(ARA) - You may have noticed an ever-expanding choice of oils
at your local grocery store over the past few years. While once
your options were limited to corn, canola, safflower and maybe
olive oil, now your choices include walnut, almond, grapeseed
and other types of oil as well. You may have even splurged on a
bottle of fragrant truffle oil.
Each of these oils has its place in the kitchen and serves a
specific function. Understanding which oil is suited for which use
will help you to make the best choices for you and your family.
Also, understanding the difference between the so-called “good”
and “bad” fats will allow you to cook and eat more healthfully.
“For years, Americans were told to consume as little fat as
possible. Now, experts recognize that while too much fat is bad
for you, some fat is a necessary part of our diet; fats are a
source of essential nutrition and flavor,”, Neil Blomquist CEO of
Spectrum Naturals, a Petaluma, Calif.-based manufacturer of
organic vegetable oils and healthy condiments.
The trick is to consume the right kind of fat in the appropriate
amount. When it comes to calories, all oils are the same. They
each contain 9 calories per gram -- this includes oils labeled
“light,” a term which refers only to the oil’s taste, not its nutritional
makeup. But some oils are better for you than others.
Fats and oils are either saturated or unsaturated; unsaturated
fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. “No oil
is completely made of one fat; they all are a combination of the
three fats in different percentages, based on the nut, seed or
fruit from which the oil is derived,” explains Blomquist.
Saturated fats, which come mainly from animal sources,
increase cholesterol levels. Tropical oils such as coconut and
palm are two non-animal examples of saturated fat.
Hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening
are saturated fats that have been chemically transformed from
their normal liquid state into solids. During the hydrogenation
procedure, extra hydrogen atoms are pumped into unsaturated
fat. This creates trans fatty acids, the most unhealthy type of fat
found to be the number one cause of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are known to help reduce the levels of
LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering the good HDL
cholesterol. The most widely used oils that are high in
monounsaturates are olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.
Polyunsaturated fats, made up of omega-3 and omega-6
essential fatty acids are also considered relatively healthy and
include corn, soybean, safflower, and grapeseed oil. . Oils high
in omega-3 rich polyunsaturate fat such as walnut oil, flaxseed
oil and canola oil are a good addition to the diet since our body
require omega-3s for good health but cannot manufacturer
them. New studies show incorporating omega-3s into your diet
reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
“The way the oil is extracted also plays a role in how healthy it
is,” notes Blomquist. Oil is extracted using one of two methods
-- mechanical or chemical. Chemical extraction, often called
solvent extraction, is the most common and cost efficient
method. It employs high heat and a series of chemical
processes, primarily exposure to hexane gas, to remove and
refine the oil.
In mechanical extraction, called cold pressed or expeller
pressed, oil is squeezed from the source, usually with hydraulic
presses. This minimal exposure to heat preserves the natural
flavor of the oil but limits the yield, making mechanically
extracted oils more expensive than chemically extracted oils.
“We use only mechanical extraction, to maintain the nutrients
and health benefits of our oils,” says Blomquist.
Just as each oil has a unique nutritional makeup, they also have
distinct flavor components and smoke points, making some oils
more appropriate for certain uses than others.
Heating oil past its smoke point can cause it to have an off
flavor, lose its nutritional value and turn the once healthy oil into a
trans fat laden heart disease machine. Oils that can take high
temperatures make good all purpose cooking oils. Choose from
canola, sunflower and peanut for high-heat uses such as searing
and frying. Medium-high heat oils are good for baking, sautéing
and stir-frying; try grapeseed, safflower or sunflower oil. For
sauces, lower-heat baking and pressure cooking, medium-high
heat oils are best. Good choices are olive oil, corn oil,
pumpkinseed oil and walnut oil.
“There are some oils that should never be heated,” Blomquist
points out. Rather, These oils, found on the supermarket shelves
in the nutritional supplement category in the refrigerator, can
also be used as condiments.Use them in dips and dressings, or
add to a dish after it has been removed from heat. For example,
add walnut oil, with its nutty flavor, to your salad; or add sesame
oil to your stir-fry after its done cooking to add extra flavor. Other
oils to use unheated are Normally found in capsule form wouldn’t
apply), flax, evening primrose, borage, black currant, hemp and
wheat germ oils. This is also a good way to incorporate
essential fatty acids into your diet.
Mother's Earth Essential Dressing
8 ounces Spectrum extra virgin organic olive oil
4 ounces Spectrum organic flaxseed oil
2 to 3 ounces Spectrum brown rice vinegar
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon Spike or other natural seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash of soy sauce
Tarragon, parsley, rosemary to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a blender. Serve on salads,
sandwiches and more. Remember to shake well before serving.
be safely stored in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 2 cups.
To extend the shelf life and preserve the nutritional value of
culinary oils, store them in the refrigerator once they’ve been
opened. Oils rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids such as flax,
walnut, pumpkin and other nutritional oils should be protected
from heat and light whether or not they have been opened. For
other types of oil, a dark, cool pantry is a good storage option.