Cooking with Oils and Fats

Lately there has been a lot of talk about good fats vs. bad fats and which ones you should consume and which ones you should avoid. Here is a little summary of what you should be considering when buying fats or oils.

The industrial revolution was responsible for the mass production of highly processed (polyunsaturated) vegetable and seed oils, such as soybean, canola and corn oil. These highly processed seed oils contain very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which – when consumed in excess – have detrimental health effects. Unfortunately, these oils are present in nearly everything we eat nowadays. Grain-fed livestock, where a lot of meat produce comes from, is also high in omega-6. A diet high in omega-6 is associated with an increase in inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and cancer to mention a few.

One important factor that is often overlooked in choosing the correct oil is how you are going to prepare it or cook with it. The smoke point of a fat or oil is the temperature at which it gives off smoke and starts to break down and oxidize, losing nutrients and developing toxic properties. Once this occurs, the oil basically becomes rancid and free radicals and oxidation start forming within. At this smoke point, the glycerol in oil is converted to acrolein. Acrolein is a chemical that is found in cigarette smoke and is considered one of the most important cancer-causing agents from smoking.

It is perfectly ok to use saturated fats and healthy plant-based oils, but you should avoid highly refined and processed polyunsaturated oils, such as those mentioned above, due to their toxic properties and high omega-6 fatty acids. Your fat intake should come from meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, avocados and fats and oils used in food preparation.

It’s important to know which type of fat or oil is best suited to which food preparation method. Some things to keep in mind are:

-Saturated fat is typically more heat stable and doesn’t oxidate as quickly as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which makes it more suitable for frying and other high temperature cooking.
-Nut oils and olive oil are more fragile and can be cooked with but are best used unheated to retain the most antioxidants, vitamins and flavor.
-Refined oils will usually have a higher smoking point. Ideally, they should be expeller-pressed, which indicates that the oil was extracted using a mechanical process rather than with heat and chemicals. These are best for high temperature cooking such as deep-frying.

Here’s a guide to help you make these decisions.

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