Choosing The Right Fats And Oils

Everywhere we go; we hear and see articles relating saturated fat to heart disease. In response, we turn to what we think are healthy alternatives, such as margarine and vegetable oils, but these are not healthy alternatives. The truth is, margarine contains trans fats, which are much worse for your heart than butter. Most vegetable or nut oils used for cooking are either partially hydrogenated or highly refined, neither of which is good for you.
Trans Fats – Bad Fats
The partial hydrogenation process is used to turn liquid vegetable oil into solid fats. This is done because solid fats function better for cooking and baking and have a longer shelf life. These oils, made solid by man have up to 60% Trans fatty acids, which we now know increase LDL (Bad) cholesterol levels and accumulate in our bodies and cause disease. Consuming partially hydrogenated fat is dangerous to the heart. Avoid these fats at all costs.
Refined Oils
There are different levels of refinement. Unrefined oil goes straight from the press into the bottle and may have particulate matter floating in it or settled at the bottom. This is a sign of good oil. Naturally refined oils are more thoroughly filtered and strained than unrefined oils and usually some additional heat is utilized, but without harsh or damaging chemicals. Refining makes for clearer prettier looking oil, which makes it look nice, but filters out nutrient rich particles and reduces the flavor of the oil. In removing particles and resins, one benefit is that it makes naturally refined oils more stable for longer storage and more resistant to spoiling.
Most refined oils go through many steps in the refinement process; the oil is often extracted with the use of solvents (petroleum based chemicals such as hexane). This method, which is a continuous one, has a capacity of processing hundreds of tons of oil per day. The by-products of these methods are used to feed animals in feedlots. As you can guess the flavor and nutritional value is much less superior. It produces clear oil, free from rancidity, and foreign matter, which is great for shelf life, but really bad for your health because of all the chemicals used to make it pretty and stable. If the oil you buy is pale and light, you can be almost certain that it has been fully refined, bleached, and deodorized. These oils are not Good Decisions.
What Fats are Good Decisions?
Here are a few guidelines: Always look for expeller pressed or cold pressed, unrefined oils. Examples of this are unrefined expeller pressed olive oil, cold expeller pressed unrefined flax seed oil, unrefined expeller pressed walnut oil, unrefined expeller pressed coconut oil. This ensures no chemicals are used during the extraction process. The terms virgin and extra virgin are not well regulated and typically only apply to olive oil.
Oil For Salad Dressings and No Heat Applications
Certain fats are ideal for certain things; the following oils are best used on salads or in dressings as they are unstable and should not be heated or cooked with. These are the oils that should be extracted using cold pressed methods, as they do not tolerate heat.
Cold-pressed, unrefined walnut, sesame and flax oils are examples of oils that are great on salads and no heat applications. These are unstable oils and go rancid very easily and should be kept in the refrigerator and used soon after purchasing. A good quality nut or seed oil will come in a dark container with an expiration date and always require refrigeration.
Oils and Fats for Low to Medium Temperature Cooking
(up to 350 degrees F.)
Butter and olive oil are stable and have many healthful properties and fatty acids that support immune systems function. They are ideal for cooking at low and moderate temperatures. It is good to diversify the fats in your diet, as they are all nutritious in their own ways. For instance butter is rich in fatty acids that support immune function and olive oil is shown to help in the prevention of cancer.
Unrefined, cold or expeller pressed macadamia nut oil, hazelnut oil and avocado oils are moderately stable and can also be used at low and medium temperatures. If you choose butter, it is wise to use organic butter; this decreases your exposure to growth hormones, antibiotics and other hazardous substances ingested by the cow.
Fats for Medium Temperature Cooking
(350 degrees F.)
Coconut oil, palm kernel oil, lard and chicken or duck fat are stable fats with good cooking and baking qualities. Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is a major source of the antimicrobial fatty acids, lauric acid and capric acid. Antimicrobial fatty acids are those used by the body to kill or disable pathogenic viruses, bacteria and protozoa. This does not give us a license to eat it in large quantities, but should be considered an ideal fat to be used when cooking at medium temperatures. Surprisingly, in many dishes, it does not impart the coconut flavor onto the food in which you cook. Duck fat is a wonderful fat easy to render from a breast of duck and can be used to add flavor to roasted vegetables or sweet potato fries.
Fats For High Temperature Cooking
(between 350º and 450º)
Beef and lamb tallow, red palm oil and Ghee are very stable fats that can be used for high temperature cooking I know what you may be thinking, Beef and lamb tallow? Really? Absolutely. These fats have been used by our ancestors for generations, are rich in vital fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients our bodies need. They have not been processed, refined and are easy to obtain. Not to mention they add delicious flavor to many dishes. Who said eating right wouldn’t taste good?
The heart requires fat to keep it healthy and beating. Quality fat is the number one fuel for the heart! We should not be afraid of fats. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, flax seed oils and walnuts have a natural anti clotting effect and reduce inflammation, therefore are ideal in supporting the health of our hearts. Saturated fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, ghee and palm oil also have many health qualities and should be utilized as well, especially when cooking at a temperature that requires a more stable fat.
Again this does not mean we should over consume them, it means that natural, and quality fats used wisely, support health in many ways.