This pantry post is all about healthy fats and oils. I decided to devote an entire post to these elements of traditional foods since they are so important for health. Our supermarkets carry so many unhealthy oils that are cheap, but so very destructive to human health, causing untold amounts of free radical damage. We might pay a small out-of-pocket cost for these types of oils, but we are paying huge prices in terms of degenerative illnesses and medical expense.
And it's not only that these fats and oils directly damage our bodies, they also do not provide essential nutrients that we need in order to produce the bio-chemicals that maintain optimum health and a sense of well-being.
So without further ado, here is a list of the fats and oils that I keep stocked in my pantry:
Bottled Oils and Fats: Extra virgin, cold or expeller expressed oils, such as olive, flax seed (buy only flax seed oil that has been refrigerated in dark bottles as this oil is very unstable [turns rancid quickly] if not kept cold), peanut oil, sesame oil, high-oleic expeller-expressed monounsaturated safflower or sunflower oil (these two are good for making mayonnaise, especially safflower oil, which is what I prefer). I find these oils at Trader Joe's (olive and sesame), at Whole Foods (safflower, peanut, flax seed).
Refrigerate all of the above oils in dark bottles except for extra virgin organic coconut and palm oils, which are fine to keep at room temp because they are extremely stable. (If you do not have dark bottles on hand, save dark wine bottles whenever you empty a bottle of wine, or if you do not drink wine, ask a friend who does to save her emptied bottles for you.)
Note: Never buy processed polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs), including canola oil or partially-hydrogenated (or hydrogenated) oils, such as shortening, and margarine, and never soybean oil even if it is cold-pressed because of a myriad of toxins, carcinogens, anti-nutrients, and phytoestrogens.
PUFAs have a deleterious effect upon human health. This is partly because these oils are very unstable - they oxidize or turn rancid very quickly when exposed to air, heat and light. The processing of PUFAs involves high heats for prolonged periods, which renders the oil rancid and a grayish murky color. In order to make the end product pleasing to the eye and odorless, the oil is then bleached and deodorized. Hexane gas (a solvent similar to gasoline) is also added during the processing of PUFAs and then boiled off, but residues remain and have been detected in human breast milk. Link here for an excellent article about the many dangers of PUFAs, and here to read about the reasons why PUFAs contribute significantly to weigth gain.
Coconut Oil: Rather than re-invent the wheel, I will refer you to a good site that will explain the numerous benefits of this wonderful oil. This is one of the healthiest oils on the face on the earth. In fact, many real food nutritionists consider it to be the healthiest, most healing oil there is.
Butter: Raw, organic butter from grass-fed cows is best, though I do not buy it because it is so pricey. I stock organic, pasteurized butter from grass-fed cows (this next best), which I get at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (if I have a coupon). Butter can be kept at room temperature for a few days as it is fairly stable and will not oxidize quickly. This applies to butter that you use on toast, etc. Refrigerate butter still in the wrapper.
Duck Fat: This delicious to cook with. I used to stock it, but no longer have a source for it, though I keep looking. Buy use only that which is from a healthy animal (see note below).
Beef Fat (called "Suet"): Whenever I make beef stock, I take the suet off the top of the stock (refrigerate stock after it's finished and cooled and the fat will collect on top, making it easy to remove.) Suet is one of the fats I might use when I saute beef or need to add fat to a beef or other red meat dish.) Buy use only that which is from a healthy animal (see note below). This is an inexpensive fat to use since it would ordinarily be a discarded waste product. Refrigerate suet.
Chicken Fat (called Schmaltz): Everything said about suet (beef fat) above is true for schmaltz. It is a product of bone stock make from the chicken carcass. Remove the fat as for beef stock above. It is another inexpensive good fat. Refrigerate schmaltz after rendering it from the stock.
Lard (fat from pigs): Do not cringe in disbelief! I love lard for adding a wonderful flavor to dishes. It is a healthy fat to use as long as it comes from a healthy animal (see note below). I render my own lard from the fat that is included in the pork order that we purchase from a local farmer. Also, just a warning about the so-called lard that is available in the supermarkets: it is partially hydrogenated which absolutely ruins whatever good qualities it might have had to begin with, not to mention that it came from an animal that was raised in unhealthy conditions. Keep lard refrigerated.
Bacon drippings: Another source of inexpensive good fat is bacon drippings. After frying bacon (do not overcook - bacon should not be crispy), from a healthy animal (see note below), strain off the drippings (fat) into a jar. Use for many different dishes - any kind of beans, creamed corn, etc. Keep bacon drippings refrigerated.
Note: A healthy animal is one that has been raised on organic pasture and not given antibiotics, steroids or hormones. These kinds of animals are usually raised by small farmers committed to humane and healthy practices. Click here to link to Eat Wild, a resource for finding a listing of these kind of farms in your area.
For a great video explaining good and bad oils, go here to the Food Renegade.