In the quest for increased shelf-life and cheap, spreadable products (such as margarine), modern food science has really tinkered with the substance and quality of fats used in our current food supply. Much of what is consumed in terms of processed foods every day has been rendered unhealthy at best, and at worst, unsafe — even to the point of cancer promoting. I won’t bore you with the ins-and-outs of what happens at a molecular level, but in very, very simple terms: bonds within the fats which should be bendy are straightened — and this is incredibly bad news for us. When we consume these altered fats, they change how our cell membranes and organelles behave.
Despite being demonized by popular media for decades, fat is something we all need to include (of the right, healthy types and in the right amounts) in our daily diet. Fat is stored by the body to provide us with an essential source of fuel and insulation (both thermal and protective). It is also used as an important ingredient in many sophisticated processes including body signalling, cell components, and hormones. Heck, even the human brain is made up of roughly 60% fat!
All oils are damaged by high temperatures.
Fats are solid at room temperature, and when processed (extra virgin and cold pressed are always best) or heated they turn to a liquid form we call oil. Oils are used in a variety of ways to enhance flavours, bind ingredients, and provide a slippery barrier between cookware and our food.
Sources of especially good, healthy fats are:
- olive oil
- flax oil
- hemp oil
- nut and seed oils (such as almond, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, etc.)
- fish oils (wild-caught, cold-water fish)
- pumpkin seeds
- coconut oil
While it is important to understand that we should consume some fat daily, surprisingly few oils are deemed safer for high temperature cooking, such as frying and baking.
Here is the short list (in order) of oils least damaged by high temperature cooking:
- coconut oil*
- bacon grease or lard*
- peanut oil
- sesame oil
- olive oil (low temperature, for a very short period of time)
* These are your three best, most highly recommend choices.
Remember to use grass-fed and/or organic fats and oils whenever possible for maximum benefits. We should aim to consume about 2-3 tablespoons of healthy oil or fat per day in order to help balance our blood-sugar levels and maintain brain/body health.
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