Remember that all oils are fats, but not all fats are oils. They are very similar to each other in their chemical makeup, but what makes one an oil and another a fat is the percentage of hydrogenation in the fatty acids of which they are composed.
The fats and oils which are available to us for cooking are actually mixtures of differing fatty acids so for practical purposes saturated fats are solid at room temperature (70 F) and unsaturated fats we call oils are liquid at room temperature.
For dietary and nutrition purposes fats are generally classified as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, but this is just a further refinement of the amount of saturation of the particular compositions of fatty acids in the fats.
OILS & THEIR USES
Many of you may still be using plain old corn or vegetable oil like grandma used to use. You keep a large clear sticky plastic container of it under the sink or in a cabinet in the back. Throw those oils away! Remember, you want to purchase fresh, good quality oil. You pay for what you get! If you have not yet tried olive oil, do it! High in mono-unsaturated fat, olive oil is very beneficial to your health. Purchase extra virgin, cold pressed for the best quality. Beyond olive oil, try a new variety of oil this weekend when you do your grocery shopping. Pick up a bottle of coconut, grape seed, or flax seed oil! These all offer health benefits! As with all fats, they can become rancid, so please keep your oils in a cool dark place.
Good oils are used to provide healthy fatty acids and antioxidants in the Bear Diet. Fats are needed to help satisfy hunger and will stabilize the blood sugars, as well as supply you with essential fatty acids needed for many bodily functions. Your skin, hair, nails, and hormones all rely on proper fat balance. Oils are not just for cooking your chicken or eggs! Mix it up to keep your diet healthy and exciting!
The benefits of this oil have been growing in awareness for a while now. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed have been shown to reduce the risk of disease, lower cholesterol, and promote healthy skin. It can be taken in a supplement form, but the oil can also be added to different foods. This is a popular oil to add to smoothies, whether it’s a protein based drink or a fruit/vegetable mix. It adds slightly a nutty taste!
ORGANIC NUT BUTTERS
Organic nut butters are healthy fats that provide good source of iron, some protein, and other minerals. Spread them on a whole wheat English muffin for breakfast or on apple slices for a yummy snack. Nut butter can also be added to protein shakes, mixed into sauces, or even in your favorite omelets! Give one a try! Peanut, cashew, soy, and almond butters are some of our favorites!
Some may be surprised that olives are a fat, but that is where they fall! It might be easier to understand when you think about Olive Oil. Olives provide some of the same nutrients as olive oil, such as Vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. There are so many delicious varieties of olives out there – give them a try!
Although made partially from chick peas, the majority of its calories come from fat. With all the different varieties of hummus available, everyone should be able to find flavor that suits them. Hummus is great for dipping vegetables, tortilla chips, or pita bread, and can also be used to flavor sandwiches, instead of using mayonnaise. Try it instead of your usual vegetable dip at your next party!
Although avocadoes are technically a fruit, they are counted as a fat. Avocados are loaded with nutrients and are a great substitute for mayo on a sandwich, as a topper to a salad, or used to make a mean guacamole!
Once you have tasted good olive oil, you will want to drizzle it over everything. Wow! It’s so delicious. We recommend extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil. This is our main staple oil that we use for nearly everything in our meal preparations. It makes great salad dressings, sauces, and can be used in cooking. High in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, olive oil has been associated with many health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health. Extra virgin means that it is directly pressed from the olives, which means it has not gone through any harsh processing and will contain the highest level of antioxidants and flavor.
Coconut oil has been a subject of controversy in the past years. We have found that even though this oil contains a high percentage of saturated fats, it is actually a good choice for an oil. You may ask why? The fats in coconut oil are in the form of medium-chain fatty acids, which are known to increase metabolism and are digested and absorbed better than other fats. In other words, most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is easily digestible and converted into quick energy. Not all saturated fats are the same. Instead of increasing cholesterol and heart disease, this saturated fat may actually help to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Another benefit to this oil is the MCFA’s (medium chained fatty acids) which tend to be burned for energy quicker than other fatty acids, therefore supporting a healthy metabolism.
These types of fatty acids are less likely to cause obesity because they are immediately used by the body and have no opportunity to be stored. Coconut oil is also great for cooking because it does not degrade as quickly as other oils when heated to high temperatures. But beware – bad forms of coconut oil still exist! Stay away from the processed, hydrogenated coconut oil typically used in processed foods. Use organic and unprocessed coconut oil that you purchase from a reputable source online or at your local health food store. Try cooking this oil with curry for a sauce to put on fish or chicken! Add some other tropical flavors like pineapple or curry to make a great tropical meal.
Canola oil is made from rapeseed, which is a relative of the mustard seed. Canola oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fat, and has the least amount of saturated fat of the oils besides olive oil. Try to buy organic and expeller pressed varieties. Chemicals are typically used to extract the oil and pesticides are sprayed on the rapeseed, so buy organic!
Butter can also be used for cooking and is MUCH healthier than margarines which contain chemicals and hydrogenated trans fats. Margarine takes oils and converts them to solids. This process involves changing the chemical structure of the oil, thereby rendering it a “bad fat.” Avoid all margarines or imitation butters. Again, buy organic, natural butter.
GRAPE SEED OIL
This oil is great for cooking at really high temperatures, particularly, for example, when stir-frying and sautéing. The only concern for this oil is that it contains more polyunsaturated fat than monounsaturated oils, therefore, use small amounts.
Sesame oil is great for cooking Asian or Middle Eastern dishes. Sesame oil all is not an oil that you want to use all of the time because of the polyunsaturated fats, but you can use it moderately for certain dishes. We find that adding a teaspoon for flavor works wonders!
This oil has 50 percent monounsaturated fats, but contains 30 percent polyunsaturated fats. Only use this oil occasionally. Buy the expeller-pressed varieties.
Try to avoid this oil because it is super high in polyunsaturated fats. Do not deep fry with this oil. The corn oil will foam and smoke at high temperatures. These fumes can be toxic!
SOYBEAN OIL, ALSO KNOWN AS VEGETABLE OIL
This is probably the most used and cheapest of all oils. Soybean oil is pretty high in polyunsaturated fat for regular consumption. Spend a little extra money on getting the right oil especially if you are cooking a lot.
NUT OIL (HAZELNUT OR WALNUT)
These oils are used in seasonings, salads, and cold dishes and can add a lot of flavor. Walnut oil is not a cooking oil; high heat destroys its delicate flavor. Where it does shine is as an ingredient in a salad dressing or a fresh pasta sauce or to give a final zip to a finished dish. These oils also typically go rancid very quickly, so do not purchase them in large quantities.
Speaking of rancidity, let’s take a quick look at buying and storing oils.
Buying & Storing Oils & Fats
Fats and oils go rancid rather quickly, therefore storage becomes an issue. Rancid fats have been implicated in increased rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis and may be carcinogenic (cancer causing) so we want to avoid them if at all possible.
Oxygen is eight times more soluble in fats than in water and it is the oxidation resulting from this exposure that is the primary cause of rancidity. The more polyunsaturated a fat is, the faster it will go rancid. This may not, at first, be obvious to your nose (rancid fats smell terrible) because vegetable oils have to become several times more rancid than animal fats before our noses can detect it. An extreme example of rancidity is flaxseed that we use as a wood finish and a base for oil paints. In just a matter of hours the oil oxidizes into a solid polymer. This is very desirable for wood and paint, very undesirable for food.
Long term storage of fats may be problematic, but it is not impossible. There are some general rules you can follow to get the most life out of your stored cooking oils and fats.
1. Limit exposure to oxygen, light and heat, as these are the greatest factors leading to rancidity. If you can, refrigerate your stored oil, particularly after it’s been opened. If possible, buy your oils in opaque, airtight containers. If you purchase them in plastic, particularly clear plastic, then transfer them to a glass container that can be sealed airtight. Transparent glass or plastic containers should be stored in the dark, such as in a closed cupboard or within a box. Regardless of the storage container, it should be stored at as cool a temperature as possible and rotated as fast as is practical. Oils and fats with preservatives added by the manufacturer will have a greater shelf life than those without them, provided they are fresh when purchased. However, we recommend purchasing organic, fresh oils without preservatives.
2. Use your oils! Unless they have been specially treated, unopened cooking oils typically have a shelf life of about a year, depending upon the above conditions. Some specialty oils such as sesame and flax seed have even shorter usable lives. If you don’t use a great deal of it, try not to buy your fats in large containers. This way you won’t be exposing a large quantity to the air after the bottles have been opened, allowing them to grow old and possibly rancid, before you can use it all up. Once opened, it is an excellent idea to refrigerate cooking fats. If it turns cloudy or solid, the fat is still perfectly usable and will return to its normal liquid, clear state after it has warmed to room temperature. Left at room temperatures, opened bottles of cooking oils can begin to rancid in anywhere from a week to a couple of months, though it may take several more months to reach such a point of rancidity that it can be smelled.
Which Oil Is Best?
There is a lot of controversy out there as to what the best oil to cook with is. Sources all over have bombarded us with how good Olive Oil is. Then there was a surge of information on the benefits of Canola Oil. So what should be believed? Well, the first thing to realize is that one oil that is good for one thing may not be the best choice for others. What we mean by that is, oils are fats, and fats are not all the same. They have different properties at different temperatures. This change in properties can affect the benefits or even the negative properties of certain oils.
When you’re choosing an oil to cook with or one that is going to be exposed to high heat, you need to use an oil that can withstand that increase in temperature. As surprising as this may be, Olive Oil, especially EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), is not an oil that can handle high heat. When it is used for things such as sautéing foods the properties of the oil are destroyed and all of its supposed benefits decline. At high temperatures it’s more readily exposed to oxidative damage and can actually increase the risk of certain health problems.
One oil you should be adding to your pantry is Coconut Oil. Many people may think we are crazy for saying this because it is an oil made up of saturated fats, but it’s true. It’s extremely healthy to cook with. Coconut oil is made up of medium chained fatty acids (MCFA’s) which have been thoroughly researched and found to have many health benefits. A few advantages of this oil that have been studied are:
|1.||MCFA’s tend to be burned for energy quicker than other fatty acids therefore supporting a healthy metabolism,|
|2.||It’s been shown to help with thyroid problems, infectious, metabolic, and chronic diseases, and|
|3.||Studies show it helps reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. On top of all of this, Coconut Oil adds great flavor to food. Try sautéing fish with it and add a little curry!|
Don’t get rid of your Olive Oil so quickly though! There is a big place for EVOO in our diet. When ever you need to add oil/fat without heating grab the Olive Oil. Use this for salad dressing or drizzling over already cooked foods. Pasta, meat, and vegetables all taste great with a little added Olive Oil before serving. With its heart healthy antioxidants and unsaturated fats it can add great benefit to our health. If you are going to heat up your Olive Oil very quickly (less than a minute) you can certainly use it to cook with. But it’s beneficial properties are best gleaned from adding it after cooking.
IS THAT ALL?
Coconut and Olive Oil are our favorites and the ones We think provide the most benefit. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other healthy oil choices. Grapeseed oil for example is another oil that may be better to use than Olive Oil for cooking. The point is that you need to not only think about how a healthy a food is while it’s sitting on the shelf, but what your intended use is and how that will change the food. There are many choices for oil out there. Be smart about what you use and how you use it.