You’ve probably learned by now that good fats don’t make you fat and that saturated fats are in the good fat category. In fact, fats make you happy, and for some of us, Paleo dieters, it’s our main source of energy.
Our body is well designed to run primarily on fat as a source of energy and when it does, it produces ketone bodies, which are perfectly healthy.
We might however, over time, forget about the selection of good fats available to us and cook with the same stuff over and over again. Not that this is a problem, but sometimes a little diversity goes a long way toward making our meals more enjoyable.
First of all, you should really eliminate any vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6, they’re the ones that will end up killing you! Examples of those include corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil.
If this subject is all new to you, I suggest you read my article The Importance of Fat.
Now to the goodies, here is a list with some great information on your favorites:
This is a favorite in the Paleo world. In fact, all the products of the coconut have become like a cult for a lot of people following a Paleo diet, mainly because the list of benefits is so extensive.
Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat which makes it really stable under heat and solid at room temperature. If you buy the virgin coconut oil, it well leave a great yet subtle coconut taste and smell to your dishes. The taste is something I like in almost any situation except maybe for eggs, where I prefer cooking with lard or butter.
Its main fatty acid content comes from lauric acid (47% to be more precise). Lauric acid is a rare medium chain fatty-acid, which is supposed to be the easiest fatty acid to digest. Lauric acid also has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Butter and Ghee
Butter is wonderful on anything and it adds a certain nutty taste that is just addictive. Even though it’s not strictly Paleo (since caveman didn’t consume dairy products), when you remove the milk constituents (the lactose and the casein are the main problem causing constituents), you get a fat that is highly saturated, delicious and full of CLA when it comes from an organic grass-fed animal. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is believed to have strong anti-cancer properties. See my article, The Many Virtues of Butter, to learn more about it as well as other advantages of consuming butter or ghee.
For people who are sensitive to dairy or who just want to be on the safe side, choose ghee over dairy. Ghee, or clarified butter, should not cause any problem because all milk constituents have been removed. You can make it yourself by slowly melting butter in a pan until you see the white parts fall to the bottom, and then straining it in a cheese cloth to keep only the pure fat. Choose butter from organic grass-fed pasture raised animals. Your local butcher should have some. Refer to my article How to Clarify Butter, to get a more detailed explanation on how to do it.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making it yourself or if good quality butter is too hard to find, here are two sources of great Ghee that you can order online: Purity farms and Pure Indian Foods. Both brands offer high quality ghee from pastured and grass-fed cows.
Animal fats (beef, duck, pork)
They are the essence of Paleo. Caveman ate animals, lots of them, for energy, therefore got lots of fat from animal sources. Of course, those animals were healthy and living in nature eating what they were supposed to. This is important because when toxins accumulate in a body, it goes in the fat. You wouldn’t want to eat that, now would you?
Most animal fats are highly saturated so are heat stable to cook at high temperatures, solid at room temperature and don’t need to be refrigerated. What’s fun is that since they’re not very popular because of their reputation, they’re pretty cheap, even the ones coming from well treated animals.
Just go to your butcher and ask for duck fat, pork lard or beef tallow. Your butcher might not have those fats rendered and ready for you to cook. You’ll have to work a bit to use them, but you’ll see it’s nothing hard. Buy leaf lard or suet (beef), both can be bought pretty cheaply normally. There are two methods to render animal fats, wet and dry. I’ll briefly explain the dry method. You chop off any vein, meat or blood from your piece of fat, then you chop the fat into very small chunks. Next, you put the fat chunks either in a crock pot or in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven. You put your crock pot to low or your burner to very low if using a Dutch oven. Now you let it go for a great while, your kitchen will take a distinctive smell. Once all the white fat chunks have become brown and dry, you can strain off the pure fat and let it cool. Be careful, it will be very very hot at this point. Once cooled, it will be white and hard at room temperature. You’re ready to cook with real animal fat!
Refer to our article, Rendering Fat, for more details on this technique.
Yes, it’s a vegetable oil, but its content is mostly monounsaturated, a fat source which is safe and healthy. Don’t cook with it, it will burn and oxidize quite easily. Use it in dressings or put on top of your already cooked meals. As you probably know, a good extra-virgin olive oil offers lots of great health benefits.
Fresh oils in dark bottles that haven’t been on the shelf for a long time are the best. Keep in a dark and cool place to keep it from oxidizing too fast. You can store it in the fridge if not using promptly. It will become cloudy in the refrigerator, but will return to normal once back at room temperature.
Avocados and avocado oil
Avocado is a fruit, one of the only fatty fruits. It contains loads of vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium and fiber. Its fat content is mostly monounsaturated, so it’s a good choice. It’s not heat stable at high temperatures though, so cook with it at low temperatures. Use avocado oil for your salad dressings mainly. Whole avocados are delicious with salads, chicken or as guacamole with lemon juice and tomatoes.
This is about it for the preferred Paleo diet fats. Of course there are other sources of fat you can consume like eggs, nuts and nut butters. I would be careful with nuts and nut butters though because most nuts are very high in Omega-6, which could trigger inflammation and other digestive problems. Try it out, and go with what makes you feel good.