Fats, Oils Have Benefits Too

Isabel Hulkower, Columnist

This week’s column is devoted to two very special oils in my life. One is a superfood sensation, known to the world over for its crazy benefits and uses, and the other is a personal favorite that I lovingly grab at every opportunity.

The first and most vital thing I have to say is that fats and oils are dope. We are currently blessed to be living in an age when the benefits of fat are revered instead of feared. This modern outlook is due to a dramatic cultural shift. From 1980 through the mid- 2000s, fat was public enemy number one. Facing the enormous heart disease crisis, many national agencies responded by pointing their collective finger at dietary cholesterol. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that cutting fat was the most effective way to battle heart disease and lose weight. Experts advised people to follow diets made up of mostly carbs, as evidenced by the food pyramid.

Now, however, this antiquated hypothesis has been overturned. Since the ’80s, the average amount of fat consumed by Americans has increased substantially, and despite a decrease in cholesterol rates and smoking, obesity, heart disease and diabetes rates have all increased. These jarring facts have lead experts to reconceptualize their recommendations, moving us into our current era of Atkins, Paleo and countless other diets that embrace lipids for their true glory, all the while throwing shade on the consumption of carbs and sugar.

Nonetheless, all of those years of anti-fat rhetoric are hard to erase from our cultural conscience, and many eaters find it hard to accept that butter is, in fact, a totally admissible thing to consume. So, in order to convey my personal support for fats of all kinds, I’ve compiled some lovely information about two great oils.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the Everest of superfoods: coconut oil. Its benefits were first noted in Ayurvedic medicine texts written about 4,000 years ago, and now a modern Google search will tell you that it is good for seemingly everything. Coconut oil is special because of its chemical properties: it is nearly all saturated fat (about 92 percent), but this saturated fat is predominantly medium chain fatty acids, which are a dream for the body. They lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and are easily absorbed into the liver, which actually increases metabolism and helps you burn more fat. Further, increased absorption of MCFAs is used to combat seizures in medically resistant children and to help brain function in Alzheimer’s patients. It’s also great for your skin and hair, acts as a five SPF sunscreen and adds a little tropical breeze to your food when you cook with it. In my humble and seriously semi-professional opinion, coconut oil is as good as it gets.

My second oil recommendation is emu oil. Yes, rendered fat from emus. Amazingly, a scary, flightless bird has miracle fat that has incredible skin benefits. This oil is special because of its unique ability to access the bottom layers of the skin, and as a result it has incredible healing capabilities. It can be used on anything from burns to scars to stretch marks. Its best use, though, is piercing care. Emu oil has taken some truly angry hoops back from the edge, and many piercers swear by it. It’s useful all over the body for moisturizing and protecting the ski and is apparently odorless, though that seems a little far-fetched because it is bird-based.

These two marvelous oils are only the tip of the iceberg. I hope they’ll be gateway oils in your personal lipid journey. This is an open invitation to revel in the glow of fat and embrace healthy oils whenever they cross your path.