Good Fat vs. Bad Fat and How to Tell the Difference {The Healthy Eating Made Simple Series}

Now that you’re hopefully starting to think of fat as your friend, and not the enemy in healthy eating, it is really important to be able to distinguish between the fats that will benefit your body and those that won’t. We hear the terms good fats and bad fats often, but do you know which is which? The answers may surprise you!

Good Fat vs. Bad Fat and How to Tell the Difference, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple series @ Smithspirations.com

While modern nutritionists often claim that we need to avoid animal and saturated fats and instead focus on liquid vegetable and seed oils, I’ve become convinced through my personal research and experience that saturated fats play a crucial role in the diet. 

My good fats/bad fats list might look a little bit backwards compared to what most of us have been previously taught, but hang with me and let me try to briefly explain. If you’re interested in some of the more scientific details regarding what makes some fats better than others, I recommend this article or this interesting video which uses Legos to explain the structure of fats and why some are better than others. Ingenious, I say! You can also visit the previous post in this series to see a list of resources.

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Bad Fats to Avoid

Generally speaking, polyunsaturated fats that are often touted as the ones to focus on by modern nutritionist are actually the ones to avoid. Because of their structure, they are less stable in cooking and more prone to rancidity, making them a source of harmful free radicals.

These oils also are usually mass-produced under high pressure, often with the chemical solvent hexane. The grains and seeds used to produce the oils may also be genetically modified, especially in the case of corn and soy.

Most polyunsaturated oils are relatively new to the human diet, as well. Generations prior to the 1900s weren’t using generic vegetable oil, and I believe their health was the better for it.

When looking for fats and oils to avoid, keep this list in mind:

  • Hydrogenated oils, as mentioned in this previous post
  • Partially-Hydrogenated oils
  • Modern industrialized vegetable oils like generic vegetable, corn, safflower, soy, canola, and cottonseed
  • Margarine and other similar butter-flavored spreads
  • Shortening
  • Interesterfied oil

Good Fat vs. Bad Fat, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple series @ Smithspirations.com

Good Fats to Use

Our bodies thrive on saturated fat. I know it sounds to counterintuitive because of all we’ve previously heard about health and nutrition, but it truly makes perfect sense!

Saturated fats are highly stable and not prone to rancidity. They hold up well during cooking and are a preferred fuel for our body. They help to keep our immune and skeletal systems strong and are necessary for proper cell structure. They’ve been used historically as the preferred fat for cultures all over the globe as documented by Dr. Weston Price‘s travels and writing. You can find more of saturated fat’s many benefits here.

Monounsaturated fats can also be very healthful, olive oil being one of them. These are generally best suited for use on salads or in dishes when heat isn’t used, but olive oil is stable enough to be cooked with at low to moderate temperatures.

Fats for Cooking

These very stable fats and oils are excellent for all sorts of cooking:

Fats for Topping

These oils are best suited for use as a topping or in recipes that aren’t cooked:

Our Favorite Fats and Oils

In our home, we rely on four major fats: butter, olive oil, lard, and coconut oil. I did render some beef tallow recently but haven’t used it yet. I’ve heard it makes the best french fries!

Who doesn’t love butter? I actually have a brother-in-law who doesn’t. Poor fellow. We generously use butter on our breads, pancakes, rolls, cornbread, and all other baked yummies. I bake with it and love to fry eggs in it. Our cooked veggies get a generous topping of it, too. I buy bulk butter from a local creamery that has wonderful flavor!

I use olive oil mostly for topping salads, dipping bread, and in other cold dishes. I do occasionally cook with it, like when I roast veggies, but I also tend to mix it with butter when cooking with it. I look for extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic, from local stores.

Lard is one of my favorite fats for frying. It has a completely neutral flavor and is nice and stable when heated. I also use it in biscuits, sometimes mixing it with butter, and sometimes not. It’s also what I use to season my cast iron pans. I render it myself or buy it from local butchers.

Coconut oil is another wonderfully stable fat with some great health benefits and many uses. I use it for frying, mixed into smoothies, in baked items, in hot chocolate, and more. I like to buy it in bulk gallon pails from Tropical Traditions, but Amazon also sells some organic virgin oils.

What kind of fat and oil do you often use in your home? What do you think about using more saturated fat?

Please remember that the only kind of doctor I am is Dr. Mom in my own home. This post isn’t medical advice and can’t replace the counsel of a caring and well-trained medical professional.

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    1. Hey Kristen,
      Thanx for this post! Loved it!! I’ve been reading the Trim, Healthy Mama book and they also are in the same mindset!! Lotsa things to think about! I’ve been using coconut oil alot more lately and we have been using butter instead of margarine for awhile now! Thanx for this awesome post!! 🙂

      Love in Christ,
      Natanya

      1. That’s great that you’re thinking more about healthy fats! It took me a while to get my mind wrapped around it.
        I’d love to hear how THM works for you. I know of a few who have found it very, very helpful and some that decided to not stick with it. It sounds like the some of the core ideas are really solid, though!