Healthy Fats

Many diseases have been associated with the consumption of trans fatty acids—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, sterility, learning disabilities, growth problems, and osteoporosis.
The only reason that we are eating this stuff is because we have been told that the competing saturated fats and oils—butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, tallow and suet—are bad for us and cause heart disease. Such assertions are nothing but industry propaganda.


  • canola oil
  • corn oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • vegetable blend oil
  • soybean oil
  • margarine and other “buttery” spreads
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (Cool-Whip, Crisco, or anything in labels)

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So what should you eat instead of dangerous, rancid, GMO-laden vegetable oils? Healthy, traditional fats which have nourished healthy population groups for thousands of years.


Tropical Oils (organic, unrefined forms are best)

  • Coconut
  • Palm

Animal Fats (from pastured/grass-fed, 0rganic sources)

  • Butter or Ghee
  • Lard (pig fat) (yes, lard is a natural, healthy fat!!)
  • Tallow (beef fat)
  • Chicken skin
  • Duck fat
  • Full-fat dairy (cream, sour cream, cream cheese, full-fat cheeses)
  • Egg yolks
  • High-fat seafood (wild caught)

Healthy Oils from Vegetable Sources
(organic, extra virgin, cold-pressed)

  • olive oil (can be used at low to medium heat for light sauteing)
  • sesame or hemp oil
  • flaxseed oil (in very small amounts)
  • avocado
  • nut oils (walnut, pecan, macadamia)
  • nuts & seeds (including nut & seed butters)

OK Occasionally, if cold- or expeller-pressed:

  • safflower oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • sunflower oil
  • local/organic canola oil

The main problem with these oils, even if they are cold/expeller-pressed, is that they are too high in Omega 6s compared to Omega 3s (most of us need more Omega 3s in our diet).


Heat-Stable for Cooking

  • Butter
  • Lard from pigs (esp. good for deep frying)
  • Chicken, goose and duck fat
  • Bacon Grease
  • Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils

Use Unheated For Salads

  • Extra virgin olive oil (also OK for cooking)
  • Expeller-expressed sesame, walnut, and peanut oils
  • Expeller-expressed flax oil (in small amounts)

*Note* If you have a recipe that calls for shortening then use Organic Palm Shortening (found at the Friendly City Food Co-op) or softened butter.

Margarines & “Spreadable” Butters: What a Crock!

Courtesy of Lissie Lyles
The butter vs. margarine debate…what to say about it? The only really surprising thing about the whole issue is that margarine has managed to successfully disguise itself as a health food for so long. Meanwhile, real butter, a whole food that has been used safely for generations, has somehow earned a bad rap for itself.

Let’s see who comes out on top when we compare the ingredients of a popular margarine product, with those of actual butter. Watch them do battle below.

Country Crock butter spread:


Vegetable(s) Oil Blend (Soybean(s) Oil Liquid, Soybean(s) Oil, Partially Hydrogenated, Cottonseed Oil, Hydrogenated, Water, Whey (Milk), Salt, Vegetable(s) Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA used to protect quality), Citric Acid, Artificial Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene color(s).

This product is mostly composed of rancid vegetable oils, with dashes of additives and preservatives thrown in. Nothing related to a cow is mentioned until ingredient number five. This product also contains hydrogenated oils, which as we learned in last month’s Ingredient Watch are best avoided like the plague. The process of hydrogenating oil is when oils are transformed from a liquid state to semi-solid by using nickel oxide (tiny metal particles) as a catalyst and blasting the oil with hydrogen at high heat and pressure. This is oil that is already rancid as it was extracted, using high heat methods that create dangerous free radicals. The artificial flavors and coloring are necessary to mask margarine’s actual color (dull grey) and to conceal its chemical aftertaste.

Fats that are partially hydrogenated actually block utilization of essential fatty acids, causing problems such as sexual dysfunction, and paralysis of the immune system. Hydrogenated fats are associated with many serious diseases including diabetes, obesity, birth defects, sterility, and problems with bones and tendons. The consumption of margarine has been implicated in connection to high cholesterol levels, heart disease and cancer and yet it is still marketed as a health food. Even more horrifying, is that it is often suggested as beneficial for people who are already facing heart disease or high cholesterol.

Organic Valley Pastured Butter:

Ingredients: Pasteurized organic sweet cream, salt, microbial cultures.

Even a quick glance at the two ingredient lists, side by side, should reveal the butter’s advantage: only three ingredients, while the former has upwards of 15. Butter is made by culturing milk with lactic acid to ripen the cream, before it is slow churned in small batches. This butter comes from pastured cows that grazed on grass, increasing the amount of beta-carotene and omega 3 in the milk. The cows were not given hormones or antibiotics, or fed GMO ingredients; all of which do have adverse health effects. When butter is made from high quality milk that came from cows that were able to live as they naturally would, that is to say, grazing on grass, the butter is more like what our ancestors enjoyed. Incidentally, butter is not given much credit, neither for the many vital nutrients it contains or some of its associated health benefits.

Butter is rich in fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, K and E. Vitamin A is more easily absorbed and utilized from butter than it is from any other food source. Vitamins A and D are necessary for growth, healthy bones, proper development of the nervous system and brain, and for normal sexual development. Butter from grass fed cows also contains Activator X, a catalyst discovered by Dr. Weston Price, which helps the body easily absorb minerals such as maganese, zinc, chromium, and iodine. Butter contains a balanced ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Finally, the short and medium chain fatty acids in butter have antimicrobial, antitumor and immune system supporting properties, especially 12-carbon lauric acid, not found in other animal fats.

When you compare the two side by side, butter clearly comes out swinging. It deserves a second chance in our kitchen, while the margarine should be cast out as an impostor, imitation “health food.”

Note from Valerie: Homestead Creamery’s Old-Fashioned Butter, found at the Friendly City Food Co-op, is some of the best local butter, or buy from some of the vendors at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market.  Amish Roll Butter from Sharp Shopper and Red Front comes in a close second.