Fats ~ Friend or Foe ~ The ABC’s When it comes to Cooking Oils (Part II)

So, one of my goals for this coming year (that I knew I would struggle with) is to keep up with my blog ~ even if only once a month!  I started it last fall, then the holidays hit and I think between Thanksgiving and Christmas it is a blur!  Can anyone else relate?  So, I’ve had this pretty much ready to go for a while but haven’t gotten around to posting it. Hopefully, you may take away a nugget or two on oils.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Avocado Oil:  The fatty acid composition of avocado oil is similar to that of olive oil, and thus is a healthy option, and anti-inflammatory in nature.  It has a higher smoke point than olive oil, good for stir frying and high heat baking, and contains loads of monounsaturated fatty acids.  Cons:  Not as common as other oils, thus it tends to be more expensive.

Butter/lard:  High in saturated and possibly trans fats. For health reasons, decreasing consumption may be beneficial. If you have high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, you may want to opt for soft tubs of margarine instead of solid bars of butter/lard, however, some argue butter is better because it is all natural!  Another alternative to butter is Ghee:  a type of clarified butter commonly used in India and other parts of South Asia.  It shares a similar fat composition as butter, although derived from milk, it contains very low lactose and is suitable even for people who are lactose intolerant, or highly reactive to corn or soy (things that cows eat).  I have had several LEAP patients find they do well using Ghee instead of butter

*Canola Oil:  Canola oil got its name in 1978 as “CANadian Oil, Low Acid”.  Canola oil is made from crushed seeds of the canola plant and it has less saturated fat than any other oil commonly used in the U.S.   Canola oil can be considered an all-purpose cooking oil. It has a light and mild-taste, and is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, second to olive oil. Use it to sauté vegetables, in baking, and in salad dressings. It also works well in high temperature applications such as stir-frying.

Coconut Oil:  Have you joined the coconut craze (thanks to Dr. Oz and many other sources out there)? What is it about coconut oil that has people pulling it and going nuts?  First, the basics, 92 percent of its fat is saturated. That makes coconut oil far more saturated than most other oils and fats. Olive and soybean oils, for example, are about 15 percent saturated, while beef fat is about 50 percent saturated and butter is 63 percent saturated. (Only palm kernel oil, at 82 percent saturated, rivals coconut oil.)  All those saturated chemical bonds explain why coconut oil is solid at room temperature and doesn’t go rancid quickly. That makes it attractive to many candy makers, who use it in chocolate, yogurt, and other coatings that don’t melt until they hit your mouth. It’s also why some vegans—who eat no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy foods—use it as a butter substitute.

What makes it different?  Coconut oil is also unusual because it contains a high percentage of medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs.  Most oils consist entirely of long-chain triglycerides, or LCTs, which are more than 12 carbons long. Soybean oil, for example, is 100 percent LCTs. Medium-chain triglycerides are 6 to 12 carbons long. Coconut oil contains roughly 40 percent LCTs and 60 percent MCTs.  The difference matters because our bodies metabolize MCTs differently than LCTs.  MCTs are transported directly from the intestinal tract to the liver, where they’re likely to be directly burned off as fuel and raise the metabolic rate slightly.  That means less is available to be circulated throughout the body and deposited in fat tissues.

A review of the scientific literature on coconut oil for weight loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease all have need for further research.  Bottom line:  There is no good evidence that coconut oil can help you lose weight or cure Alzheimer’s disease.  MCT oil may lead to modest weight loss when substituted for other oils.  And, there is no good evidence that “virgin” coconut oil does less damage to your heart than conventional coconut oil.  So, for cooking purposes, it does have high smoke point and works for baking, stir-frys or as a dairy free replacement to butter.  Enjoy the flavor in different recipes.  Coconut oil is good for many other purposes including moisturizing skin and hair.

Corn Oil: The polyunsaturated content is 98% omega-6 and only 2% omega 3s, for this reason, I would steer away from this oil in most cases.   It does have a high smoke point and is commonly used for frying.

*Olive Oil:  Olive oil is used in many Mediterranean and Italian dishes because it is one of the tastiest oils.  Olive oil is sold as “virgin” or “extra virgin.”  Extra virgin has less acid and a fruitier flavor and stronger aroma than pure or virgin olive oil.  A little goes a long way:).  Olive oil that is labeled as “light” is often lighter in hue or flavor but not lighter in calories.  Use olive oil in place of saturated fat, such as butter.  Dip bread in it, use it in baking, sauté, even fry vegetables and meat. But beware the smoking point is not very high so frying at high temperatures will cause your food to brown quickly.

Peanut Oil:  Peanut oil can be used for deep-frying, sautéing, or grilling food. The proposed health benefits of peanut oil is mixed among the research. It has a relatively high saturated fat content compared to most other vegetable oils, but it also has a high poly/monounsaturated fat content.  I would probably avoid this oil and stick to one with more definitive research on the health benefits. Plus, many people have allergies to peanuts.

Safflower Oil:  Safflower oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat.  It is best for medium-heat cooking such as stir-frying or sautéing.

Soybean Oil:  Soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids and for that reason, it is probably not the healthiest choice. It has a very high smoke point and if you are looking to buy soybean oil, avoid the hydrogenated versions.

Sunflower Oil:  Made from sunflower seeds, this oil has a very high smoke point and is commonly used for frying foods.  Even though it has an abundance of polyunsaturated fat and Vitamin E, most of it is unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids and very little healthy omega-3’s.  Therefore, this is not the best nor the worst oil to choose from. If you’re looking for something healthy, try canola or olive oil.

Bottom line is ~ whatever oil and fat you choose, use it in moderation and choose the option that best meets your health needs and taste!

Other Notes:  If you’re concerned about GMO, it’s likely that corn, soy, and canola oils are genetically-modified.  There are non-GMO, organic kinds of these oils available.  So be sure to check the label.

Have fun experimenting with all the different oils and cooking methods!  What’s your favorite?

Simple Homemade Vinegar & Oil Salad Dressing:10881530_736320596436727_7348492703683382337_n

3 Tbsp frozen juice concentrate, thawed or pureed fruit

1 Tbsp Vinegar or lemon/lime juice

3 Tbsp Oil

¼ tsp Salt

Seasonings to taste (pepper, garlic, basil, mustard, onion, leek, sesame see, etc.)  Whisk or shake well to mix.  Cover and refrigerate for up to one week.  Before using, let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes, and then shake well.  For thicker dressings or spreads, add pureed olives, avocado, green or red pepper, fruits, beans, finely chopped nuts or nut butter.  Enjoy!

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