Seriously Stoneage


When we talk about oils we mean fats, or lipids in general. This is a pretty large subject, and one that is mired in controversy and misinformation, which is a good reason for spending some time getting to grips with the subject - at least so that your learning reaches a point where you are satisfied that choices you make are both sensible and safe. It would be far simpler to say “right, just eat this, and not this”, but we have been told so often that fats are bad for us, and that certain brands of Margarine or Low Fat Spreads, for example, are really great for our hearts, that you probably need some persuading that much of what has been accepted wisdom in this country for so many years turns out to be dubious, misleading, and often just plain wrong.

On the right there are some links to some different sites that go into lipids in more detail. For the time being here, we are going to cover the very basics, and make some recommendations for oils, fats, lipids, whatever you want to call them, that are appropriate for starting out on a paleo diet.

The Main Points About Oils

1. Types of fats

Long-chain, medium-chain, and short-chain.,

Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

2. Omega 3s / Omega 6s.

Omega 3 Vs. Omega 6 essential fatty acids

3. Which oils are good to use?

Oils you should use for cooking and dressings. Oils you should avoid.

Types of Fats

Long-Chain, Medium-Chain, and Short-Chain

Chemically speaking, fats and oils are composed of fatty acids attached to an alcohol. The most common form is the triglyceride, where 3 fatty acids link with a molecule of glycerol. The fatty acids form the basis of fats and oils. All fatty acids have the same basic form: a chain of carbon atoms with attached hydrogen atoms to each carbon, plus an Omega group at one end, and a Delta group at the other end.

The number of carbon atoms in the chain is always an even number, and is generally between 4 and 24. Short and Medium chain fatty acids (4 - 12 carbons) are absorbed into the blood stream from the gut and are transported directly to the liver. They provide a quick energy source.

Richard Nikoley has some useful links to info about medium-chain triglycerides on his website, plus a great recipe for a fat based energy drink.

Long chain fatty acids (14-24 carbons) must be emulsified in the gut by bile salts and are absorbed into the lymphatic system for delivery to the blood supply returning to the heart, and only reach the liver as part of the normal blood circulation. They tend to be used as storage fats.

So: Short and medium chain fats, such as butter and coconut oil do not contribute as much to weight gain as do long chain fats, as in olive oil, and vegetable oils.

Saturated Fats

If every carbon atom in the chain is bonded to 2 hydrogen atoms, then it is said to be saturated. This is the form found in animal fats, and tends to be solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are quite stable - they don't go rancid too easily, which is why, for example, our brains are roughly 66% made of saturated fats.

The 6 major sources of saturated fats in the modern human diet are fatty meats, baked products, cheese, milk, margarine, and butter. Five of these six foods would not have been consumed by our ancestors.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)

If a carbon is missing one of the hydrogens, it forms a double bond with the next carbon in the chain, and is said to be unsaturated. This is the form found in plant oils, which tend to be liquid at room temperature.

An unsaturated fatty acid may have only one hydrogen missing, in which case it is called monounsaturated (MUFA); or it may have several hydrogens missing along the chain, in which case it is called polyunsaturated (PUFA).

Omega 3 Vs. Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acids

PUFAs are the dietary source of Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is critical to good health. The ratio in the forager diets of our ancestors is thought to have varied from 1:1 to 4:1. In modern affluent nations the ratio is around 11:1 - meaning that Omega 6 intake is now roughly 11 times that of Omega 3.

So, Which oils should you use?

Good oils to incorporate into the diet include those from nuts and some seeds, such as olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, and avocado oil. Of these, walnut and avocado oils should not be used for cooking, as they are unstable when heated, and should only be used as dressings. Olive oil is high-oleic monounsturated oil and more heat stable.

Coconut oil, in its non-hydrogenated form, is very heat stable. It contains medium-chain triglycerides (see above) which have many health benefits. deal for all forms of cookng.

For the purposes of starting out on the stoneage diet, and especially if you are following our Stoneage Month programme, the following is a guide to what to use and what to avoid:

USE theseNOT these

Coconut Oil

Sunflower Oil

Olive Oil

Vegetable Oil

Avocado Oil

Flax seed Oil

Walnut Oil

Corn Oil

That's it for now

All other oils