Tuesday, March 9, 2010

fats & oils

Last night was my class on fats & oils titled "The Good, the bad & the Ugly". There is alot of information to know about these two topics. There is alot of misunderstood info. out there too. I was excited for this class because I have looked into these things on my own and found it overwhelming but very necessary and important. Let's see if I can sum things up for you.

Our body's cell need fat. They need the right kinds of healthy fats. The brain is made up of 70% fat. 15,000 products have come out onto the grocery store shelves in the past couple of decades claiming to be fat free. Examples are fat free cookies,salad dressings (which explain that to me since most of them are made with some kind of oil),etc. What these products are doing is playing on our misinformed selves who believe that any fat in a food will make us fat and is unhealthy. Then they load that food up with sugar.
There are four main types of fats. They are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated & trans-fatty acids.
There are a few types of fatty acids and they are Omega 3, Omega 6 & Omega 9.
Monounsaturated fats are linked to cholesterol regulation in the blood which supports good cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean diet is high in these fats. Examples of these oils are Olive,Canola, Avocado and Sunflower. These are stable oils and are usually good for cooking with the exception being Olive Oil. Olive Oil is a fragile oil especially if it is extra virgin and is best used as a dressing after cooking. It can take very low heat around 320 maximum so it is ok for sauteing or making sauces. Foods containing this fat are walnuts, almonds, avocados & olives.
Polyunsaturated fats include the essential omega3 & 6 fatty acids. Fatty acids that are essential means we must get them from our diet because our body doesn't make them. These oils strengthen our cell structures and assist our bodies in preventing stroke & heart attack.Oils that are a good source of Omega 3 are Flaxseed oil,fish oil,walnut oil, & hemp oil. These are not cooking oils and are fragile so they need to be refrigerated and exposure to oxygen kept to a minimum.
Saturated fats have two main sources. They either come from animals or are plant based. In the U.S. most of what we consume are long chain, "artery clogging" animal based saturated fats. Plant based saturated fats are a short & medium chain fatty acid which our bodies can use for energy. This is a reason that oils like coconut oil is popular with athletes. These fats don't go rancid rapidly. Animal products,tropical oils & dairy are where they can be found.These fats raise blood cholesterol.
Trans fats are the ugly fats and our "worst enemy". They are formed during the hydrogenation
process. This means cellular chains of fat are artificially altered to create a more solid,stable product or to give it a longer shelf life. This results in a fat that is almost impossible for our bodies to break down. examples of transfats are found in stick margarine,dried potatoes, salad dressings, breakfast cereals, fried foods, processed foods,animal based products, candy, prepared cakes, cookies & pies. Transfats are associated with high risks of cancers, diabetes, immune system disorders, inflammation in the body, etc. It is recommend that we get only 2 grams of transfat per day. A serving on McDonald's french fries contains 23 grams of transfat and a serving of KFC french fries contains 16 grams.
Omega 3 fatty acids are critical to our bodies. Our eyes, skin, hair,heart, brain,joints & nerves need them. This fat is essential meaning our bodies do not make it so our diet must provide it.
Omega 6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils like soy, walnut & corn. Omega 6 oils break down into Arachadonic acid and Gamma Linoleic acid. We did not discuss this last night but I have read that if the omegas are out of balance than omega 6 is a proinflamatory. The ratio of omega3 to omega 6 should be 1:2 or 1:4 but the standard American diet is more like 1:10 or 1:20 mostly because of processed foods. Omega 6 sources are grapeseed oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil.
Omega 9is are monounsaturated fats that do occur naturally in our bodies. They are also found in olive oil,canola oil, sunflower oil and almond oil. Omega 9 helps offset the omega 6 over consumption of oils like corn & soy. Omega 9 sources are avocado oil, almond oil,olive oil.
Keeping in mind that some of our common oils like canola,corn & soy are now made up from GMO crops unless otherwise noted on the bottle or organic.

Oils that are refined have been thoroughly filtered and are stable cooking oils. The nutrient content is reduced. Unrefined oils are lightly filtered and have retained their nutrient content and flavor. Thus they may contain sediment and appear cloudy.
Cold pressed oils have been extracted using a stone or steel rollers. Expeller pressed oils have been extracted by drilling the seeds for oil. They are minimally exposed to light & oxygen. Extra Virgin means the oil comes from the first pressing and these oils contain high levels of particulates that will react with heat. They are best left to use as dressings or sauces after the food is cooked.
Coconut oil is a sat. fat but because it is plant based it is broken down easily in the body and contains healthful nutrients.It is a medium heat oil which makes it good for baking.
It is the type of fat the total that plays a role in weight.
Many commercial oils are chemically extracted using a toxic solvent for which they have to be further treated to remove that toxin. They are also bleached and deodorized. A recommended brand of oils is Spectrum.
If your oil smokes in the pan throw it out and start over.
In my kitchen I have grapeseed oil to cook with, coconut oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil for salad dressings and sauces. I hope this info. is useful. There is alot more to know on this topic.

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