It's Fall! Time for Chili!

The start of fall food prep!

Chili is a pretty popular dish in my house; when I make it I have to make a lot of it. We basically eat from a large batch for days; while Im prepping to cook such a large amount I always think, "we are going to be so sick of chili by the time this is gone." But we never are. In fact usually it's requested just a couple weeks later.

When there is an item that everyone likes I think of two things-

1. Is it healthy?

To meet my requirements there cannot be any added sugar (bonus for no sugar at all), artificial colors, flavorings or things I cannot pronounce. There cannot be any "unstable" or oxidized fats (see blog post on fats- search fats), or empty carbohydrates (carbs that don't have the nutrients to obtain the energy from them, also known as "carbage").  Major bonus points for the item/meal containing high quality protein, vegetables and healthy fats.

If the answer to question 1 is YES, then I move on to question 2 (see below).

If the answer to question 1 is NO, then I have to "reformulate" the menu item/meal to meet the above requirements.

2. Can I make it healthier? Usually yes. Can I make it healthier without anyone noticing or without altering the taste in a "bad" way? Mmmmm thats a different story.

This is the tricky part. Sometimes I think something taste good and my husband informs me that it may taste good to me, but probably not to the general population. My goal for this question is to make a healthy, nutrient dense, delicious dish even more nutrient dense...all while keeping its taste scores up!

I did it with the chili.

Let's just take a moment to review the "requirements" of question 1 in regards to my chili-

  • No added sugar
  • Only natural sugar from the tomatoes
  • Nothing artificial
  • No oxidized fats
  • Rich in naturally occurring healthy fat
  • No empty carbohydrates
  • Nutrient dense carbs in full force
  • High quality protein WITH vegetables all in ONE meal

Changes made to make it even better...

  • Add butternut squash. Boom.
    • More healthy carbs, phytonutrients and soluble fiber.


I made this knowing that we would eat it daily for a couple days, with the option to freeze some (always think about meal prep).

Hidden Butternut Chili

Prep time- 30-40 minutes

Cook time- Varies (~30 minutes, but some people let it simmer all day in a crock pot), its up to you. This time I cooked it and immediately removed from heat to cool for storage, it was just as delicious.

Serves- 5-7? (Im guessing because chili portions vary greatly)


1 large butternut squash

2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)

2 leeks

1 onion

1 large garlic clove

2-3 bell peppers

~3lbs ground turkey (I used 85/15) or protein of your choice

3 cans diced tomatoes (yes I used canned tomatoes, I need convenience sometimes)

6oz can tomato sauce (splurge and get organic, it tastes better- trust me)

2 cans beans (I used 1 can kidney and 1 can black beans)

salt & pepper

~2 ounces chili powder

*you will also need a food processor of some sort

  1. Preheat oven to 375'F
  2. Slice butternut squash lengthwise and clean seeds out. Place flat side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes to until tender. While this is cooking you will continue making your chili!
  3. Slice and dice your leeks, onion and garlic clove.    Add coconut oil to a large pan (what you plan on making your chili in) and heat over med-high heat until melted. Add leeks, onion and garlic, stir until cooked almost through.      

4. Add the ground turkey along with some salt and pepper. Stir well and continue to cook on med-high heat until turkey is cooked.

5. When the turkey mixture is cooked through you are going to add the bell peppers, 2 cans of tomatoes (set the 3rd can aside), 2 cans of beans (drained) and chili pepper.

6. Check on squash. Get food processor set up.

7. Keep chili mixture over medium heat and stir once in a while.

8. Squash should be done, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Carefully (its still super hot) take out the insides and place into the food processor, add the last can of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste. Blend until smooth.    Do not let your typically chili eaters see this step, it may detour them from trying the chili (they won't be able to tell that you added this gem).


9. Add squash mixture to chili mixture and stir well. Add additional salt, pepper, cayenne and/or chili powder to your taste.

DONE. You have a healthy, nutrient dense meal to serve your family and friends. 

Or you have lunch for the week!

You could transfer this to a crockpot if you were serving over the course of several hours, or serve immediately. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

Sugar, is it dangerous? Part 2 of 4 (so I don't overwhelm anyone)

Sugar...we know that's it hiding everywhere (see previous blog post about sugar, search "sugar"), but does it matter?

Yes. It really does.

In fact it drives ME CRAZY when people try to shove sugar down others.

Do I want a piece of birthday cake? No. "You should really just have one piece..." Should I?

If someone is trying to reduce their sugar intake you should support that person in any and everyway possible- because it's SO difficult to cut back on sugar and SO beneficial. The peer pressure we put on others to consume CRAPPY food shocks me. In 50 years we could be looking at it the same way as pressuring people to smoke cigarettes. When someone tells me that they are cutting out sugar I give them the same support and encouragement as someone telling me they have quit smoking. So don't pay attention to food pushers if you know you're making the right decision. AND IF YOU'RE A "FOOD PUSHER" YOU NEED TO LAY OFF.

So whats wrong with sugar? In a little bit I'll address the sugar from whole fruits (which are absolutely okay with me, but juice is on my NO list).  We are going to go over 8 reasons why you may want to rethink that sweetened latte, but this post only has 4. I think fewer shorter reads is better than 1 extremely long one!

4 (of 8) Reasons why your morning latte, donut, whole grain cereal, or sweetened yogurt could be affecting your health

1. It's robbing your savings account.

  • Your nutrient savings account to be exact. Tired all the time? Looking for something to get rid of that "dragging" feeling? When people ask me what they can do differently because they're tired all the time, my first response is- stop eating added sugar. When you drink a sweetened beverage, a flavored yogurt or pasta with sauce (that has added sugar)...what happens? Your body wants to use that sugar as "fuel" to produce energy...but it takes A LOT of tools (nutrients) to break down that sugar as fuel. If the sugar doesn't come "prepackaged" with those tools (nutrients) then it has to find them somewhere (your nutrient savings account),  depleting your stores. That is one of the differences between the doughnut and the apple. The (WHOLE FRUIT) APPLE comes with everything it needs. It's naturally packed with B-vitamins and minerals for your body to use the sugar from it as FUEL. The donut does NOT. It only provides sugar...and that sugar wants to be used as fuel. So what does it do? It "robs" your B vitamin and mineral storage tanks...resulting in fatigue. The juice from that apple also DOES NOT provide all the materials to access that fuel from the apples- robbing your tanks. Whole, natural fruits are great...processed foods from fruits are NOT (juice, packaged items advertising "sweetened with fruit juice"). This is where the term "empty calories" come from. These sugars provide calories, but nothing to help them break down and be used as fuel.


  • Take away...
    • A lot of B-vitamins are required for carbohydrate and sugar metabolism. The more sugar you eat, the more B vitamins you need. Mother nature is SO great, she packaged whole foods with the B vitamins they need to metabolize and break down. If you eat whole foods (not in a package, bag, box) you don't have to worry about this. When you eat carnage (carbohydrate rich garbage) or foods with added sugar you do need to worry (cereals, granola bars, juice, soda, sweets). Tired? Stop eating so much sugar and carbage.

2. It's affecting your immune system.

  • Sick all the time? Want to give you and your families immune systems a boost? You guessed it, CUT BACK ON SUGAR. Why is this? For several reasons...
    • Eating or drinking too much sugar can limit your immune system cells that attack bacteria. YES, consuming too much sugar can potentially not allow your immune system to work the way it wants (1).
    • 1 teaspoon of sugar could potentially impact your immune for up to 5 hours!
  • The FIRST thing I talk to people about when they ask me to "help them not get sick this winter" is their diet. You can't eat sugar all the time and expect to be well. I don't just mean cookies and ice cream- there is sugar hiding in everything that comes in a bag/package/box.
    • Zesty low fat italian dressing (1 teaspoon per 2 Tablespoons)
    • Organic, low sodium tomato soup (6 teaspoons per can)
    • Whole grain "protein" cheerios (4 teaspoons per 1 1/4 cup)
  • Side note- there is NO way you can eat cold cereal everyday and stay under the recommended sugar intake


3. It has a large impact on your cardiovascular system.

  • Remember the original visual from PART 1 that talked about limiting sugar? That's from The American Heart Association (AHA). Yup. The people who are making nutrition recommendations to reduce cardiovascular disease have pretty strict guidelines when it comes to sugar intake. That's because it's now widely noted that excess sugar can increase your overall risk for heart disease.  In fact they recommend that you limit added sugar to <5% of your total calories, that's MORE restrictive than their recommendations for saturated fat.
  • Their recommendations include:
    • No more than 6 teaspoons/day for females and no more than 9teaspoons/day for males

How does sugar effect your heart? For several reasons, but we don't even know all of them yet. Here are a few:

  • It may affect the pumping mechanism of the heart, increasing your risk for heart failure (2)
  • Are you skinny? Doesn't matter. One study showed that consuming excess sugar can increase your risk for cardiac issues EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT OVERWEIGHT (3)

The AHA came out with these sugar recommendations because of a large study that showed an increased risk of death from cardiovascular issues with excess sugar consumption (4).

4. Its promoting your addiction to sugar.

  • Sugar cravings? They are NO JOKE. Sugar can cause a surge in dopamine in the "reward" center of your brain. This can cause a viscous circle of cravings. Find someone who loves their sweets and/or soda and ask them to give it all up cold turkey. I bet they only last a couple days, it really is difficult.

When you eat sugar (even when its hidden) several times a day, everyday, it creates a steady flow of pleasure hormones being released and a constant increase in blood glucose. This is an addictive feeling. The amount of sugar that our body was naturally meant to handle should be coming from a piece of fruit, NOT a piece of pie or cup of soda. This is why it's difficult for people to "get off" sugar, it's a huge adjustment for their body. This is one of the reasons why I offer a sugar support group, where we complete the 21 Day Sugar Detox together with daily support. Check out more information HERE.


Even if you think you don't "eat any sugar," you probably do. Buy anything in a package, box or bag and there's probably some hidden sugar. Most items that advertise "low-fat" or "low-sodium" are fixed up with some hidden sugar to make them taste better.

For example, Amys Kitchen makes an Organic, Low in Sodium, Tomato Soup.

Turn it around and check out the nutrition facts label...

There are 13g of sugar per serving, with 2 servings per can.

I think most people can eat the entire can, so 26g of sugar PER CAN! That's 6 teaspoons of sugar per can of Organic Low Sodium Tomato soup.

How much does the AHA recommend to limit our intake before increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease?

6 teaspoons.

One can of tomato soup and you're at your limit.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 4 of the sugar series! In the mean time cut back on your packaged/processed goods and reduce your sugar intake!




Meal Prep on The 21DSD!

Do you meal prep? My week is a disaster for 2 reasons if I don't.

1. I don't eat as well as I know I should. This creates a chain of events...making poor choices, feeling worse, throwing a pity party  for myself...

2. It cost more money. If I don't bring my lunch and/or snacks I'm probably going to eat out ($$), or run to the store and get things that are conveinenet that I normally would not have purchased ($$).

So what do I do to prevent this? I spend at least 2-3 hours setting myself up for success. Considering how much better meal preparation allows me to eat, and how much money it saves, its actually worth the few hours. Not to mention the HEALTH BENEFITS. I also know and understand that people are stressed for time. I get it. I have a baby, a house, work more than full time and try to get some workouts in...BUT MEAL PREP IS A PRIORITY. Its just something thats on my "to-do list," like laundry...but its so much more rewarding. This week I'm preparing to start The 21 Day Sugar Detox with some fellow coaches, so things are a little more strict than normal. Im really excited because I think I need a "refresh" from this past month of summer parties, BBQs and treats. Next month I'll post a non-21DSD meal prep session, but its not too different. Here are my steps to "prepare for food prep."

  • Check out what you have
    • This may also involve considering whats coming that week from your farmers market, CSA, etc. if you don't already have it in your possession
    • I look in my freezer, fridge and cupboards to get an idea of what I need to use up
    • I know that this week I have a TON of veggies to use (overload from my garden and from my CSA box this past week)
    • I also know that I have fresh ginger and a bag of sesame seeds that I got on sale randomly last week
    • DON'T get discouraged if you're new to eating whole foods/paleo/allergen free, I have a lot of things in my kitchen that I never thought I would. Sometimes when I would look at recipes everything would seem so odd/expensive, but once you "get going" your pantry builds up! Rarely are you ever buying those "expensive" ingredients.


  • Make a list of what you're going to eat this week
    • This is really keeping in mind what you have already, you don't want anything to go to waste
    • This is as complicated as you make it- I don't like complicated so I keep it pretty simple
    • I make a list of veggies (salads, sides) that I can prep ahead, protein (eggs, chicken for lunches and some main courses for dinner) and snacks or "extras"
    • Snacks can be things prepped or easy grab and go items (sometimes I grab a piece of chicken as a snack), changing your mindset of "snacking" works wonders. I'm prepping some extra snacks this week because of The 21 Day Sugar Detox
    • Check out this weeks list....

I know I have eggs. I also know I have a busy week and probably won't have time to make my lovely fried eggies, so Im going to cook them all ahead of time. Plan is to steam 1 dozen and then make egg muffins from the other dozen-


I also know I need protein for my salads and veggies Im prepping for lunch- chicken breasts and salsa in crockpot, hard boiled eggs, canned tuna... I'm going to make the mason jar salads last because I can throw all my leftover veggies In them. Here are the ones I made last week-   


Dinner? Im going to have a few different options (21DSD are from The 21 Day Sugar Detox Guidebook)-

  • Shepard's Pie 21DSD style (I need to use up that frozen cauliflower, and I already have carrots)
  • Beef and Broccoli  21DSD style (I already have broccoli and ginger)
  • Burgers on cabbage leaves (always fast and easy...maybe I should make ketchup and mayo)
  • Cucumber salad (I have SO MANY cucumbers...this would work with burgers or lunch
  • Asian style meatballs with ground turkey

I checked out the ingredients of each recipe to see what i would still need from the store...I tried to pick out items that I wouldn't need much more for.


Snacks...check out this fruit basket, I just need some green apples and green tipped bananas to go with this grapefruit (fruits allowed on the detox). The lemons and limes will be used for some recipes and IN MY WATER. I love citrus in my water. I also have pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, shredded coconut and sunflower seeds to make a trail mix.


And...Im making Lemon Vanilla Meltaways from The 21 Day Sugar Detox Guidebook. Because Im awesome.


  • Make your grocery list and STICK TO IT. Unless you see something that is an amazing deal, you need to stick to your list.

My list.

Its SUPER short this week because I have SO many veggies waiting for me. I also already have a lot of paleo staples- coconut oil, coconut butter, nuts, seeds, etc.    Sooo...that gives me breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for at least 4 days. It will probably last me 5-6 days, because I'll probably have an "off plan" meal or two at some point. Stay tuned these next few weeks! Ill try and post about my own 21DSD and recipes/meals that Im eating.

I'll also try to share more about food prep, I know I've been getting some messages and questions about it.

Happy meal planning!

Crossfit. Why I love to hate it.

I'm a runner. I have always hated the idea of "cross-training," dreaded doing anything else besides logging miles. I've tried lifting weights at the gym, but always looked confused and bored (because I was). Then I tried some "at home" workout videos, which just didn't do it for me either.  I mean seriously... I CAN'T JUMP AND DOWN IN MY LIVING ROOM by myself that many times.

About 2 1/2 years ago I was training for a marathon, and I wanted it to be "the one." The one where I officially qualified for the Boston Marathon. The problem was that running just wasn't cutting it anymore. I wasn't getting faster and I really didn't have much muscle. For the amount of time I was spending working out (running) you would think I would at least have some decent muscle mass, but besides my legs I really didn't have much definition (not to mention I could barely lift anything).

And lets face it, logging miles all the time can get a little boring. I tried going to the big box gym to lift, do squats and some cross-training...but once again that didn't work out. Going to a big box gym (even though its "only $10 a month") really doesn't give most people the support they need to be successful. Every time I walked in the only people who said hello were the employees. Why is that? Looking back on my visits to big gyms I realize that's one of the reasons why I love to hate cross fit.

So how was I going to get faster and improve my overall fitness level? I had heard of cross fit from the paleo community but it had always sounded so freaking scary. But I needed something. Something to get my butt moving and something to do besides running. So I googled to find some cross fit boxes in my area and luckily there was one close by, Black Swamp Crossfit. I was SO SCARED to call. I remember sitting in the kitchen with my sister calling to set up an appointment. The lady that answered the phone sounded terrifying, she was the owner (who I know now is absolutely the nicest, most welcoming person) and she was YELLING at people. What was I getting myself into...I hung up and was already scared.

So I showed up for my first initial meeting. I walked in to loud music and a bunch of sweaty people. Seriously sweaty people. They were currently doing their WOD (workout of the day) and I could tell they were in great shape. What the hell was I doing here? I didn't even know how to load weights on a bar, let alone lift it above my head while squatting. Abbey the owner greeted me and put me at ease, but she was still yelling at people. When those scary sweaty people were finished with their workout guess what they did? THEY ALL SAID HELLO. Every. Single. One.

I did my first cross fit workout that day. I was sore for almost a week.

I LOVED it. I loved knowing that I was using muscles that I normally didn't use. I was also excited that I got such an amazing workout in UNDER AN HOUR! Actually the workout was probably just 15 minutes.

I signed up. I figured I would give it 3 months and see how it went.

After having butterflies in my stomach EVERY time I went there, I started to feel more comfortable after the first 2 months. Don't let me fool you, I still ran most the time. Lucky for me there was a running endurance group that had started, so that got me out of doing regular WODs sometimes. But I still was getting more "non-running" workouts than every before, and on a fairly consistent basis.

It worked. I qualified. After 4 marathons and dozens of half marathons over the past 10 years, I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon. It was a great moment, one I have CrossFit to thank for. After doing CrossFit for JUST 5 MONTHS, I shaved almost 30 minutes off my time.

Here is my sister and I at the finish line of the Columbus Marathon. Finish time- 3 Hours 33 Minutes 23 seconds.

Almost 2 years later I'm still doing CrossFit. Here is the AMAZING box I go to, a little before and after shot. The owners are hardworking, friendly, inviting people that have turned a warehouse into a second home for so many.


And some of my favorite WODs...

This box can be what you want it to be (along with all the other CrossFit boxes out there). It can be a place you stop by to get a quick workout in, OR it can be a place you workout, make friends and have good conversations. THEN those friends PUSH you to do better. They are HAPPY for you when you run a faster mile, and you're SINCERELY HAPPY for them when they get a new 1 rep max back squat (I hope I'm saying that right).

I even have my own fancy jump rope now! Look closely and you'll see it has my name on it. This little string with handles has helped me to actually do Double Unders, something I didn't even think I cared about a couple years ago. I have one from Cyclone Speed Ropes, but some people at my box also recommend one from Rogue. Either way having your own rope is a game changer.

Sometimes we even have fantastic events where our friends and family come and participate! These are usually open to the public! Heres my sister (also a runner) thinking Im crazy for telling her to try and flip a tire. Check out Black Swamps Facebook page if you're in the area and want to know when we have things coming up! It's a great way to get involved in your community.

 Why am I posting this? Because I want people to not be intimidated to TRY SOMETHING NEW, even if its terrifying, it may CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Being physically active is SO important for your health. If you're skinny and don't exercise, you're still at risk for a lot of health issues. Its really all about being active and finding something you will do on a REGULAR BASIS.

If you don't enjoy watching TV while your on the elliptical for 45 minutes then why are you still doing it? If you hate running then stop. If you dread putting in that workout DVD then stop.

If you're in the Toledo are you should stop by! Check out their website for hours and trial information. Who wouldn't want to workout with these friendly faces?!

I weigh more now than I did when I started CrossFit, but I'm faster and can back squat a lot more than I weigh. My goal for this year is to be able to do pull-ups. Who would have thought....

I hate CrossFit because it makes me sore, it pushes me to do things I never cared to do. I love it because it makes me a better, stronger person. I also LOVE the fun stuff we do in addition to working out- like paleo challenges and the intramural games we having going on this summer. Sometimes I don't go for a week because I need to log some miles...then I realize I miss it. I miss the workouts and the people. The best part is when you walk in after not being there for a few days, you're welcomed with open arms and smiles. No joke- the owner gave me hug today when I showed up after missing a few days. I can't imagine not having this box in my life. I would probably still be dreading going to the big gym where no one says hello.

So go find an exercise that you ENJOY.

Fat. What were we thinking?

FATS...What were we thinking?

Fats are one of the most OVERWHELMING topics in nutrition. Last week I taught a class on  FATS and could see the confusion in the audiences eyes. This is a little long, but there's still SO much more that I could have included.

When some people explain to me that they “eat healthy,” their explanation usually involves something about not eating “a lot of fat.” They just use egg whites, only eat chicken, cook with "good" oils and NEVER would they eat butter (how dare I even suggest such a thing).

Many of these people have some sort of negative reaction when they hear about a food that’s high in fat (even if it’s good for them). I mean really, even an avocado scares some people. Limiting an avocado because of fat? We have some major work to do in the way of educating people about this wonderful macronutrient that has been given a bad rep. Don’t stop here and go get ice cream and french fries- read through so you know what fats are keepers and which need to be THROWN IN THE TRASH.

Why do we need it? Just to start, some fats are essential. This means that our body cannot produce them and they MUST be in our diet- otherwise bad things can happen. We also need fats to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K), produce some hormones (yup, some hormones are made from fats) and support brain function (our “thinker” is over 65% fat). One of the most important reasons why we want some fat on our plate, in my opinion, is to maintain proper CELLULAR FUNCTION.

The outside of EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY is surrounded by fat (for those of you that care it’s called a phospholipid membrane).

It’s the boss of what gets in and out of your cell- energy, minerals, fluid, nutrients, etc. Most people want (and NEED) this membrane to work well and do its job. I mean if it’s not, you’re kind of in trouble (even if you don’t realize it).

Just as there are benefits to obtaining adequate healthy fats, there are also some DANGERS to consuming what we will call OXIDIZED/RANCID fatty acids. This is where things start to get confusing. Consuming oxidized or “bad” fats can ALTER cellular function (1), cause free radical damage (2- scroll to the lipid peroxidation section), increase your risk for cardiovascular disease (34) and promote an inflammatory response (5).

So how do you know which is which?

Read ahead with caution, you are about to be very disappointed with our food supply- but we’ll work through it.

To start- the major type of fat, both in your food and in your body, is called a triglyceride.  They look like this:

Triglycerides can be either SATURATED or UNSATURATED, depending on those long fatty acid tails.

A saturated fatty acid looks like this, “saturated” in hydrogen.

See how all the lines are single lines when you look at the "long chain" part? They have no “double bonds.” Think back to chemistry (I know, I know, not good), remember how stable those single bonds are? They are so stable, it’s difficult to “break” them. This is the basis of why we want to heat/cook with saturated fats, the single bonds can tolerate a lot before they “break.” They are typically solid at room temperature- think coconut oil, butter and ghee.

Some people associate these saturated fats as artery clogging bad guys and run far away from them, no matter the situation.  Recently they have been looked at in a new spot light, in fact several large studies have shown that they DON’T HAVE THE ASSOCIATION WITH HEART DISEASE we once thought (67, and 8). In fact, some studies have shown the positive effects of this fat, including increasing HDL sometimes (9 and 10). When we cook with a saturated fat it doesn't become oxidized or rancid, eliminating the risk for additional free radicals. We know that free radical damage has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more- so we WANT to reduce the risk for free radical damage any way we can.

Another fun fact, HALF of that cell membrane is composed of saturated fatty acids.

First thing to remember: When cooking use natural saturated fats (solid at room temperature)- coconut oil, butter and ghee. Remember I'm talking about how they are safe to cook with; I am NOT promoting the consumption of fried and processed foods high in saturated fats- these foods often do not use a natural occurring saturated fat (we will get to those oils later).

An unsaturated fatty acid looks like this:

or like this...

It can be either monounsaturated (ONE double bond) or polyunsaturated (SEVERAL double bonds). Think back again….double bonds are NOT stable (they are reactive, they have a lot of "energy"), they can break very easily- especially when exposed to heat. When these bonds are broken, the fatty acid can then be “oxidized.” It can create free radical damage, accelerating a vicious chain reaction (more info 11).  AHHHHHHH what?! Remember free radical damage….cancer, heart disease, etc.

Unsaturated fatty acids are typically liquid at room temperature, the more double bonds they have the more reactive (unstable) they are.

Let’s look at the two types….

Monounsaturated fatty acids are relatively stable; remember they just have ONE double bond. They can be manufactured easily, with NO heat and minimal chemicalsThink of olives and avocados- these are oily foods; the oil can be extracted fairly easily. They are often “cold pressed,” meaning that they were not exposed to heat during processing. This is GREAT news! It means that as long as you don’t heat them up at home the double bonds are still intact and the oil is not oxidized or rancid yet. Some research shows that monounsaturated fats can be heated up slightly, but I would be extremely careful with this.

Second thing to remember: Put olive oil or avocado oil on your foods after they are cooked; pour on salads, cooked pasta, etc. DO NOT HEAT THEM UP. Keep them in a cool, dark place where they are not exposed to heat and light.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are a different story. They have several double bonds, making them very “reactive” and prone to oxidation. They are easily oxidized when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. These were almost NON-EXISTENT in our diet until the early 1900's when chemical processes allowed them to be extracted.

We do need a small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, a SMALL amount. Most of us are consuming TOO much….and most of them are rancid and oxidized.

Typical sources of polyunsaturated fats: corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil, etc. MOST of the liquid oils down the aisle at the grocery store fall under this category.

So remember, because of all the double bonds we don’t want to heat up these oils because they are SO reactive and easily damaged. So does that mean we can buy them and just not heat them up? NOOOO.

Think of a piece of corn. When you take a bit do you think, “Oh, these corn kernels are so rich in oil.” NO. That’s because corn isn’t naturally high in oil (like the olives and avocados)- so how the heck do they make all that corn oil? With A TON OF HEAT, PROCESSING AND CHEMICALS. It takes a lot of work to get that oil from corn (and most of those other polyunsaturated oils).

When they make these oils they HEAT them up (free radicals anyone?) and use chemicals (like Hexane, 12) to extract the desired product. Usually they smell bad at this point (because they have oxidized and are probably rancid), so they deodorize them. Corn, canola or soybean oil anyone???

My point is that these oils are probably already rancid when you purchase them. Not only are they heated prior to packaging, but usually their packaging is a CLEAR plastic bottle (light also promotes fatty acid oxidation).

Here's an interesting video about how canola oil (one the most heavily advertised oils) is made...(I would ignore the propaganda in the first minute about it being "healthy.") Pay attention to the heating, pressing, chemicals and toxic solvents that are used during production.

Some recent research has shown that vegetable oils may increase your risk for heart disease, even when they lower cholesterol short term (13). In fact, a while ago they looked at fatty acids found in clogged arteries. They found that they are mostly unsaturated fatty acids, 74%, of which 41% are polyunsaturated (14). This is all being looked at more often now, some research suggests the types of fats may not have as large as an impact as we once thought on our cardiovascular system; but they are definitely questioning the high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (15).

The one thing WE CAN ALL AGREE ON are the elimination of trans fatty acids. Remember a few months ago the FDA announced that it was considering banning them from the food supply (16)? One study looked at common vegetable oils on food shelves in the U.S. market and discovered that they contain between 0.56 to 4.2% TRANS FATS (17)!!! This is due to the manufacturing process of these oils and WILL NOT BE ON THE LABEL. If there is a single reason why you should stay away from these oils- THIS IS IT!

I know these oils are cheaper than what I'm recommending; keep in mind that corn and soy are two of the largest agricultural government subsidies. Billions of tax dollars are used to subsidize these commodities; this keeps them cheap and appealing for large food manufacturers to use. This is an entire different blog post though...

Third thing to remember: stay away from highly processed polyunsaturated oils. Think of corn, soybean, canola, rice bran, sesame, etc. Don't eat things that have been cooked with these oils (think fried foods along with packaged and processed foods- look at the ingredient label).

Last thing I promise…let’s talk about the polyunsaturated fatty acids that you do need.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are your essential fatty acids (the ones your body cannot produce on its own). They are needed for proper cellular function, blood clotting, blood pressure, the regulation of inflammation and more pretty important stuff.

Most people get far TOO MUCH Omega-6, and not enough Omega-3. Good sources of Omega-3 are fatty fish, flax seed oil (kept cold in a dark container- never heated), raw nuts and seeds, etc. Most people need to focus on getting more Omega-3 in their diet; when we get too much Omega-6 with a much lower amount of Omega-3 it can lead to an increased inflammatory response (181920) and other concerns. Typically it’s recommended that we consume Omega-6 to Omega-3 in about a 3:1 ratio (21)- most people are consuming them at a 16:1 ratio (22). WE NEEEEEED TO WORK ON THIS!!!

I’d like to bring up grass fed meat and dairy products for a moment. The major difference between grass fed vs grain fed is the omega content. Grain fed cows result in foods that are HIGH IN OMEGA-6 and have almost NO OMEGA-3. You can see below that as cows are fed a grain based diet their essential fatty acid content is depleted.

Grass fed cows produce foods that are HIGH IN OMEGA-3 and have a much better ratio to the Omega-6 fatty acids. So choose GRASS FED whenever it’s possible!!!

Fourth thing to remember: focus on Omega-3 fatty acids. Get in wild caught fish, raw nuts and seeds, grass fed meat and dairy products, etc.

Let’s recap quickly! What should you do now?

Make sure you’re getting enough of the GOOD STUFF:

  • Cook with coconut oil, butter, ghee (natural occurring saturated fatty acids)
  • Use olive oil/avocado oil on “ready to eat” foods- don't be shy!
  • Focus on getting Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Store your oils in a cool, dark place
  • Purchase grass fed/organic products when possible (meats, dairy and butter)
  • Eat LESS packaged/processed foods

Make sure you’re staying away from the BAD STUFF:

  • Avoid polyunsaturated oils that have been heated/processed (corn, canola, soy, etc)
  • Do not heat oils that should not be heated
  • LOOK for trans fats, but also be aware of where they may be hiding
  • Stay away from fried foods and other products that have been cooked in processed oils
  • Read labels and see what type of oils are in your packaged food products (unfortunately you will be disappointed)
  • Eat LESS packaged/processed foods

“Nature doesn’t make bad fats, factories do.”

–Dr. Cate Shanaham

Another one of my favorites when looking at oxidized lipids...

"These studies have shown, for the first time, that degradation of lipids in foods can produce toxic oxygenated aldehydes. These compounds, well-known in medical studies for their geno- and cytotoxic activity, considered as markers of oxidative stress in cells as well as being causal agents of degenerative illnesses, had not previously been detected in foodstuffs. Researchers have shown that some oils produce these toxic substances in greater quantities and at a greater rate."

-Elhuyar Fundazioa

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