In a previous article, we talked about the three different kinds of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The reality is, all fats contain combinations of each of these, but fats are classified based on which type of fat is predominant. And your body needs all three of these types of fat for healthy functioning.

But in today’s world, we are eating too many omega 6 fatty acids and not enough omega 3s. So instead of the 1:1 balance our body desires, the ratio can be more like 20 or even 50:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Since we are so omega 6 dominant, we need to look to minimize our consumption whenever we can, and knowing this plays an important role in the selection of the best fats and oils to use for cooking.

The good news is that there are some wonderful healthy options out there to cook with instead. So let’s look at the five fats I use to cook with on a regular basis.

Olive Oil

Everyone has heard about the benefits of olive oil. Because it is a monounsaturated fat high in oleic acid and antioxidants, it provides numerous health benefits including one you may not have heard about: displacing omega 6 fatty acids while not impacting omega 3s, helping to balance our omega 6-3 ratios.

Studies have shown that olive oil can help control and lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL levels. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits and to inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, a leading cause of heart concerns.

I don’t need to spend a lot of time singing its praises, because unlike some of the other oils I am discussing, this one is well-known and its benefits are well-marketed. So don’t let the shorter write-up lead you to minimize its benefits!

The one thing you may not know about olive oil, however, is that it should not be used for high heat cooking. Other than a low heat sauté, it should only be used cold as it does not have a high enough smoke point to withstand higher heat without being damaged. This means that if you cook with it on higher heats, it can oxidize and turn rancid, leading to internal inflammation and health concerns.

So definitely choose olive oil for salads and dipping and even baking! But let’s look at other oils you can use for higher heat cooking.


Yes, it’s true. Despite what you have been led to believe by food manufacturers trying to sell trans fat-laden margarine, butter is a heart (and whole body) healthy option. Your body needs saturated fat to function and saturated fats like butter (and coconut oil which we’ll talk about soon) are easy to digest because unlike polyunsaturated fats which are long-chain fatty acids, short and medium chain fatty acids don’t require emulsification by stomach acids first. Rather, they can be used directly for energy instead of being stored as fat.

Saturated fat is required to absorb calcium and other minerals (a good reason to avoid skim milk: without fat, calcium and vitamin D cannot be absorbed). Saturated fats build immunity, are integral in cellular membrane structure and integrity, and are more stable and so less likely to oxidize; they can even help cells resist oxidative damage. Our brains run on cholesterol and saturated fat; they also make up a significant portion of the myelin sheath surrounding our nerve fibers and regulating message relays between the brain and our nerves, so we can’t live without cholesterol and saturated fat.

We will talk more soon about heart health and when we do, I will share the extensive research that shows that saturated fats actually have a beneficial impact on heart health and cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels. We were raised on a diet of butter and lard and animal fat and only when we began to reduce our consumption did heart concerns escalate.

For now, until we go deeper into the research, do not worry about indulging in some butter, though choose raw butter if at all possible, and if not, then opt for organic butter. The biggest concern about dairy products today is not the fat, but the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics we consume along with them when we eat them.

Coconut Oil

We discussed coconut oil in a previous article and it is an excellent cooking option. In case you missed it, or even if you did read it since we often need to read something several times to take it all in, I will share a bit of why this oil is such a great health option. Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that has been proven to benefit heart health and even helps kill viruses, bacteria and fungi in the body.

The difference between coconut oil and many other fats and oils is its size. Most all (an estimated 98-100%) of the fats and oils we typically consume are long-chain fatty acids or LCFA. But coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid, or MCFA. Our bodies metabolize each fatty acid chain size differently, so the effects of coconut oil in our bodies are very different than the traditional meat, milk, eggs and plants we consume that are made up of LCFA.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that has tremendous health benefits and offers a form of fatty acids we don’t typically find in our diets. Coconut oil actually regulates blood cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides; therefore, it actually helps with heart disease prevention and treatment. Coconut oil also helps to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol and has been shown to be effective at lowering lipoprotein(a). And coconut oil actually increases your metabolism, so despite being a saturated fat, it is often used in weight loss and weight management programs.
Coconut oil also has an antimicrobial effect in the body and can be used to treat bacterial infections including even severe antibiotic resistant strains. By eliminating and healing bacterial or viral lesions on artery walls, we can prevent inflammation and the barrage of white blood cells that can accompany it.

A study in clinical biochemistry confirmed the benefits of coconut oil on heart health. The study proved that virgin coconut oil lowered very low density lipoproteins (the troublemakers), raised HDL, lowered triglycerides and phospholipids, reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels, and was shown to inhibit LDL oxidation.

The study concluded that we know that oxidized cholesterol can initiate the process of atherosclerosis and the fatty acids in coconut oil prevent this oxidation. The effects of coconut oil on heart health were deemed uniformly beneficial. It can withstand higher heat, so it’s a great cooking option. The only downside is that while it does not have a strong taste, it does have a slight coconut flavor. So it may not work in every dish but for sautéing vegetables or meat, it’s a go-to in our house.

Rice Bran Oil

The best oil for high heat cooking, and the best oil you may never have heard of, is rice bran oil. Rice brain oil is similar to peanut oil in composition, with 25% saturated fat, 38% monounsaturated fat, and 37% polyunsaturated fat. You’ll recall that every fat is a combination but it gets classified based on what it has the most of, so technically, it is a monounsaturated fat, though just barely!

Rice bran oil has a very high smoke point of 415 degrees and it is often used in
Japanese restaurants for tempura and in Chinese restaurants for stir fries. It is extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice and has a very mild flavor. While I try to avoid frying or high heat cooking, if you cannot live without mom’s fried chicken or a family favorite recipe that involves deep frying or high heat cooking, you will definitely want to use rice bran oil.

But here’s the best part: not only can you cook with it at high temperatures, rice bran oil has so many health benefits that it is being taken as a supplement! Imagine finding an oil and a fat source that you can cook with that is so good for you that people are taking it in pill form! (Coconut oil is probably in the same league but it has a different flavor and doesn’t work as well for stir fry or frying.)

Rice bran oil contains an antioxidant gamma oryzanol as well as high fractions of tocopherols and tocotrienols taken together as vitamin E. It also contains phytosterols, the benefits of which have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, and reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides. One study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology showed rice bran oil decreased total cholesterol by 42% and decreased LDL cholesterol by 62%. The antioxidant stability of rice bran oil remains consistent even at high temperatures, which means it doesn’t change molecularly at high heat and doesn’t oxidize or cause internal damage.

In addition, the antioxidant gamma oryzanol contained within it was shown to relieve hot flashes in women during perimenopause. After taking a supplement for 4-6 weeks, 90% of the women in the study found some relief. It has also been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and gastric acid secretion. It is regularly taken in Japan as a supplement to improve cholesterol and no negative impacts have been associated with its consumption.

Ok, this may be sounding too good to be true, and with all things, there is a downside. Rice bran oil has not caught on in America as it has in other parts of the world, and so it can be harder to find and more expensive. I recently bought some and paid about $8 for a 16oz bottle though you can definitely get it cheaper if you buy in larger quantities. This is significantly more than a bottle of olive oil or coconut oil. But I don’t cook on high heat often, so my bottle lasts me a LONG time. And given the harms of cooking on high heat with other fats and the benefits of using rice bran oil, it’s totally worth it to me.

If you cook on high heat a lot, it may seem too pricey. But I would argue that if you cook on high heat a lot, rice bran oil is a health investment you need to make if you’re not willing to change your eating habits.

Grapeseed Oil

If you can’t find rice bran oil or you can’t afford, it, there is another oil that is suitable for higher heat cooking. It is often used by chefs because it has very little flavor and so unlike many fats that have distinctive tastes, grapeseed oil lets the flavors of the foods shine through.

Many chefs will cook in grapeseed oil and then toss with olive oil when done to impart the olive oil flavor. While grapeseed oil is able to withstand higher temperatures, the downside to using it instead of rice bran oil is that in addition to not having the health benefits of rice bran oil, grapeseed oil is predominantly an omega 6 fatty acid oil.

As we discussed previously, our diets are highly imbalanced in favor of omega 6s over omega 3s. So if you use grapeseed oil, you will need to increase your omega 3 consumption or supplementation. I take omega 3 supplements with every meal, but if you do not, you will definitely want to consider supplementing at mealtime if you are cooking with grapeseed oil. But grapeseed oil is cheaper and readily available in supermarkets and stores like Trader Joe’s. As long as you compensate for the omega 6 consumption, grapeseed oil can be used on occasion, but I prefer using the other four fats whenever possible.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Eating well in today’s busy world can be hard, as it takes a little time to plan and prepare healthy meals. Once you get in a rhythm, though, it’s generally manageable and you feel so much better knowing what you are eating and how it was prepared. (Hopefully, with love in addition to some healthy ingredients!) Eating well on the go, however, is tougher: you either need to rely on what is there, which is often not the healthiest option, or you really need to plan in advance and bring food along.

Many of you have asked for ideas for healthy snacks and meals that you can bring from home, while others have requested guidance on how to make the best choices when you have to eat out. I wish there was a secret I could share that would make it all easy but there really isn’t a magic bullet for eating well away from home. There are, however, some strategies and tactics you can employ that my family and I have used successfully to stay healthy and fit when we’re away from home.

The first tip is no secret, whether you are trying to lose or manage your weight, or simply wanting to eat healthier: eat a balanced breakfast. Breakfast sets the tone for your whole day: eating a healthy one will prevent cravings and sugar crashes that send you looking for snacks mid-day. Studies show that people who eat a high carb breakfast (e.g., coffee and a bagel or doughnut) eat 80% more calories throughout the day, so start yours with a meal complete with healthy proteins and fats.

Eggs, unprocessed/nitrate-free meats, low or no fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.), or a breakfast cereal of oatmeal or quinoa will fill you up, give your body the fuel it needs to take on the day, and prevent snack cravings. And if you are traveling, take advantage of the hotel/restaurant doing the cooking and cleaning up and sit down to a hearty breakfast.

When possible, pack your lunch and snacks to take with you, again remembering to ensure that you have protein and fat included to sustain and nourish you. For lunch, 100% whole wheat or whole grain wraps with meat and veggies make a great choice, as do sandwiches on similar bread (sprouted grain bread such as Ezekial is even better). Another alternative is to wrap the ingredients in a lettuce leaf instead of bread. I rarely eat sandwiches but if I do, I’ll usually take at least one of the bread slices off when I sit down to eat: two pieces helps keep it neat and contained for transport, but one is more than enough for me. And sometimes, if I buy a sandwich and it’s on high sugar white or wheat bread, I just eat the inside and toss the bread.

Salads are always a great option, especially when topped with salmon or chicken or other proteins. The trick with salads is to avoid the unhealthy toppings of processed cheeses and creamy salad dressings. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar (self-poured) is the best choice; next would be a prepared vinaigrette (while it won’t have the fat content of a creamy dressing, prepared dressings are made with cheaper omega 6 heavy vegetable oils and often contain MSG or other flavorings).

Also consider soup: soup is hearty and filling and can be eaten year round, hot or cold. Plus, you can make a big batch over the weekend and have some for lunch for several days. If soup doesn’t fill you, or you consume one without much protein, try pairing it with half a sandwich. Another option is to have a mix of many small bites. This option is also great for take along snacks and the non-refrigerated choices are good to have on hand in your car or your desk drawer for when hunger sets in.

Examples could include a few 100% whole grain or whole wheat crackers with organic almond or peanut butter, a scoop of cottage cheese, a slice or two of raw milk cheese or goat cheese, or tuna mixed with chopped apple or celery. Vegetables such as broccoli, celery, carrots, tomatoes, or sliced peppers can be dipped in some hummus, a handful of nuts is something you can stash in a purse or briefcase; same with a healthy cereal bar such as a Clif bar (while not ideal, it contains fiber and protein and really holds you over until your next meal). You can also roll up slices of uncured ham or other nitrate free meats or pack a small container of Greek yogurt (we love Fage). Keep a supply of hard-boiled eggs in your fridge to grab and go and have some organic apples, grapes, a banana or an orange around as well.

If you have to eat out, and let’s face it, we all do at times, whether it’s a business lunch, a meal in the airport, or a celebratory dinner with family, there are ways to make good choices and not feel deprived. For lunch, look for a deli (especially family run where they make homemade soups, etc.) or restaurants such as Panera Bread or Au Bon Pain. These are places where you can get soups, salads and sandwiches, keeping in mind the same guidelines around condiments, add-ons, dressings and breads.

If you find yourself at a fast food restaurant, or someplace with limited options, look for either a grilled chicken sandwich or a burger; leave off the ketchup, barbeque sauce or other sauces and go for mustard instead. Lettuce and tomato and onions or mushrooms are fine, but skip the processed cheese and either toss the bun or make it a convertible. Look for other side options besides French fries: if there aren’t any, say no. If you take them, you know you’ll end up eating them because we all hate to throw away food.

If you’re at a sit down restaurant, most will substitute a small side salad or another side of veggies for the starch if you ask. If you must have a starch, choose rice or sweet potato or even pasta. Because of the protein that is bound as the pasta is made, pasta is a surprisingly good choice, especially if you leave the butter sauces off and go with a red sauce, preferably with vegetables. For the occasional special dinner, Italian is not necessarily a bad choice: if you choose a protein main dish with a small side of pasta and avoid the cheese heavy and breaded options. (In Italy, dinner is often a meat main dish with pasta as an appetizer; in other words, a small plate of pasta then a protein as the main course.)

Another good ethnic choice is Japanese. Sushi is often high in mercury and should not be eaten frequently; but as an occasional indulgence you can enjoy. Other choices include steamed rice bowls with meat and vegetables or noodle dishes with the same (but try to avoid soy sauce.) If you are tempted to eat fried foods, one of the better places to do so is often at a Japanese restaurant. To get the crispy tempura batter, or high heat stir fries, they typically use rice bran oil, one of the only oils that can sustain the high heat required for frying without turning rancid. Ask if they use rice bran oil and if they do, and fried is calling you, make it your treat for the week.

One of the benefits of eating out is that you can try new foods and new ways of preparing them. So sample a different kind of fish or food that you typically wouldn’t cook and definitely try new vegetables. Restaurants often have wonderful ways of presenting dark green leafy veggies (my kids and I had braised spinach and kale in garlic and it was a huge hit that we now make at home regularly).

Whether it is a Thai curry, an Indian veggie dish, a puttanesca sauce, or steamed or grilled veggies on a platter, make the veggies the star and eat them along with some non-fried protein and minimize the starches. Look for grilled, roasted, baked or broiled proteins and avoid fried or sautéed to the extent possible (they are likely sautéing in expensive vegetable oils or butter substitutes).

If it’s not a sauce-based dish like curry or marinara for example, ask for the sauce on the side. My favorite dish in the world is eggs benedict and when I enjoy it on a special occasion, I ask for the sauce on the side and I don’t eat the English muffin. I enjoy all the flavor and richness of the dish and indulge completely, but even as I do, I cut out the parts that I won’t miss and I control the portion size of sauce. Most of us are used to asking for salad dressings on the side, but you can also do so for many main dishes.

At the end of the day, it’s important to do the best you can, but don’t stress out too much if you make a less healthy choice: make the decision to add an extra glass of water or 15 minutes to your walk and let it go. And keep in mind that as important as what you eat is how you eat. When you eat on the run, standing up, in your car, at your computer, the body is taking in food under stressed conditions. In that state, it will not be able to absorb nutrients and it will store more calories as fat. Your digestion basically shuts down under stress and eating on the go is perceived as stress by your body. Sit down, take time to eat at a table or on a park bench, chew slowly, savor your meal and take a break from the busyness of your day.

And lastly, while we think about and plan so many things in advance, we often leave food to the last minute. The more you can plan ahead, the more likely you will be able to make healthier choices. This means thinking ahead when you shop, preparing and prepping foods when you get home or on the weekend (chop veggies, put snack size portions into separate containers that are ready to grab and go), and make double batches of soup or meals over the weekend. Freeze individual portions so that you have your own healthy frozen foods, ready to heat and serve.

I found some great glass containers with plastic lids at the Crate and Barrel outlet; they sell them individually or in a set. They work well because they are glass which means that they can go in the microwave if you are in a pinch at the office, they are clear so you can see exactly what it in them and know what you’ve got, and they are more elegant to eat out of if you take them and use them as your dish. It makes lunch on a park bench that much more enjoyable to be eating out of a real container instead of plastic or paper. And yes, I bring a real knife and fork, too!

But you don’t need fancy containers; you can pre-pack snacks into plastic bags and have them on the shelves of your fridge to grab and go for work snacks, snacks for the kids in between school and sports, or something to grab if you come home starving. The key to making good food choices, at home or away, is planning in advance and making sure you don’t wait too long between eating. When you are hungry, you’ll grab what’s easiest or feels most satisfying and that may not be the best choice.

And since most of us drink one-third of our calories, next week, we’ll look at healthy liquid options at home or away, to keep you away from soda, and energy and sports drinks.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

© 2012 Inger Pols, Inc. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha