to increase energy expenditure helping you to burn more fat, has medicinal properties helping to stave off infections, can reduce cholesterol and boost brain function, just to name a few.
We love this brand (and we’re giving away a tub for FREE!).
Ghee & Grass Fed Butter
Ghee is pure deliciousness. Although it starts off as milk – meaning it’s technically a dairy product – it’s cooked for longer than butter and then clarified to remove the milk proteins so only the best bit remains and it’s easier on the body because of the lower lactose levels.
Milk is a problem for many people (inflammation, allergies, etc.), but ghee and grass-fed butter provide wonderful health benefits. Cows that feed on grass produce more fatty acids, beta-carotene, vitamin A & K than grain fed cows.
Ghee tastes amazing (it has a creamy, nutty flavour), has a great shelf life and has a high smoking point. It’s been used in Indian cooking for centuries and is starting to become more widely available here in the Western world, so get on board!
Pastured, organic eggs are a perfect food! Small enough to snack on, portable, quick to cook, and versatile. Contained inside that shell are disease-fighting cartenoids, high levels of protein, and the golden colour of the yolk represents the beneficial value of it’s nutrients: saturated fat.
Grass Fed Lard & Tallow
Lard (a.k.a bacon fat) is made from pork, while tallow is made by rendering beef fat. Both are an excellent source of fatty acids, vitamin K and omegas, and both can be used for frying or baking or used in meat or vegetable dishes to enhance richness of flavour.
Make sure you choose the highest quality grass fed lard and tallow – they’ll still be cheaper than EVOO or coconut oil and much better for you!
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is universally agreed to be one of the healthiest fats on the planet due to its high antioxidant content.
Extra virgin is made from the first pressing of the olives so that the purest oil is sourced and further pressings are labelled as standard ‘olive oil’. Best used uncooked so drizzle over salads and raw veg to appreciate its delicate taste as well as its health benefits.
An avocado a day keeps the doctor away! Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fat, meaning they are highly satiating and are perfect for increasing your fibre and vitamin E intake at the same time.
Oily fish such as kippers, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, sprats, tuna are all fantastic sources of omega-3, so eat in abundance.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios sesame and poppy seeds contain high levels of fats as well as protein and multiple vitamins and minerals. This incredibly energy-dense make-up means they’re perfect pre-workout and for keeping you going between meals.
Nuts and seeds tend to be high in omega-6 fatty acids, so enjoy with moderation.
So tuck into avocados and forget about the calorie content on a packet of nuts! They are energy dense, fat-burning, natural foods which will only serve to enhance your health. In the case of fat, you are NOT what you eat! What are you waiting for?
P.S. Don’t forget to claim your FREE jar of organic coconut oil! Click here for more details.
About The Author:
Jenna is a freelance food, nutrition and wellbeing writer & blogger who specialises in the paleo diet born from her love of all things natural. Originating from Cornwall, she currently lives in Brighton where she is the Food Revolution Ambassador for Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation and writes her blog, Raw Rhubarb. Loves jokes, face paint and travelling!