How Good and Bad Fats Affect our Health

Janet Nagel

Fats are extremely important in our diet.  The Human brain is about 60% fat.  Every membrane of every cell and the organelle inside the cells are made of fats.  Many hormones neurotransmitters and other active substances in the body are made of fats.  The question is – what fats?

There has been a great deal of conflicting information and misinformation about fats.  In our modern society fats have been pronounced as evil and an abundance of low-fat produce has sprung up.  Saturated animal fats, including those in meat, butter and eggs have been blamed for all sorts of ills and the industry has been quick to provide us with synthetic substitutes, butter replacements and spreads.  What the public does not know is how all these processed oils and fats are made and what they contain.

Margarines, butter replacements, “spreadable” vegetable oils, and many other artificial fats are hydrogenated to increase shelf life and make them the right spreading consistency.  You find these hydrogenated oils in most processed foods: chocolates, ice-cream, biscuits, cakes, breads, pastries, pre-prepared meals, crisps, cakes, packet soups and stocks, even Vegetarian soy products.  Hydrogenation is a process of adding hydrogen molecules to the chemical structure of oils under high pressure at an extremely high temperature in the present of nickel, aluminium and sometimes other heavy metals, remnants of which stay in the hydrogenated oils.  Heavy metals, particularly aluminium have been linked to many degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s’ disease, dementia, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.  Hydrogenation changes the chemical structure of the natural oils producing a whole host of very harmful fats, including a group, called trans-fats, which have great immune-suppressing ability.  They have been implicated in diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, neurological and psychiatric conditions.  They interfere with pregnancy and conception, production of hormones, insulin response to glucose as well as having a damaging effect on liver and kidneys.  A breast feeding mother would have trans-fats in her milk fairly quickly after eating a helping of a “healthy” butter replacement.  A baby’s brain has a very high percent of unsaturated fatty acids and trans-fats would replace them and interfere with brain development.  The average intake of trans-fatty acids in the western diet is twice as much as our consumption of the rest of unnatural substances in foods.

Cooking oil have very high levels of trans-fatty acids, because in the process of extracting these oils from seeds, very high temperatures, pressure and various chemicals have been employed.  Of course anything cooked with these oils will also contain them as well as having been subjected to further high temperatures.

Essential fats are those which we cannot live without and which are body cannot make, so we have to get them from food.  These are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Every cell in the body depends on them for proper function and survival.  Hundreds of clinical studies have been performed with them showing them to be effective in treating every health condition including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, diabetes, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, infection, cancer, cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis, LDL cholesterol, and so on.  Due to food processing, most of us don’t get enough in our diets.

From omega 3, two very important fatty acids are formed – EPA (the most important) and DHA, which are absolutely vital for normal brain and eye development and are found in abundance in brain cells, nerve synapses, visual receptors, adrenal and sex glands.  The best sources of EPA and DHA are cold water fish: salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and eel.  Sea and freshwater algae and phytoplankton are very rich in these oils as well as that is where the cold water fish get their supply of omega-3 fats.  Small amounts of EPA and DHA are found in seal fat, whale blubber, pike, carp, herring and haddock.  Cod Liver oil is one of the oldest ways of supplementing these essential fats and is a good source of natural vitamin A and D.  Some vegetarian sources of LNA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) omega-3, as well as Omega 6 are flax seed oil, hemp oil and smaller amounts in walnuts, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, rice bran, dark green leafy vegetables,.  However, to convert LNA to EPA and DHA, the body needs a good supply of certain nutrients, vitamins C, B3, B6, magnesium, zinc and some enzymes.  People with compromised digestion may therefore not be able to convert parent omega-3 (LNA) from flax oil for example into EPA and DHA.

Omega 6 is a fatty acid essential for the immune system, hormone metabolism, inflammation, blood clotting etc.  There are found in cold-pressed oils only, (highest to lowest strength): borage oil, blackcurrant seed, evening primrose oil, hemp oil, safflower oil and many nuts and seeds.  Just as with omega-3 plant oils, the body needs the same nutrients to convert LA (linoleic acid) into the active GLA and DGLA.   However, no conversion is needed with Omega 6 from unprocessed animal sources such as egg yolk, animal fats from the wild or organic beef fed on grass and, of course, human breast milk, which all by far is the most abundant source of fatty acids in the brain.

Olive oil (Omega 9) is a time-proven health-giving food, used by Mediterranean countries for centuries.  The long list of benefits includes lowered risk of heart diseases, healing and anti-inflammatory effects, stimulation of bile, activation of liver and pancreatic enzymes, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-viral activity, membrane development.  Only extra virgin cold pressed olive oil must be used, as heat and processing destroys the benefits (even frying with).  See below for cooking oils.



Essential fats should be obtained through the food sources– cold water fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts.  They can also be supplemented in the form of Cold pressed oils and taken in food, salad dressing, mayonnaise (see recipes below) using olive oil, hemp oil, flax oil etc.  Capsule or liquid supplements can be taken, such as Omega 3 fish oil, especially for children with learning problems or people bad memory.  They are also invaluable in this form as an effective anti-inflammatory for people with arthritis.  Omega 3 and cod liver oil supplements are effective at about 2-3, 1000mg capsules taken with food.  Borage oil or Evening Primrose oil capsules have been used very effectively for hormone balance, PMS symptoms, sore breasts/fibroids.  Both Omega 3 and 6 have been proven in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis using 4-6 capsules per day, until results, then half dose.  A tsp of any oil in baby’s bottle (max 2 per day) will help brain development and constipation.  Olive oil, if unrefined extra virgin and cold pressed, contains beta carotene, vitamin E, chlorophyll, squalene, phytosterols and many other health giving substances.  However, heat, deodorization, refining degumming and other processing destroys and removes these vital substances.  If it does not say “cold pressed and virgin” on the bottle then it is refined.  There is a distinct difference in taste between cold pressed virgin and just virgin olive, so learn to make the proper choice.  Use is liberally on baked potatoes, bread (and dukka), dressings, mayonnaise etc, but it is not a good idea to cook with it, as the heat will destroy the components and change unsaturated fatty acids into harmful trans fatty acids.  The more natural fats a person has, the less they will crave sweet and processed carbohydrates.  It also stimulates bile production from the Gall bladder.  Secreting bile is the natural way for the liver to rid itself of toxins.

It is best to cook with fully saturated fats, like ghee (clarified butter), butter, palm oil and coconut oil, because they do not alter their chemical structure when heated and in small amounts are beneficial to health.  After all our ancestors have been cooking this way for hundreds of years without cholesterol problems. It is becoming clear that “blocked” arteries with high plaque are often found in people with low cholesterol, as they are partly trans-fats – heated, processed and rancid vegetable oils, often from processed foods, such as chips, crisps, pastries, ice creams, chocolates etc.

A rich source of saturated fat that can take high temperatures is coconut.  Coconut and products made out of it (coconut oil, butter, milk and cream, etc) have been out of favour in the last decades due to ill-founded research and commercial interests.  And yet tropical fats have been used by indigenous people for thousands of years.  About 50% of fatty acid in coconut is lauric acid.  Recent research shows that in the body, lauric acid is a highly potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal substance, called monolaurin.  Pathogens such as Candida, Helicobacter pylori, HIV virus, measles virus, herpes virus, Epstein-Barr, influenza and many others are weakened by monolaurin.  Lauric acid is also one of the natural ingredients of human breast milk, protecting the baby from infections. Some oils, such as Grape seed oil and Sesame oil can take heat at medium temperatures and are suitable for quick low heat frying.

In conclusion, we should consume natural fats in their natural state without processing them.  It is processed foods which contain masses on unnatural adulterated fats that should be blamed for our modern health problems, the crisps, chips, margarines, butter replacements, pastries, biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolates, TV dinners, commercial salad dressing and mayonnaise, cooking oils, spreads, sauces, packet soups, powdered stocks, cooking oils and condiments etc.  Eat fats in the form that Nature provided and you will not go wrong!


3/4 cup flax seed oil (lovely nutty flavour) or cold pressed Extra Virgin olive oil, cococnut or hemp oil

1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (or lemon)

1 tsp Wholegrain mustard (optional)

1-2 crushed garlic cloves

1-2 tsp salad herbs or 1-2 Tbl fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.)

Shake well or blend, pour in a bottle and refrigerate (use within 2 weeks)

Optional blend in 2 T cream cheese or stir in plain yogurt for creamy dressing

Can add ginger, chilli, coriander, avocado, or sun dried tomatoes for variation.

Add to salad, baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, fish (will dill herb)


Into blender put

1 egg and 1 yolk (or 2 eggs)

30 ml (2 tbls) apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1-2 tsp wholgrain mustard or mustard powder

1 tsp Herbamare herb salt or garlic powder

1 tsp raw honey, or fructose (optional)

Whilst blending SLOWLY add 1 cup Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil (or ½ cup each olive oil and cold pressed sunflower oil) - take at least a minute, until mixture is thick.  Keeps for at least 1 week.

To make tartar sauce, chop or blend 2-3 pickled Gherkins, 1 tbls capers, 1tsp each fresh dill or parsley.  Blend again with ½ cup or more of above mayonnaise.


This information is not meant for self-diagnosis and the advice of a health care practitioner is necessary, especially with the use of other medication.


Rec Products:  Seed SA flax oil, Seed SA Coconut oil, Good Health Omega 3,

Readers should not use this information for self-diagnoses or self treatment, but should always consult a medical professional regarding any medical problems and before undertaking any major dietary changes. This information is not meant to be substituted for medical advice.