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By Shane Young | February 16, 2015 |
The first, and arguably most important ingredient of any dish is the oil you cook with. While we often give a lot of thought to the foods we cook, we don’t stop to think about what we’re cooking our foods in nearly enough.
Like a tire needs rotation, so do our cooking oils! Rotating through a few high quality saturated fats and oils can help our bodies overcome food intolerances and even discover sensitivities. I recommend rotating through the following saturated fats and healthy plant-based oils depending on the temperature at which you’re cooking your food.
Cooking Oil Stability
When preparing meals at high heat, use oils and saturated fats that are stable at high temperatures to avoid oxidation. Why? When oils oxidize, they react with oxygen and form free radicals which are harmful, nutrient-deficient compounds you don’t want to consume. Free radicals are considered dangerous products of cellular metabolism because they can cause atherosclerosis, cancer, premature aging, and inflammatory disease.
An oil’s resistance to oxidation depends on its composition, specifically the amount of saturated fatty acids it contains. The fatty acid molecules of saturated fats are comprised of single bonds, monounsaturated fats have one double bond, and polyunsaturated fats have two or more bonds.
Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are heat stable, meaning they don’t oxidize quickly and should be used for high heat cooking. However, the double bonds in polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats are heat-sensitive and should be avoided when preparing foods at higher temperatures.
Let’s take a closer look at some of my earlier recommendations!
Coconut oil is your best bet when cooking at higher temperatures because over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated. Admittedly, I had a hard time with coconut when I first started, but after a few tries, there’s nothing I like better than a flank steak cooked in coconut oil…yum!! It also has numerous health benefits (post to come!) and has been shown to boost metabolism and can actually keep you feeling fuller longer compared to other cooking fats! Hey, you can even smear a little on your skin while you’re cooking for a radiant glow.
Ghee (Grassfed, Organic)
Originating in India, Ghee has become increasing popular in Western kitchens due to its stability during high heat cooking and cardiovascular health benefits. It’s basically butter that’s been melted at a low temperature to remove the water content, lactose, and proteins, leaving you with a nutty, nutrient-dense butterfat. This fat is great for those of you who are sensitive to diary.
Yes, I am recommending you cook with butter! It’s another excellent choice because it contains over 96% saturated and monounsaturated fats. It’s rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate, both of which have potent health benefits. CLA has been shown to lower body fat in humans and butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut health. Be sure to use butter from grass-fed cows which contains more Vitamin K2 and CLA.
Lard (Animal Fats)
The fatty acid content of animals varies based on what they consume. If they eat lots of grains, the fats will be polyunsaturated (not good)! However, if they are pasture-raised or grass-fed, their fatty acid content will contain more saturated and monounsaturated fats. This is the reason why animal fats from humanely-raised animals are excellent options for cooking. You can buy ready-made lard at most local grocers or you can save the drippings from any meat you cook. Bacon drippings…delicious.
My mouth is watering just thinking about cooking with duck fat. A versatile fat, it can be used to turn nearly anything into a delicious masterpiece. Try using it to brown your potatoes, or on a delicate roast. Like lard, duck fat is comprised mainly of monounsaturated fats and most of it is in the form of linoleic acid, which keeps cells healthy, boosts calcium absorption, and aids in kidney function. You can get great duck fat on Wednesday nights at the Castro Farmer’s market at the Prather Ranch Meat Co. stall so definitely check it out!
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms and is comprised mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Unrefined Red Palm Oil is best as it is incredibly rich in Vitamins A, E, Coenzyme Q10, and other nutrients. It has a pretty mild, buttery flavor, and is used in a lot of vegetable-based dishes.
Nut and Seed Oils (Walnut, Avocado, etc.)
Each nut or seed oil has its own chemical makeup and while most have high levels of polyunsaturated fats, they can be used for low heat cooking, particularly olive oil. Due to the chemical fragility of nut oils, they are best suited as a base for dressings, vinaigrettes, and in salads to retain the most antioxidants, vitamins, and flavor. Check out these great recipes!
Remember, rotating your fats and oils is the key to good health and digestion. As a culture, we tend to live very stressful lives and stress is the leading cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome. A conscious rotation will keep your your body and mind on track and feeling great even through stressful times.
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