I think we're at opposite ends of the nutrition spectrum. I understand what you're saying about over-indulgence in the good fats, and I agree that a part of proper nutrition should be balance: not over-eating is part of that balance.
To give you an example of qualitative differences between fats, let's look at "good" soybean oil and "bad" old lard.
Everyone hears about omega 3 fatty acids, how they are good at keeping your heart and brain healthy, lowering depression, and so on. (Icelanders eat approximately 250 pounds of fish per year, fatty ocean fish as opposed to farm raised, and have mega amounts of omega 3; they also suffer very little depression. Americans eat 50 pounds of fish, and suffer from low omega 3 levels. Cf., The Jungle Effect
, by Dr. Daphne Miller.) You don't hear as much about omega 6 or omega 9 fatty acids, and it's good to have all of these in the proper proportion.
The problem is that the optimal ratio would be 1:1 for omega 3 to omega 6; Americans tend to get 20 times as much omega 6 fatty acid compared to omega 3. (I would imagine that ratio continues to rise over the years as well.) The problem with all these processed foods we as Americans eat is that they are crammed full of omega 6 fatty acids, which mess up that optimal ratio. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory, while omega 6s are inflammatory. At one time, in our hunter-gatherer years, man needed those omega 6s in abundance, because inflammation would help heal cuts and wounds. Nowadays, that inflammatory property has led to greater heart disease, blood pressure, and cancer. (Cf. Anticancer
, by Dr. David Servain-Schreiber.)
So, back to soybean oil. Soybeans, like corn, are a Federally subsidized crop, as part of the Farm Bill. What this means is that farmers over-produce to get subsidies, prices drop, and farmers end up making no money, as Monsanto and DuPont make money on the front end selling all the seeds and fertilizers, and food processors like ADM and the like get the soybeans at a cheap price that we taxpayers are shelling out for (Cf. The Omnivore's Dilemma
, Michael Pollan.) The politics of taxpayer money lining these corporate pockets aside, we have most of our American food supply -- all those ingredients you don't what the fuck they are are likely derivatives of corn, soy, or petroleum (Cf. Twinkie Deconstructed
, Steve Ettlinger; Omnivore
). So while people think "soy" and magically connect this to "healthful," it really isn't.
Soy, like other vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed), are not oils that have been used in traditional cooking. In other words, they are modern cooking oils, mostly from the 19th and 20th century. (Traditional fats, like butter, lard, olive oil, and nut oils, appear to keep the diseases of "civilization" such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, etc., at a statistical minimum; cf. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
, Dr. Weston Price; Jungle Effect
; Real Food
, Nina Planck.)
Soybean oil is about 8:1 omega 6 to omega 3, for one thing. Its sheer ubiquity is another: crackers, salad dressings, cookies, cereal, and everything in between. (Another good reason to avoid processed foods, anything pre-made, and make your own.) One tablespoon of soy or corn oil is all you need in a day of omega 6s, but not likely to be all you get. By saturating your body with omega 6 fatty acids, you are creating a fertile ground for cancers to multiply, for heart disease to take hold, and all sorts of other issues.
On top of that, soybeans are one of the crops with the highest percentage of genetically modified seed (along with corn). There is a huge debate as to how safe this will be long-term for human consumption, especially in the mind-boggling quantities Americans eat these GMOs, not to mention some question as to environmental impact. Some GMO seed has pesticides strapped right into the genetic code, which has a lot of downstream problems (cf. Omnivore
), and some scientists link that to such things as the honey bee colony collapse disorder. In short, America is one big fat fucking guineau pig to corporate profiteering with Frankenfoods: welcome to our national nightmare that no one talks about.
Oh, and soybeans are turned into oil by treating them with hexane, which, if you don't know, is a petroleum distillate used to process soy and other vegetable oils. Yes, even canola, another "healthy" oil of dubious parentage (also a big GMO crop). Sure, the hexane is boiled out, so only trace amounts remain. In 400-600 ppm of chronic exposure, as might be expected with a diet flooded with vegetable oils, toxic neuropathy can occur. That's OK, though, because it also messes with your protein function, causes muscle weakness, coordination issues, and atrophying of muscles. But I'm sure it's all in safe levels in our food. Because, hey, there are never any issues with our industrialized food processing (peanuts with salmonella, beef with E. Coli, veggies with E. Coli, chicken with salmonella, all in industrial scale processors).
So, the hexane and GMOs probably won't get you, because your omega 6s will already be making you sick by the time you're 60. But if not, something to look forward to.
Lard, or rendered pig fat, may be familiar if you had a grandma who saved bacon drippings for cooking. It's still widely used in indigenous cooking, like Mexican cooking. Only a little is needed to impart flavor, and its high smoke point means it doesn't rancidify, or turn loose oxidative compounds. It's also mostly unsaturated fat, being 39% saturated, while having 45% mono-unsaturated fats (like walnut oil and olive oil are rich in). Monounsaturated fats are a big part of the so-called Mediterranean diet (cf. Jungle Effect
), which actually helps with weight and heart related issues.
Ounce for ounce, I would cook with lard over soybean oil any day. Lard, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, and beef tallow all are traditional cooking fats, and as noted previously, prior to the 19th and 20th century, incidence of diseases of "civilization," even among long-lived people, was virtually nil. People might not have lived as long, but it wasn't because of cancer, heart attacks, or diabetes: it was farming accidents, bacterial and viral agents, and other pathogenic diseases that were at the top of the list.
And again, it even depends on the quality of the product you buy, since rendered fat from pigs fed a healthy diet (pastured, not feed-lot or CAFO; cf. www.eatwild.com
) will produce a product with a better nutritional napshot. Butter from pastured cows may be high in saturated fats, but those fats do not rancidify and become oxidative, and may have higher levels of good compounds like conjugated linoleic acid, and (again) those omega 3 and omega 6 FAs in better ratios. There's also some evidence of higher levels of vitamins A and D, the latter of which most Americans seem to be slightly deficient in.
Fats, per se, are not bad. Your brain is composed of 80% fat; this is yet another reason those EPA and DHA in fish oils are so important: fish really is "brain food." Fats also help with the absorption of certain nutrients. Traditional cooking knows this well: scientists learn that lycopene absorbtion is aided by a fat such as olive oil, so that Italian grandma simmering garlic (anticancer agents, also good for blood sugar and BP) along with tomatoes in olive oil, she was passing along good nutrition, and good taste. You find these astounding combinations of traditional, low-glycemic index carbs (unrefined), traditional fats, vegetables, meats, cheeses, herbs, etc., combined in dishes prepared as they were for hundreds and even thousands of years, and scientists start saying, Aha, these are really healthful combinations!
Like Indian spices (cooked with ghee, or clarified butter) being tremendous anti-inflammatory agents and anticancer agents (turmeric and black pepper -- cf. Anticancer
-- ginger, garlic, onions, etc.) Italian cooking. Greek cooking. Japanese cooking. African cooking. Any stable traditional cuisine before westernized versions take over. Before McDonalds takes over.
I personally use these cooking fats, in about this order of preference: olive oil (virgin for cooking, extra virgin for dressing); butter (usually with vegetables, not too much); the rest are used far, far less... coconut oil or lard for frying; sesame oil, for dressing; and that's about it. Don't do a lot of frying, reserving that as a treat.