Food

Not All Plant-Based Fats Are Healthy—Here Are the Ones You Should Avoid

There's a lot of misinformation about plant fats—and not all are created equal.

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[The following is an excerpt from the new book Bulletproof: The Cookbook by Dave Asprey. (Rodale Books, 2015)]

Healthy Fats

Coconut oil and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil

Coconut has been used as a food staple and medicine by many different cultures throughout history. Coconut oil is a source of many healthy fats, is high in fiber, and also acts as a powerful natural antibiotic, virucide, fungicide, and parasiticide. Coconut oil has devastating effects on viruses, bacteria, parasites, and microorganisms that cause many disorders, including ulcers, cavities, urinary tract infections, and more, but it doesn’t harm the probiotic flora that popu- late your gut and intestinal tract.

MCT oil is a type of saturated fat found in tropical plants, such as coconut or palm, and is responsible for many of the health benefits associated with those foods. There are two types of MCTs: caprylic acid and capric acid, both of which are converted immediately into energy by your body without requiring any processing in the liver like other, longer-chain fats. These fats are converted into ketone bodies, an alternate type of energy that is used by your brain. MCT oil not only provides that quick burst of energy, but also promotes healthy cholesterol levels. It’s tasteless and odorless, which makes it incredibly easy to integrate into your diet. It’s just a flavorless liquid you can drizzle onto your food, use as salad dressing, or add to smoothies. Plus, you can heat it up to 320°F and still enjoy the health benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olives are a great source of monounsaturated fats, which help to optimize cholesterol levels, particularly beneficial HDL cholesterol, and have been linked to lower risk of heart disease. Olive oil also has a host of other benefits, including assisting with blood clotting, regulating blood sugars, and promoting insulin sensitivity; and it contains several powerful polyphenols that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Some studies have even shown that olive oil can reduce the risk of several types of cancer and slow cognitive decline. It is important to use “extra virgin,” since plain and light olive oil both contain far fewer polyphenols. And you should check the label to make sure that it is pure 100 percent olive oil and doesn’t contain any additives or filler oils. Since olive oil is not saturated, it is fairly unstable and easy to oxidize, and you should never cook with it. Any amount of heat will start to oxidize the oil, which can create inflammatory free radicals. Stick to using your oil on salads or cold sauces. Make sure to buy a brand that comes in a dark glass container to limit the amount of light exposure, and use the oil within a year of buying to ensure it hasn’t gone rancid.

Fats to Avoid

Not all fats are created equal, and there are many fats, including some that have a ridiculous “heart-healthy” label, that are detrimental to your health and should be avoided whenever possible.

Seed, Soy, and Vegetable Oils

All of these types of oils are extremely high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. We do need a little bit of omega-6 in order to function properly, but the Standard American Diet (SAD) includes way too many of these oils, and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 oils is far too high, resulting in rampant inflammation. On top of that, omega-6s oxidize very easily and go rancid when cooked, resulting in free radicals that cause even more inflammation in the body. For this reason, many of these oils are hydrogenated and converted into trans fats to increase their stability. These Franken-fats have been shown to drastically increase LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease. Combine all of that with the fact that many of these oils come from GMO crops and foods that are typically contaminated with mycotoxins, and there are plenty of reasons to avoid them.

The vegetable-based omega-3s found in oils like flax and hemp are converted by our bodies into beneficial DHA at a very inefficient rate, so it is better to stick with other sources and avoid the high–omega-6 content.

[This excerpt is reprinted from Bulletproof: The Cookbook by Dave Asprey. Copyright (c) 2015 by Dave Asprey. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.]

Dave Asprey is the best-selling author of The Bulletproof Diet, the creator of Bulletproof Coffee, and the owner of the Bulletproof Coffee Café in Santa Monica, California. He is the chairman of the Silicon Valley Health Institute and host of the #1 ranked Bulletproof Radio show with over 19 million downloads on iTunes. Ranked the 11th most influential voice in health and fitness in the U.S., Asprey has been featured on Today, Nightline and CNN and in the Financial Times, Rolling Stone, Men's Health, Vogue, The New York Times, Marie Claire, Slate, Forbes, Men's Fitness, Businessweek and dozens more. He lives with his family in Victoria, British Columbia. For more on the Bulletproof way of life, visit www.bulletproofexec.com.