The skinny on fats

Most knowledgeable nutritionists agree that fats and oils are essential for health.

by Dr. Larry Wilson — 

High-quality fats and oils are one of the most essential foods to consume every day. They are needed as an energy source for your brain and for producing many vital hormones in the body. They are also essential for transporting all vitamins, minerals and hormones through every one of your body’s cells. A deficiency of quality fats can contribute to many health conditions, especially mental and emotional disorders.

Fats do not drive up your insulin level or create insulin resistance, as do sugar and carbohydrates. They also do not rob your body of minerals, as does eating sugars and many starches. Last, but not least, fats and oils make our food taste good. The idea of avoiding all high-quality fats because they may make you fat or clog your arteries is nonsense, and one of the worst nutritional myths of our time. Even the government’s “food pyramid” is absolutely wrong when it comes to the need to consume quality fats and oils.

Sources of high-quality fats and oils 

Excellent sources of quality fats and oils include hormone-free and preferably grass-fed meats, especially lamb, healthful poultry such as dark meat chicken and turkey, and oily fish such as wild salmon, halibut, sardines and baby tuna. Take note, however, that the commercial tuna fish in grocery stores contains more mercury than probably is safe, although it also contains quality oils.

Other sources are cage-free eggs, natural butter (but not butter substitutes) and coconut or palm kernel oil. Nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and brazil nuts also contain good quality oils. Dairy products such as milk and cheese are excellent, if raised naturally and organically. I prefer goat dairy because most cows today are hybrids and their products are not as healthful as in years past. Many people are sensitive to cows’ milk, although they may not be aware of it.

Vegetable oils are excellent if they are fresh, not boiled or processed. However, the only unprocessed vegetable oils readily available are cold-processed olive, coconut, palm and flaxseed oils. The others are refined and of less value. Canola oil, formerly called rapeseed oil, is not only refined but was genetically altered to remove most of a toxic substance it contains. Flaxseed oil goes rancid quickly, even in the refrigerator. Olive, coconut and palm oils stay fresh much longer.

What are fats and oils?

Fats and oils are chains of molecules called fatty acids that are composed mainly of carbon atoms. Fats are generally solid at room temperature, while oils are liquid at room temperature.

Fats are solid at room temperature because they have more double bonds among the carbon atoms. The more carbon double bonds in a fat, the more saturated the fat. Examples of more saturated fats are beef tallow, lard, chicken fat, and coconut and palm oils, all of which tend to be solid at room temperature.

Fats with fewer carbon double bonds are called unsaturated fats. They are more liquid at room temperature. They include most of the vegetable oils such as peanut, safflower, sunflower, soy, corn, flaxseed and sesame seed oil.

Certain fats are somewhat saturated, including butter and olive oil. These will set to hardness if you place them in the refrigerator, but will become soft or liquid at room temperature. This is important because the more unsaturated an oil, the faster it goes rancid. Rancid oils can be very harmful to eat.

Fish oil and flaxseed oil contain more of a configuration called omega-3 that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Most other vegetable oils, in contrast, contain more of the omega-6 configuration that tends to be more pro-inflammatory. Evening primrose and borage oil contain a fat called gamma-linolenic acid, which may help alleviate inflammatory conditions such as premenstrual syndrome. Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamins A and D, making it very helpful for many conditions.

Children and fats 

Babies and children have a critical need for high-quality fats for the development of their brains and nervous systems. It is most unfortunate when parents avoid feeding their children fat, out of fear the children will become overweight. Instead of quality meats, eggs, yogurt and other fat-containing foods, they substitute soymilk, grains, fruit juice or, even worse, soda pop. These foods contain higher levels of sugar, which tends to add weight.

There is an outcry against baby formula that contains cheap soymilk or soy oil because babies desperately need all the essential fatty acids for their brain development. Babies who cannot drink their mothers’ milk, which is more than 50 percent fat, often do well on raw cow or goat milk. If that is not an option, it is possible to create a baby formula based on other fats or oils. An excellent book that offers all types of baby formulas is Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary Enig.

After they are weaned, children need eggs, butter, nuts, nut butters, fish oil, and meats, poultry and oily fish such as salmon, halibut and sardines. Grass-fed meats are healthier, including lamb and dark-meat chicken, turkey, natural beef in moderation, and goat milk and cheese or organic milk products.

Fats everyone should avoid, particularly children, are French fries fried in vegetable oil, fast-food milk shakes which are mostly chemicals, restaurant fried fish, processed cheeses used in fast-food pizza and other foods fried in vegetable oils. These oils are usually old, overheated and quite unhealthful.

It is not possible to emphasize strongly enough that babies and children must have high-quality fats and oils every day to nourish their brains and avoid many kinds of developmental and behavioral problems.

Most knowledgeable nutritionists agree that fats and oils are essential for health. “Low-fat” everything has produced an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and even some of the ADHD, and perhaps cancer, that are so common today.

Refining oils

Most vegetable oils are refined to prevent them from going rancid. They are boiled, deodorized and sometimes preserved with chemicals. This gives them a good shelf life in the supermarket, but it damages the nutritional quality of the oil.

Another common way of refining is called hydrogenation. During World War II, a shortage of butter and other fats occurred, as they were needed to make rubber tires for the war effort. It was found that by bubbling hydrogen through vegetable oil at high temperatures, using nickel as a catalyst, an oil could be changed from a liquid to a solid. As a result, it would not go rancid and would “feel” like butter. This new fake fat was called margarine. A huge public relations campaign ensued to convince the public to eat margarine instead of butter, because it does not contain cholesterol.

Margarine and other hydrogenated oils

Since World War II, we have learned that margarine is the worst type of fat or oil to eat. Hydrogenation creates trans-fatty acids that are quite harmful to the body. Also, the nickel used to produce margarine is toxic and does not belong in our bodies.

Margarines, some claiming to contain no trans fats, are still sold at health food markets and supermarkets. Also, partially hydrogenated oils are still used in many processed foods such as commercial peanut butters, dips, spreads, cookies, candies and more. Hydrogenated oils are good for bicycle grease and can stop your car doors from squeaking; however, they are not quality foods.

Saturated versus unsaturated fats

Most knowledgeable nutritionists agree that fats and oils are essential for health. However, they debate whether saturated fats like butter and coconut oil are better than unsaturated oils like soy or canola oil.

My conviction is, and has been for quite a while, that the fears about saturated fats are quite overblown. Last year the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a review of saturated fat studies from the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California-Davis. The authors concluded that reducing saturated fat does not prolong life or lower the incidence of coronary heart disease.

The authors wrote: “The conclusion of an analysis of the history and politics behind the diet-heart hypothesis was that after 50 years of research, there was no evidence that a diet low in saturated fat prolongs life. … Overall, dietary intervention by lowering saturated fat intake does not lower the incidence of nonfatal coronary artery disease; nor does such dietary intervention lower coronary disease or total mortality.”

This is not the only scientific group to catch on to the truth. A 2002 report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded there was no evidence that a diet low in saturated fat prolongs life. They went on to say the real killer is trans-fatty acids. The report stated, “The only safe intake of trans fat is zero.”

Trans fats are slowly being removed from processed foods and restaurants like McDonalds. While one can overeat on any type of food, the causes of heart disease most likely are due to chlorine in the water we drink, toxic metals in our food, water and air, and other factors. Saturated fats have been eaten for generations, long before cancer and heart disease were common.

The low-fat craze

“Low-fat” everything has produced an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and even some of the ADHD, and perhaps cancer, that are so common today. These diseases were not as prevalent before people began believing the lie that quality fats are bad for you.

What few realize is that failing to eat fats and oils means you must consume many more sugars or starches to obtain the necessary calories. This easily exceeds most people’s carbohydrate tolerance level, leading to many diseases.

Also, prepared foods that are low in fat usually contain additional chemicals to give the food the flavor normally provided by the fats. Many of these chemical additives are of questionable safety.

The vegetable oil craze

Another horrible dietary change has been the substitution of cheap soy, corn and other vegetable oils for cooking and frying. These oils are less healthful because they are highly refined. More importantly, they form highly toxic chemicals when reused over and over, as in most restaurants. Saturated frying fats such as chicken fat, lard, butter or coconut oil are much more stable.

The cholesterol myth

Cholesterol is an essential type of fat needed to make all of the body’s sex and steroid hormones. It is found in animal fats, although most is made in our bodies. Some vegetarians have high cholesterol, although they take in no cholesterol at all.

Saturated fat is not the same as cholesterol. Coconut and palm oil are saturated fats (solid at room temperature) but contain no cholesterol. Eating cholesterol in fats does not necessarily raise blood cholesterol and does not automatically clog the arteries. In fact, the connection between elevated cholesterol and heart disease is much more tentative than we are led to believe. Some studies show no correlation at all between high levels of cholesterol in the blood and coronary heart disease.

It now appears that much better methods for monitoring the condition of the arteries are testing for elevated homocysteine, C-reactive protein (which measures inflammation), and such non-invasive tests as ultrasound or Doppler tests for blockage of the carotid or other arteries.

Minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, cadmium and others also may build up in the arteries and contribute to heart disease. These can, at times, be revealed on a hair mineral analysis, or perhaps with a urine metals challenge test using EDTA. I believe these methods are much better than checking cholesterol if one suspects or wishes to prevent heart disease.

The latest pernicious myth is that everyone must lower their cholesterol with drugs in order to prevent heart attacks. It is true that high cholesterol (over 250 mg or so) is undesirable, as it is a stress indicator that should be addressed. However, the adverse effects of the statin drugs are often much worse than the elevated cholesterol they are trying to improve. Before opting for drugs, you might try natural methods of lowering cholesterol such as niacin, chromium, vitamin C, red rice yeast and policosanol, among other products found at your health food store.


Vegetarians often do not obtain enough quality fats and oils for proper nutrition due to their limited diets. Vegetarian fats include avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds (if you eat a lot of them) and vegetable oils. Eggs, milk, cheese and oily fish are also excellent, if one’s diet allows for them.

I encourage vegetarians to at least eat eggs and, if possible, unpasteurized goat dairy products or fish to incorporate enough high-quality fats into their diets.


Fats and oils should form a key component of everyone’s daily diet. Some authorities, such as William Campbell Douglass, M.D., suggest that fats are one of if not the most important food groups. This is no doubt the case with growing children, whose brains and nervous systems absolutely require sufficient amounts of high-quality saturated fats for optimal brain development.

Obtaining quality fats and oils is not difficult, except for strict vegetarians. Good sources are quality eggs, butter, meats, poultry, goat dairy, some fish and to a lesser degree fresh nuts and seeds.

For optimal health and longevity, don’t cut all the fat out of your diet; have your chicken soup, cook with butter, coconut, palm or olive oil, and fry with these as well. Stay away from foods that say “low-fat” or “no-fat,” and, most importantly, avoid most of that tasty fried fast food and fried food in restaurants.


1. Fallon, S., Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2001.

2. Douglass, W.C., Real Health Breakthroughs Newsletter, Vol. 5, #10, March 2006.

3. (for scientific studies about diet and heart disease).


Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree and has been in the health field for 25 years. His books include Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners, Healing Ourselves and Manual of Sauna Therapy and The Real Self. He also co-authored Toxic Metals in Human Health and Disease and contributed to The Dangers of Socialized Medicine. or 928-445-7690.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

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