Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Slick Stuff

Oil is pretty slick stuff.  The right oils can actually boost our health, while the wrong oils, according to doctors, can do more harm than we know.

Over recent years, health experts have done a complete 180-degrees when it comes to which oils and fats are actually good for us.  Saturated fats used to be considered off limits.  Now they are embraced above other formerly widely accepted oils by many health experts.

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I had been watching a lot of YouTube videos.  With the threat of a virulent virus hanging over our heads, it should come as no surprise that some of the videos I've been watching are health-related.

One thing that all the doctors I have watched seem to agree on is that our first and best line of defense for any virus is our own immune system.  Until we get that optimized, we will always be vulnerable to any virus lurking in the environment.  And the first step in boosting our immunity is to address what we're eating.

Healthy eating habits will do more to improve our overall health and immune response than just about anything.  Choosing nutrient-rich foods over empty calories, and unhealthy items that tax our systems, is the best way to prevent illness and disease.

More and more, health experts have been warning us that some oils we've been ingesting are really not good for us at all.  Some even call them toxic!  Yet these are oils that I'll bet many of us have been using all our lives for cooking or grilling or dressings, and are found in the ingredient lists of many of the packaged products we buy, as well.  The oils they're warning about are highly refined, highly processed oils.

What does a highly refined or highly processed oil mean?  It means that chemicals which may be harmful to us are used to neutralize, deodorize, and de-gum the oil, in order to make it palatable and usable.  The oils may been treated with acid, alkalized, or bleached during processing.

Bad Oils:

So, which oils are highly processed?  The ones they want us to avoid are:
  • Canola (rapeseed or mustard seed oil)
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
Hydrogenated fats, which are oils solidified through hydrogenation, and harmful trans fats:
  • Margarine or shortening
  • Vegetable oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Peanut oil
There go most of the chips I purchase!  Look for chips fried in coconut, avocado or olive oil, instead.

All fats and oils are some combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated Oils are solid at room temperature, do not go rancid very easily, and have a high smoke point.   Saturated fats are usually animal fats or tropical oils, such as coconut oil.  In the old days (and by that I mean just a few years ago), we were told to avoid saturated fats.  Now some of those very saturated oils are being touted for their health benefits, especially coconut oil, which is the preferred all-purpose oil of the health and wellness industry.  Animal fats are also back in a big way, in some of the most popular diets these days such as paleo, carnivore, and keto.

Monounsaturated Oils are liquid at room temperature, do not go rancid easily, and have a moderate smoke point.

Polyunsaturated Oils are always liquid, go rancid easily, and are relatively unstable at high heat or when exposed to light.  These are oils you should never heat or use in cooking.  They may contain both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, such as found in fatty fish.

Good Oils:

Good Saturated Oils:
  • Coconut oil
  • Chicken fat
  • Duck fat (duck-fat fries, anyone?)
  • Beef fat (tallow)
  • Butter from grass-fed cows (like Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter)
  • Ghee (from grass-fed cows)

Good Monounsaturated Oils:
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Algae oil
  • Pork fat (lard)
Good Polyunsaturated Oils:  Always buy cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils in dark containers.
  • Unrefined Seed oils
    • Whole flax seed oil
    • Hemp seed oil
  • Nut oils
    • Walnut oil
    • Almond oil

All industrial seed oils contain a bad Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, and will cause inflammation somewhere in your body.  It is best to avoid them at all costs, which isn't easy since so many processed foods contain these oils.  Canola, corn, soybean, peanut, safflower and sunflower oil are all full of inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids.

So, which oil should you use?  It depends upon what you're going to do with it.

In general, for frying and sauteing, you'll want to use an oil with a high-smoke point (which means it doesn't burn at higher cooking temperatures), and a neutral flavor.  Other oils will impart their own flavor to whatever you're making, so keep that in mind when cooking so that you don't alter the flavor of your food unintentionally.  However, when you're looking to enhance a dish, flavorful oils are the way to go.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The all-around favorite is comprised of mostly oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (which lowers the bad LDL cholesterol), contains antioxidants, and promotes good heart health.  EVOO has a decently high smoke point for saut√©eing, cooking, baking, and making sauces.  The lightly flavorful oil is also excellent for drizzling over foods, making garlic bread, dipping bread into, and making dressings.  Make sure that it is EVOO, which is mechanically pressed, and not a lower-quality olive oil which is highly processed and refined.

Avocado Oil
Like Olive oil above, Avocado oil is high in oleic acid and antioxidants.  Studies have shown that this oil can lower ldL, raise HDL (the good cholesterol), and also promotes hearth health.  It has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, which makes it an excellent choice for frying, grilling, and all general uses.  Make sure that it is pure Avocado oil and not a blend, as inferior refined oils are often an unwelcome addition that compromise all of the health benefits of avocado.  So check those labels!

Coconut Oil
As an oil with a high smoke point, this is another popular all-purpose choice for cooking.  While its flavor is generally not overpowering, it does impart a slight coconut essence to your dishes, so be aware if that is a deal-breaker for you.  While most other seasonings and additions such as onion, garlic, and other spices will totally dominate its flavor, someone who is particularly sensitive may still detect the flavor of coconut.  Coconut oil is the darling of the health and wellness industry.  It's linoleic acid is credited with reducing inflammation throughout the body, although traditional medicine still questions this assertion.  That said, it is still a very versatile oil, used for cooking as well as beauty products for skin and teeth.  Try it in baking, on vegetables, in curry, or even smoothies, coffee and hot chocolate for richness on the keto diet.

Algae Oil
The new kid on the block is Algae Oil, and it is said to be the best choice for your heart.  Algae oil is made from specific marine algae, and like fish oil, is an excellent source of heart-healthy Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty acids.  These fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, improve blood lipid levels, and enhance brain function.  Algae oil is flavorless and has a high smoke point, so it is an excellent oil for frying and sauteing.

Ghee is clarified butter, preferably sourced from grass-fed cows.  Not only does it impart that rich, buttery flavor to anything you're cooking, the grass-fed class is also full of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a natural type of trans fat that is actually good for us.

Flaxseed Oil
This seed oil is a great source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, other than fish, which makes it a good choice for vegans.  Flaxseed oil can lower blood lipid levels and helps to reduce blood pressure.  However this oil goes rancid very quickly, and must be kept in the refrigerator.  It also has a low smoke point, which means it should not be used in cooking.  It is best to use this nutty-tasting oil for dipping, drizzling, and salad dressing.

Walnut Oil
Another excellent plant source of Omega-3s, delicately-flavored Walnut oil is best unheated and used for drizzling or finishing a dish.  Make sure this nutrient-rich oil is expeller- or cold-pressed, and use it for pestos, pastas, salads, or drizzle on top of pumpkin soup.  Walnut oil also should be kept refrigerated to preserve its nutrients and flavor.  Try brushing Walnut oil lightly on sliced pears, and sprinkle with parmesan ... yummy!

Sesame Oil
Because of its high Omega 6 content, sesame oil should be used sparingly.  Fortunately, its intense flavor means we usually don't use much of it.  Cold- or expeller-pressed Sesame oil is rich in antioxidants, and carries a lot of flavor.  It also has a very high smoke point, making it a good choice for high heat, but too much can overpower your dish.  Use this oil in stir fries, asian dishes, or dishes containing nuts to enhance the flavors.

In general, if you want to add flavor, use olive or nut oils to impart their essence.  You can also steep herbs and/or garlic into your favorite olive oil to infuse their flavor into your dishes, your roasted vegetables, salad dressings, marinades, or just for dipping.

Be mindful of the oils you use, and how they are created.  Not all oils are created equal, and as with all the foods we ingest, the more processed and chemically refined these oils are, the greater the impact on our bodies.  As always, the closer to natural we get with our oils, the more healthful they will be.  Our great-grandmothers were right all along ... lard and other natural fats are better for us, after all.


Enjoy previous seasonal blog posts:

Slick Stuff
Using the right oil for your health.
Peas in a Pod
It's not easy loving peas!
Men's Favorites
The care-and-feeding of hungry men is always a priority ... especially on Father's Day!
Happy 4th of July!
Honoring our Independence, our freedom, and the men and women who serve!
Outdoor Spaces
Bringing the indoors outside is just how we want to live in the summertime.
Summer Entertaining ...
the perfect way to entertain.
Camp Summertime!
a.k.a. What did you do during your summer vacation?
The Soundtracks of Summer
What music will be playing through your head this summer to get you into vacation-mode?
Fruit-Infused Waters
Well beyond lemon, refreshing flavored waters for summer
Sunshine In A Jar
Preserved lemons are a game-changer!
Fruit-Picking Season
There's nothing quite as satisfying as growing your own food
The Fruits of Summer
There's fruit in my salad!
Family Heritage Tour
A trip back to the old country in search of the abuelos
Ice Cream Socials
We all scream for ice cream! 
The Buzz About Bees
Bees are precious, industrious and endangered.  We can do our part to make sure we don't lose these amazing creatures.
Get Jiggly With It!
Make every summer party a whole lot more fun with these colorful & spirited shots!
One-of-a-Kind Design
Create your own fabric, gift wrap and wallpaper to take custom designs to a whole new level.
Herb Harvest
There's nothing like growing your own fresh herbs!
Cooking with Herbs
Herbs are making a tasty appearance in some of your favorite desserts!
Food Porn
It has become a national obsession ... we're salivating over food and all the food shows on tv
The Icing on the Cake
Does a bakery really need to make frosted layer cakes?
What's Your Favorite Cake?
If only I could pick just one!
Ana's non-profit, Healing Warriors Program, gives away a state-of-the-art electric wheelchair!
Congrats, HWP!
Healing Warriors Programreceived a huge honor, and we were invited to the Pentagon to see it!
Taking Care of Those Who Serve The suicide rate among our Veterans is tragically sky high.  We can do something about that. Donate if you can!
Healing Warriors Program,
my sister's nonprofit, does very important work for our service members' complete health and wellbeing.

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