Get the “Fats” On Oils

by Brooke on July 10, 2012

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Oils seem to be one of the main topics of discussion with many of my clients lately.  I was recently interviewed by Beth Roessner, Associate Online Editor, of on this topic.   Here are the questions and answers from our interview:


Beth:  With so many products and information that are pushing people to a fat-free lifestyle, why should people keep fats in their diets?  Why are they important?

Brooke:  Fats serve vital roles in our bodies and help protect our organs, help with nerve transmission, nutrient transport, fat-soluble vitamin intake, and serve as building blocks from everything from hormones to cell membranes.    It is recommended that about twenty to thirty percent of our total daily energy needs or calories should come from fats.  


Beth: Are all oils created equally?  Why do certain oils vary so drastically?

Brooke:  No, all fats are not all fats are created equal.  Some are more healthy for our bodies than others.  The fats to focus on are unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature.  Unsaturated fats include omega-3 and monounsaturated fats.  Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and shellfish.  Monounsaturated fats can be found in olives, avocados, nuts, and oils like olive and canola.  Saturated and trans fat intake should be kept to a minimum for heart health, because they increase the bad cholesterol known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein).  Saturated fats can be found in processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, sausage), dairy, lard, shortening, and tropical oils like coconut and palm.  Trans fats are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods, stick margarine, and foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oil/shortening. 


Beth:  What are ‘smoke points’?

Brooke:  Smoke points are the temperatures at which smoke comes continuously from the surface of heated fats.  These smoke points are important to know for cooking and overall health, because once the fats breakdown into a visible gas the flavor of the food being cooked changes and unhealthy free radicals are produced.  Vegetables oils begin to smoke around 450 degrees Fahrenheit and animal fats begin to smoke at 357 degrees Fahrenheit.  


Beth:  What are some oils that are great for everyday use?

Brooke:  Using oils with a medium smoke point is most beneficial for everyday use, but the type of oil depends on how you are using them. Oils with a medium smoke point that are best for baking and stir frys include:  extra virgin olive oil, and canola, peanut, and grapeseed.  Oils with a medium smoke point that are best for sautéing or low-heat baking include:  corn, soybean, walnut, pumpkinseed, sesame, and hemp.  Oils with a high smoke point that are not recommended in everyday cooking include:  almond, palm, sunflower, and “light” or “refined olive oil. 


Beth: Is it important to rotate what oils are kept in someone’s cooking arsenal? 

Brooke: Having oils at home that are high in monounsaturated fats are recommended for most of your daily cooking and baking.  Monounsaturated fats, as mentioned before, can be found in olives, avocados and nuts.  They can also be found in large amounts in extra virgin olive and canola oils.  It is also nice experimenting with other medium smoke point oils that can add a new flavor to favorite dish.  I really enjoy purchasing extra virgin olive oils at specialty stores that have been infused herbs and spices.  With just 1-2 teaspoons of oil a stir-fry becomes infused with flavor. 


Beth: What else is important to know about oils? 

Brooke:  It is important to choose an oil for both the type of cooking you are doing, as well as, your health.  However, don’t forget that portion size can be the deciding factor between what is healthy and unhealthy.  Measure out your portion of oil before adding it to the pan.  Too many calories coming from even healthy fats is too many.   For example, every tablespoon of olive oil contains about 120 calories.  A serving of oil is only one to two teaspoons per person.   


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