Jun 8, 2011

Fats & Oils 101...

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet and provide the building blocks for cell membranes.  Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry.  In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and a host of other processes.


Duck & Goose Fat-  35% saturated fat, 52% monounsaturated fat and about 13% polyunsaturated fat.  These fats are quite stable and are highly prized for frying potatoes.

Chicken Fat- about 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated, and 20% polyunsaturated.  Inferior to goose and duck fat but still used for frying in kosher kitchens.

Lard (pork fat)- 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, and 12% polyunsaturated.  Like duck/goose fat, lard is stable and a preferred fat for frying.  It is an excellent source of vitamin D.  Some researchers believe that pork products should be avoided because they may contribute to cancer.  Others suggest that only pork MEAT presents a problem and that pig FAT in the form of lard is safe and healthy.  (This is my belief as well, so when we do fry our chicken, we use lard!)


Olive Oil-  75% oleic acid (stable monounsaturated fat), 13% saturated fat, and 10% omega-6 as well as 2% omega-3 linolenic acid.  The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures.  Extra virgin  olive oil is also rich in antioxidants.  It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives.  Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don't overdo.  The longer-chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter and coconut oil. 

Peanut Oil- 48% oleic acid, 18% saturated fat, and 34% omega-6.  Like olive oil, peanut oil is relatively stable and therefore appropriate for stirfrys on occasion.  But the high percentage of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use of this oil should be limited.

Sesame Oil- 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, and 43% omega-6 linoleic acid.  It is similar to peanut oil so use sparingly but it can used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat.

Flaxseed Oil- 9% saturated fat, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega-6, and 57% omega-3 linoleic acid.  With this high omega-3 content, it provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today.  It should be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads.

Tropical OilsPalm Oil is about 50% saturated, 41% oleic acid and about 9% linoleic acid.  Coconut Oil is 92% saturated with over two-thirds of the saturated fat as medium-chain fatty acids.  The lauric acid found in coconut milk and mothers milk provides antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  Coconut milk protects tropical populations from bacteria and fungusso prevalent in their food supply.  Because of this lauric acid, it is often used in baby formulas.  These oils are stable at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid. 

Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils- all contain over 50% omega-6 and (except Soybean oil), only minimal omega-3.  Safflower oil contains amost 80% omega-6.  Research continues to accumulate on the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not.  Use of these oils should be strictly limited!  They should NEVER e consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking!  High oleic safflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have composition similar to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and thus are more stable than traditional varieties.  However it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.

Canola Oil- 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega-6, and 10-15% omega-3. The newest oil on the market, canola oil was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Rape seed is considered unsuited for human consumption because it contains a long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own. It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids or processed canola oil are transformed into TRANS fatty acids, similar to those in margerine and possibly more dangerous.

In summary...
Our Choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance! Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from MORE fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Aquaint yourselves with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And finally (MY FAVORITE suggestion), use as much good quality organic butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is wholesome- indeed, an essential- food for you and your whole family...YEAH!

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