I’m often asked my opinion on fat, so here it is! The bottom line – we need fat but we need the right kind. Fat is used to build our cell membranes and is the starting point for many hormones. It is required for our body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K. It provides us with energy. It regulates body temperature and cushions the organs. It is essential for infant brain development and for the female reproductive system (a woman will not ovulate unless she has sufficient body fat).

There are two types of fats – saturated and unsaturated (further defined as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Saturated fats are solid while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are much more sensitive to light and heat. When heated they oxidize forming “free radicals” that damage cells and are linked to a variety of diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Another fat we hear of are trans fatty acids. These are formed during the process of hydrogenation. Polyunsaturated oils, usually corn, soybean, safflower, or canola, are heated to high temperatures and injected with hydrogen atoms. During the heating process the nutrients in the oils are destroyed, the oils become solid and have oxidized. Trans fats have been linked to many ailments, including cancer, heart disease, and reproductive problems. Trans fats are commonly found in commercial baked goods, cookies, crackers, margarines, vegetable shortenings, and processed dairy products.

Therefore, I recommend that you avoid foods containing polyunsaturated oils and trans fats. So what are the healthy fats to eat? Butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and cod liver oil.

Butter is high in fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamins A & D. These are essential for growth, healthy bones, proper development of the brain and nervous systems, and for normal sexual development. Butter can be used for baking or heating.

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid. This is an antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiparasatical, and antiviral substance. It supports thyroid function, skin, heart health, and weight loss. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are converted in the body into quick energy, and are not stored as fat. Coconut oil is the best oil for heating. It can be used in baking and is the best choice for light stir frying or frying.

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants. It helps the digestive system by reducing gastric acidity, stimulating bile secretion, regulating the emptying of the gall bladder (reduces the risk of gallstones). It is easily absorbed by the intestines and regulates passage of food through the intestines. Olive oil is best used as a condiment as in salad dressings.

Cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D. This assists the body in absorbing calcium. It is also rich in Omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is essential for the production of prostaglandins, hormones that direct many cellular processes. DHA is vital for the healthy development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.

In writing these monthly columns it is my intention to provide you beneficial information to improve your health. Some topics I write about are more controversial than others. This is one of them. If you’d like more information or to discuss this article please let me know. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.