It is no secret that the fat free craze is one of the worst things to happen to our society. Did you know the solid weight of your brain is 60 percent fat? You need the right fat to keep your brain and body healthy, and the right oils play a vital role in this. But figuring out which oils are best to eat uncooked on a salad, and which ones are safe to cook with can be tricky. It can be even trickier to figure out which ones to avoid all together when you factor in misleading marketing messages.
So let’s take a look at a few of the top four points to consider about fat and oil.
1. It is important to know about omega-3 vs. omega-6 fatty acids and here’s why:
The first thing to know is that they are both referred to as “essential fatty acids” “essential” being the operative word. Not only are they essential to the health of your brain, heart, skin, and hormones, but they must be consumed through food.
• Omega-3s, it’s true that certain fats (for example, trans fats and some saturated fats) do contribute to heart disease and other unwanted conditions, some kinds of fats—such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats—are actually necessary for optimal health. They help our heart, brain, and body function well; and protect us from disease. Although it sounds paradoxical, we actually need some dietary fat in order to burn body fat. In addition, extreme low-fat diets are associated with increased risk of depression, suicide, and neurodegenerative diseases.
• Omega-6 fats are necessary, but can be harmful when eaten in excess, so they are good and bad. They are found in most vegetable oils (soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn, and canola), as well as many fried foods, cereals, and whole-grain breads. Omega-6 fats contribute to muscle health.
2. While Canola is one of the main commercial oils, it is not without controversy. Here’s why:
• Canola is a made up name, stemming from the words “Canada” (a big producer) and “oil.” More than 90 percent of the canola grown in the U.S. is genetically modified (and it is all genetically engineered). This means the canola is sprayed with pesticides. If that wasn’t enough, a chemical solvent is required to extract the oil from the plant, after which point it is “washed” and deodorized with more chemicals. Watch out for most commercial vegetable oils Vegetable oils in general are not the best choices for health (olive oil is an exception). Most commercial vegetable oils are bleached and processed using chemicals. This processing can cause increased inflammation in the body and a myriad of health issues. Because these processed oils oxidize quickly. Also, safflower, sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils are a few examples of vegetable oils that contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
3. Processing matters It’s critical to read labels and be careful when choosing oils.
Knowing how the oil was extracted from it’s source makes all the difference. In general, look out for the word “blended” on labels—this means the oil contains other vegetable oils or additives. These label terms indicate how the oil was processed, or the source of the oil:
Cold-pressed oils are produced by crushing or pressing the seed or nut and forcing out the oil without the use of heat. This is considered a much healthier option and tends to taste more like the source of the oil because the oil hasn’t been stripped of its natural nutrients, antioxidants, and flavor.
Unrefined vs. refined: Unrefined processing uses minimal heat and does not include bleaching or deodorizing. Refined oils have been processed through heat, color stripping, and a deodorizing process.
Extra Virgin is the most pure form of olive oil. It has been cold pressed and has not gone through bleaching and deodorizing.
Virgin olive oil is made using the same process, but with riper olives. It has a lighter flavor and a slightly higher smoke point. Some chefs like using it for cooking at low temperatures.
4. You don’t always need to use oil for sautéing.
Vegetable broth can often be used for sautéing instead of oil. Another oil alternative is ghee or butter from grass-fed cows. These products have a high smoke point and are easily accessible.
For more detailed information about oils with a list of smoke points, pros and cons, and cooking suggestions check out The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook here.
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