I've heard from many sources that when you're just starting to eat healthier, the first thing you should change is the type of fat you eat. Fats do so many important jobs in our bodies (like making up our cell membranes, transmitting messages in our brains and nerves, etc.), that if we aren't eating enough of the right ones, our health can't help but deteriorate. When we switch our unhealthy fats out for the right ones, however, it's remarkable how much better we can feel in a short time.
Yes, we may all have different ideas of what "healthy fats" are, but the ones consumed by my family are the ones that have been eaten by healthy people for thousands of years, and that come from farms and forests, not factories. Unfortunately, real fats are waaaay more expensive than the subsidized, processed "vegetable" (read: soy) type sold in the baking aisle of the grocery store. Out of my own nerdy curiosity, I did a little cost analysis of the types of fats we use most frequently, based on the prices I usually pay for them. The units are in dollars per fat calorie.
Butter: We use this for baking, spreading on toast, scrambling our eggs, adding to our oatmeal, and occasionally just slicing a piece off to eat because it's so darn good. We generally buy our store brand's organic butter, but I've recently discovered Kerry Gold Irish Butter, which claims to come from grass-fed cows. It's pretty pricey (more than twice as much as our normal organic), and I don't know if I really want to make something coming all the way from Ireland a staple in my kitchen. But it's delicious. I'm still hunting for a local source of butter from grass-fed cows. It remains to be seen whether the food budget can accommodate grass-fed butter.
Coconut oil: This is also fantastic in baked goods, and sometimes we put it in our smoothies too. One of my favorite things about it is that it helps extend the shelf life of my baked goods, since it doesn't have to be refrigerated. I am still learning how to use coconut oil, and it's kind of an effort for me to remember to use it. I know it's fantastically healthy, though, so we shall persevere!
Olive Oil: I guess this is the only fat we use that is considered "healthy" by the main-stream nutrition media. We use it in all kinds of things, like salad dressings and sauces, but try to avoid cooking with it, since it has a very low smoke point and loses many of its nutritive properties when heated too much.
Cream: We are still looking for a good source of cream (I could skim it off our milk, I guess, but we just shake it right in to give to the kids) that is not ultra-pasteurized, and that is (dare I hope?) grass-fed. But we do occasionally buy the store-bought conventional kind to use for whipping, sauces, or adding to coffee. Yum!
Cod Liver Oil: Okay, I don't really cook with this, I just choke it down. :) The kids have no idea that I add it to their applesauce or watered-down juice sippy cups once a day.
Rendered Lard: I have not yet found a great source of lard, tallow, or duck fat (but I haven't given up!), so for now our only lard source is rendered from our nitrate-free bacon. This has a myriad of delicious uses, but my favorites are baking in biscuits and cooking with greens. This is essentially free for us, since we would just throw it away after cooking the bacon otherwise, so I didn't include it on the graph.
Real Food Forager: Coconut Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Butter
bodyecology.com: The 20 Health Benefits of Real Butter
What are the main fats and oils you use in your kitchen? Do you have any unique sources or uses for the fats you use? What do you think about animal fats and cholesterol?
Posted at Monday Mania, Made from Scratch Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Traditional Tuesdays, and Simple Lives Thursday