Are saturated fats healthy? What if it has a poor omega-3 to omega-6 ratio?
The following question is very astute, and so I wanted to answer this not just for Mary, but for all of you. She writes:
In looking at a chart for "good" and "bad" oils, nuts, fruits and greens, I see that coconut oil is listed as 'terrible,' having a whopping 91% saturated fat content... as well as listed as a pure omega 6 oil.My cousin is heavily into the Dr Mark Hyman diet, using low carbs, detoxing smoothies, etc. She has been advised through him and a professor to cook with coconut oil. They say it has loads of health benefits. They indicate that the real culprits are non-organic foods, and especially those with high sugar content.May I ask someone's opinion on this matter? I do have coconut oil and like the light sweetness it adds to some dishes. I have not used it a lot, however.Incidentally, I also saw where almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds have super high omega 6 ratios. I always thought these were super healthy in their raw state.Thanks so much for your time!Sincerely,Mary
Your question is quite complex. To start, let me give you the simple answer. Yes, the worst culprits on the shelves are proceeded foods and genetically modified foods. If the ingredients are not whole foods, then don't eat it. If it is conventional, don't eat it. That is some of my most simple and basic advice.
Now, let's answer the more sophisticated part of your question.
Every single plant food has some fat, some carbohydrate and some protein. Every plant food has all of the essential amino acids, although some levels are so low that we couldn't detect their presence in the early 1900s, leading to the faulty "complete protein myth".
Like with amino acids (the building blocks of protein), every oil has a mix of saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and/or mono-unsaturated fats.
Is coconut oil a fad? Is it healthy? Is it bad?
Whether or not the oil is good for you is going to depend highly on the following factors:
1. Your overall diet
2. The freshness of the oil
3. The source of the oil
4. The method the oil was extracted in
5. How you plan to use the oil (cooking versus raw)
6. What you combine the oil with
For example, flax oil may be perfect for you, fresh, well sourced, extracted correctly... but it'd still be terrible for you if you cooked with it.
When it comes to coconut oil, a little is good for most people. A little is about a teaspoon per day. Why do I say that?
A lot of saturated fat is generally not a good idea. Very few people can metabolize large volumes of saturated fat. It is called "saturated" because it literally is saturated at the molecular level. It is densely packed long "bars" of carbons, and those bars of carbons don't come apart easily in your digestive system. It takes a lot of of the lipase enzyme which you release from your gall bladder in the bile. This bile digests the fat in your intestines. You can only produce so much bile and lipase per day, and if you exceed the amount of fat you can digest, then you can become constipated or wind up with severe flora imbalances due to bacteria digesting the food that you can not digest.
When it comes to the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, virtually all nuts, seeds, grains and beans are terrible. The only exceptions to that are flax, chia and hemp. When it comes to the calcium to phosphorous ratio (important for bones), all nuts, seeds, grains and beans are terrible except for sesame seeds and spice seeds such as fennel and celery seed.
What can we learn from this? That our diets should not consist primarily of nuts, seeds, grains and beans!
While these foods are healthy and provide many great benefits, they are not intended to make up the bulk of the diet. Imagine a whole plant. It has a lot more roots, stalk, leaves and flowers than it does seeds.
Look at a whole raspberry bush. The leaves, berries and seeds are all edible. Imagine you ate all the edible parts of the bush. If you imagine the raspberry bush leaves in a bowl, the berries in a bowl, and the extracted seeds in yet another bowl, you'll find the bowl of leaves about fifteen times as large as the bowl of berries, and the bowl of berries about fifteen times as large as the bowl of seeds.
That is an accurate demonstration of how nature provides exactly the right balance that our bodies need. Because if you look at the nutrition of that, that ratio of greens to fruit to seeds will work marvelously for all ratios in our diet.
At the least, consume a pound of leafy greens per day. Leafy greens contain ample protein, healthy fats, a great omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, a great calcium to phosphorous ratio, a great potassium to sodium ratio and so on. Leafy greens are perfect for humans in all ways. You virtually can't eat too many of them.
In conclusion, have a teaspoon or two of coconut oil when you cook or in your raw vegan desserts. Have a little refrigerated cold-pressed flax oil or hemp oil or chia oil on your salads. And focus on eating fresh fruits and leafy greens.
For more detailed information about healthy eating, sign up for my free e-course on the bottom right of this page.