The quick answer: Enjoy traditional fats. They're good for you and make everything taste better.
The War Against Saturated Fats
America got itself into a crazy mess regarding fats. In a misguided attempt to reduce heart disease, influential scientists vilified saturated fats—like butter and lard—despite millennia of safe use. The newly invented polyunsaturated fats—found in seed oils—were wrongfully hyped as the cure. It made a good business but these refined oils were bad medicine.
Europeans, by contrast, chose to stay with traditional fats. The French, despite their creamy sauces and butter, largely avoided heart disease. In recent decades, heart disease in southern Europe has declined to even lower levels as prosperity put more saturated fats on the dinner table.
There is painful irony in our anti-saturated fat experiment: In attempting to solve a problem, we made it worse. When we reduced saturated fats, we replaced them with hydrogenated seed oils and sugar, both now implicated as causes of heart disease. Worse, we sowed the seeds of two additional epidemics: overweight and type 2 diabetes. It’s a big fat mess.
For the definitive story of how we went wrong on fats, read Gary Taubes' N. Y. Times article "What If It's All Been A Big Fat Lie?"
High-Oleic Seed Oils
For years seed oils were falsely promoted as healthy because they were polyunsaturated and certain polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and -6) are essential to life. Unfortunately, omega-3s are reactive to oxygen when refined so don't keep well. To extend shelf life they were removed by hydrogenation. The resulting trans fats were a health disaster.
To reduce the need for hydrogenation, seed plants are being modified through GMO (genetically modified organism) and other techniques to reduce polyunsaturated fats. Given names like “high oleic” oil, many food products now use these new oils and products made from them proudly carry the “zero trans fats” banner. But are these modified oils healthy enough for long-term use? Though the FDA allows their use, some observers are uncomfortable. After all, the FDA so far still allows the sale of food with trans fats though it is reconsidering their use. In time we may know, but for now here are some concerns with high-oleic oils:
1. About ninety percent of the soybean and corn crops are GMO per reports. The long-term healthiness of consuming GMOs is a hotly debated but unsettled issue. In Europe GMOs are generally not allowed.
2. The new “high oleic” varieties are low in omega-3, and have an unhealthy omega 6:3 ratio.
3. Seed oils are refined using chemical solvents like hexane (a hazardous pollutant per the EPA) plus heat exposure (during hexane recovery, bleaching, and deodorization) that can harm the nature of the fats.
Though approved by the FDA, we cannot be sure about the long-term healthiness of these oils. My plan is to follow the “century rule” and not eat recently invented factory fats (or edible oils as the industry likes to call them).
Healthy Change #28: Enoy traditional fats like butter and olive oil. Mankind enjoyed them for millenia before the modern heart disease epidemic.
Please comment: Share your thoughts about fat. After all the false promotion, it will take time for people to enjoy eating fats again. But you need them as nutrients plus make everything taste better.