Before the agricultural revolution, humans ate between 300-1000 different foods. All these foods were wild, both plant and animal, and wild things eating their native diet are naturally higher in essential fatty acids (EFA) like omega 3. Today, industrialized people like you and me eat around 17-20 different foods on average, most of which wasn't caught or grown in the wild, which is why it's not surprising that EFA deficiency is at nearly epidemic proportions.
For those of you new to fat, I'll let you know that each fatty food from nature is actually made up of a mix of all 3 fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. That's why you find omega 3's in beef and eggs and more monounsaturated fat in lard than in coconut oil, because all fats will be a mix up unique to them. For ease of this page, I've separated each fat into its "majority" category, and what it's best used for in the kitchen.
There are so many ancestral fats to eat it can be both fun and overwhelming to start stocking your pantry! But the good thing is they all have a benefit, so you can’t go wrong by starting with a few items and adding more as finances allow. Also, if you're fatty acid deficient, you might find yourself absolutely craving some of these nourishing fats. So if you think you should be eating flax but you're really craving butter, please listen to your body. It knows best :)
Nutrient Dense Fats for High Heat Cooking, eat in abundance
Majority saturated fats are the most stable fats, best for high heat cooking. They mainly include animal fats and tropical oils, such as ghee, lard, butter, duck fat, coconut oil, and palm oil. Animal fats should be pastured and tropical oils should be sustainably produced (since there’s a lot of rainforest destruction right now to make room for the global demand). Saturated animal fats, from grass-fed or pastured animals, have an abundance of fat soluble vitamins to help fuel your body, all of which I list out in All Fats are not Created Equal.
Animal fats such as lard, tallow, and duck fat: these fats actually have a high amount of monounsaturated fats in their make up, but retain a high smoke point, making them ideal for frying (or deep frying). Pastured animals are outdoors, meaning the vitamin D and anti-oxidant content in these fats is high.
Butter: has butyric acid, which helps heal your intestinal lining, and CLA, and anti-inflammatory fat. Additionally, butter’s made up of short-chain fatty acids, which are the easiest form of fat to be utilized by the body as they don’t need to be processed by the liver and instead go straight to your energy stores (as long as your body remembers how to fat burn, of course. Not sure? Click HERE). Grass fed butter is a rich source of A, D, K2, and E.
Coconut oil: contains lauric, caprylic, and capric acid, anti-microbial ingredients to help stave of bad yeasts and bacteria in the gut. Additionally coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid which, like butter, provides easier energy because they only go through a 3 step process to be turned into fuel vs. other fats go through a 26 step process!
Palm oil: contains carotenoids, sterols, vitamin E, and anti-oxidants.
Nutrient Dense Fats for Sautéing or Drizzling, eat in abundance
Majority monounsaturated fats include such oils as extra virgin olive oil, macadamia, peanut, avocado, or sesame oil. These oils have a lower smoke point (except avocado oil, which is higher) so are good for lower heat sautéing. Monounsaturated fats are great for your health as well, being high in antioxidants, reducing your risk for metabolic disorders, and have anti-inflammatory properties. They’ve also been associated with cancer prevention. Remember, when buying olive oil always look for a good brand of extra virgin.
Avocado oil: prevents diabetes, inflammation, and has even gotten prescription status in France for its ability to combat arthritis!
Macadamia Nut Oil: It's high in monounsaturated fatty acids, including Oleic Acid (Omega 9), which are very moisturizing and regenerating for the skin. These fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties. The Omega 6 in Macadamia nut oil helps to restore the skin's barrier function and reduce water loss
Olive Oil: anti-oxidant rich, lowering rates of inflammation, heart disease, depression, dementia and obesity.
Sesame Oil: rich in magnesium and zinc, this oil helps bone, hair, and teeth strength, as well as reduces risk of osteoporosis and strokes.
No Cooking, only cold pressed, eat in limited amount
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are your home of your two essential fatty acids, the ALA (omega 3) and LA (omega 6), as well as the four conditionally essential fatty acids, the GLA, AA, CPA, and DHA. They're absolutely vital to include in your new endo diet since deficiencies in these EFA's are astoundingly common. It’s been estimated that only 40% of Americans get enough omega-3’s in their diet, while an astounding 20% have blood levels so low they can’t even be detected! (here) The interesting thing is that we don't technically need a lot of PUFAs to meet our quota, yet we still aren't getting enough. Studies of traditional diets show humans historically ate an average of 4% of their fats from this type of oil, meaning you don’t need a lot at all. Instead, you need a small amount of high quality PUFA, meaning cold-pressed or extra virgin oils, and can easily incorporate them every day by stocking a small "pantry" full in your fridge, and drizzling them on food or in smoothies daily.
Good Polyunsaturated oils include cold-pressed flax, hemp, walnut, pumpkin, almond, or other seeds or nuts from food sources, as well as supplements like fish oil, evening primrose oil, and borage oil. They technically also include "junk food oils" like canola, soy, safflower, sunflower, and grape seed, which I recommend you never consume unless they’re cold pressed (which is nearly impossible to find). You need to consume all polyunsaturated oils cold-pressed because they are exceptionally delicate and will oxidize quickly in heat or light. Oxidized oil = rancid = inflammation. That’s why you’ll find the quality versions of these oils in dark bottles, some within the refrigerated section.
Nowadays, Americans are consuming up to 30% of their total calorie intake with PUFAs, mainly in the source of low quality, oxidized, rancid, vegetable oils. The best way to avoid this is to stay away from processed foods, fried foods, fatty restaurant foods, and cooking with any of these oils. Instead, you only need a little bit to get great benefits! All you need is 1-2 tsp of cod liver oil every day to meet your omega-3 needs, and drizzling salads or veggies with another 1-3 tablespoons cold-pressed oils will fill out your nutrient quote.
A note on plant sources of Omega 3: Omega 3's have to go through a complex chemical reaction before they can be used in the way we want for endo: the anti-inflammatory purpose, also known as PG3 (prostaglandin 3). Plant sources of omega-3's are harder to convert into PG3 because they need to be converted from the their original form of omega 3 to ALA (alpha linolenic acid) before it can turn into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and then finally into PG3. That's a lot of chemical reactions for a sick body to do! Just because a human body can do this conversion doesn't mean yours can if your health is impaired, as this conversion relies on proper digestive function, liver function, and plenty of zinc/magnesium/b6. That means if you suffer from a chronic condition like endometriosis you may not be able to do much or any of this conversion, which is why I seriously recommend getting your omega 3's from animal sources which arrive in your body as EPA (so don't need to do two whole conversions) until your health is back to normal.
Almond: rich in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium and zinc.
Borage oil, supplement: High in GLA, good for inflammation, skin, and joint pain
Fish oil, supplement: the only oil you can buy that has DHA and EPA ready for you to go without any conversions. I recommend every endo girl supplement with fish oils for this reason. You can get the precursers to DHA and EPA with plant oil, but unless your liver and gut are functioning at 100% you won't be able to make the conversion efficiently, if at all.
Evening Primrose oil, supplement: High in GLA, helps with acne, skin issues, and hormonal imbalance
Flax: a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is the precursor for DHA and EPA.
Hemp: the only edible seed that contains gamma-linolenic acid
Pumpkin: anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
Walnut: fights fungal infections, soothes the gut, and remedies skin issue.
Again, NEVER cook with these oils or buy them if they’re expeller pressed, cold-processed (a tricky way of confusing us with cold-pressed), or refined, as this automatically means these delicate and sensitive oils are rancid. Cold pressed only. Otherwise you’ll miss out on the bounty of nutrient dense goodness and replace it with... inflammation.