Ancestral fats refer to fats that the human species has consumed for many centuries and that can be extracted with minimal processing. They can be divided into two categories: animal and fruit fats.
Animal fat includes fats like lard, poultry fat, and tallow as well as ghee and butter.
When buying animal fats, always make sure to buy pastured/grass fed and finished products since animals store toxins in their fat and we want to make sure we are consuming the highest possible quality.
We like Fatworks tallow and lard (they come in a glass container and are not bleached which is important)! Once opened they should be stored in the refrigerator. Regenerative ranches like White Oak Pastures, Northstar Bison and US Wellness Meats also sell their own homemade tallow, duck fat, lard, etc which are also great sources!
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When buying butter and ghee, make sure it’s from grass fed cows and ideally that it’s cultured. Butter and ghee should both be a golden color!!
The butter we use is from Lewis Road Creamery and we exclusively use Pure Indian Foods for their cultured ghee product. The culturing ensures that there are no milk proteins in the ghee.
Fruit fats include coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil.
Like with animal fats, quality matters! Always opt for extra virgin products in dark bottles, and buy small bottles so that the oil isn’t open for too long (this avoids oxidation)! If an oil smells rancid, discard it immediately!
Also make sure that what you are buying is the pure fruit oil and not a mixture. Sometimes companies will mix more expensive fruit oils with cheap seed oils!
Primal Kitchen also has a line of great avocado oil based dressings and dips and a line of frozen meals with clean oils and meats which are a great option when you’re in a hurry (Pesto Chicken is the best)!
Although they are processed, MCT oil from coconuts can be a great supplement for some brain fuel and mitochondrial health. My favorite is the Brain Octane oil from Bulletproof which contains only the C8 MCT (caprylic acid) which is also very anti-viral! I drizzle MCTs over grilled veggies or use it in my salads. Never heat them up however, because they are not very temperature stable!
When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, look for a dark green oil that ideally burns a bit in the throat. This indicates that it’d high in polyphenols and antioxidants. We get ours from our adopted tree at an Italian farm that freshly harvests the oil and ships it to our house in a canister. The oil tastes extremely buttery like a good olive oil should and works well in salad and after cooking (be careful with heating)!
Coconut oil typically comes in glass jars and should be solid at room temperature due to its high saturated fat content. It is the most heat stable out of the fruit fat bunch. I love to use it to grill ahi-tuna or veggies 👩🏻🍳
Humankind has thrived on these types of fats for centuries and not until the introduction of before mentioned seed oils did we begin to have trouble with a rise in chronic disease 🦠
Seed oils such as corn/canola/soy/sunflower/rapeseed/safflower/cottonseed oil are highly processed since it’s hard to squeeze oil out of dry seeds… (which damages the delicate polyunsaturated fatty acids) and have not been consumed in large amounts until the beginning of the 20th century. In other words, our human biology has not had the time to adapt to these fats and struggles to use them for fuel.
You can learn more about the dangers of oxidized PUFAS here.
Fats: solid at room temperature because their triglycerides contain more stiff, saturated fatty acids. Examples include lard, ghee, and tallow.
Oil: liquid at room temperature due to the higher content of flexible mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids
Fatty Acid: a group of 4-26 carbon molecules bound together with a special carbonyl group at the end. The carbons are bound together by single (saturated), 1 double (monounsaturated) bond or multiple double bonds (polyunsaturated). Body cells are made up of all 3 types! Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the most delicate and one should be very aware of how high they are heated/ the degree of processing.
A note about smoke point:
The amount of heat you can use with the oil/fat depends on the different types of fatty acids present. The more saturated fatty acids, the higher the fat can be heated since it’s more stabil and less likely to oxidize (the last thing you want is an oxidized fat)!!
If you’re heating up fat and see that it’s smoking, discard it immediately!
When choosing the type of fat to cook with, we like to cook like with like (in lard, beef in tallow, etc) and veggies in ghee or coconut/avocado oil.
Fat/Triglyceride: a group of 3 or more fatty acids with a glycerol backbone. They circulate in your blood either as fuel or to be stored for later use. These are burned by the body for fuel if you’re fat adapted. Fatty acids cannot cross the blood brain barrier so they are converted to ketones if you’re fat adapted!