>> Sunday, May 5, 2013
The low fat movement is thankfully all but over and people are rediscovering the benefits of healthy fats. Fats are essential to help maintain a healthy body and can be used as an energy source, to normalize blood sugar, and to provide fatty acids needed for optimal brain function and tissue repair. Beyond these, there is also the misconception-busting role that healthy fats play in cardiovascular health and digestion.
There are plenty of great options to choose from, and the selection and availability is increasing all the time. To judge what people are using based on the grocery store shelves, many are using just using olive oil and perhaps vegetable oil, and the latter should be avoided if possible. There are plenty of other fats that you can add for health and flavor. Changing up the oils and fats that you use in your cooking and condiments will allow you to add a range of savory flavors that will take your mealtime experience to the next level.
For a long time, coconut oil has had a bad rap, and there is much to share about that at a later time. Until the last decade or so, the only kind of coconut oil that you could buy was hydrogenated coconut oil that was loaded with trans fats, and had a lot of the health components removed in the process. Most of the essential fatty acids and antioxidants that make coconut oil one of the healthiest fats were removed during the hydrogenation process. In contrast, there is now virgin and extra virgin coconut oil varieties that are sold in most grocers. It's a great fat for cooking, baking, and almost any meal preparation because of its slightly sweet profile and versatility.
One of the biggest advantages to using coconut oil is that it is rich in the medium-chain fatty acid, lauric acid. Lauric acid is one of the most efficiently processed fats meaning that it will be burned for energy almost right way. Not only does it give you energy and taste great, but it also has vitamins K and E to help support healthy skin and hair.
As the melting point of coconut oil is around 78F you will most likely be dealing with a solid or semi-solid oil when you are using it. Similar to the consistency of butter or lard, it can be used as a healthy substitute in baking or cooking. Experimenting with different recipes or just adding it to warm toast you will get all of the health benefits of this great tasting oil.
As one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats, olive oil has earned its reputation as one of the healthiest oils that you can consume. The delicate flavor and the distinct aroma allow olive oil to easily become a household favorite for taste as well as the health benefits. Loaded with vitamins such as vitamin E and antioxidants, olive oil helps to keep your cholesterol levels in check. It can also help to sooth digestive issues and is used as a remedy for ulcers, gastritis, and gallbladder issues. Not only can olive oil be used internally for increased health, you can also use it in your ears or on your skin to soften and increase its natural radiance.
In the latest research, in a study conducted out of the Kobe University School of Medicine, they found that “olive oil may be able to prevent skin cancer if applied after exposure to the sun”. And although olive oil does not block ultra violet (UV) radiation, its antioxidant properties help to heal the damage that the sun causes. Never use olive oil as a sunscreen substitute, but it can be added in combination to your sun-protection routine.
Using olive oil, you can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and keep your arteries clean and well-functioning. This powerful little oil also helps satisfy hunger and can be used to help control your appetite while providing all of the aforementioned health benefits. Finally, it can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, like Atherosclerosis, which is the process of plaque formation, or the thickening and blocking of the arteries than can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Most people don’t know about or regularly use walnut oil, but it's worth looking into. It's one of the healthiest oils, is brimming with antioxidants and phytonutrients, and is relatively low in saturated fats. Add to this the high omega fats, and you have a powerfully healthy oil that can be used in almost any application as long - as you don’t heat it.
The only real drawback is that it tends to be quite expensive, as it is more of a specialty fat. When you get the chance though, this delicious nut oil makes a great addition to your flavor enhancing fats that boost your health and increase the overall experience of your meals.
As a staple in Asian cooking, sesame oil has one of the most distinct flavors and aromas of all of the mentioned oils and fats. It comes in both a light and dark version, which have similar health properties but can alter in flavor immensely. Containing both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids this oil is great for improving heart health and adding that Asian flavor to your meals. Sesame oil, similar to most of the healthy oils can be used as a skin enhancer as it has been used as a massage oil in India for thousands of years.
Grapeseed oil is derived from the by-products of winemaking, and although it is relatively unused it can be a great healthy cooking fat for the higher temperature preparation needs. Having a higher smoke point than many others, grapeseed oil is excellent for sautéing and baking, taking second place to coconut oil. The neutral flavor profile also lends itself to garlic and herb infusions for a deliciously prepared salad condiment.
Author credits Brandon Amond
Illustrator credits Promethea