Oils and Fats: Naughty or Nice?
By Krista Elliott
During the holidays, a lot of us spend more and more time in the kitchen. Whether we’re putting the final touches on our Christmas cookies or planning out our dinner menu, the odds are good that you’re wearing a path in your kitchen floor this time of year.
No matter what’s on your menu, though, there’s one item that sees heavy use: Oil. Lard, shortening, butter, oil, sprays: They add richness, keep foods from sticking to your cookware, and are what makes your biscuits and pastry so flaky and delicious.
When it comes to oil, however, not all of them are created equal. Some oils are simply better suited to certain jobs than others. One thing we might not think of, however, is how these different forms of oil affect our health. All oil is high in calories, but some oils hold surprising health benefits. And then there are other oils that, due to their health hazards, should be used sparingly (or avoided altogether).
Oils: Naughty or Nice?
All oils are made up of fatty acids, which have specific chemical types. Those types fall into three categories: Saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. It may surprise you to know that ALL fats contain all three types. They’re simply classified by which type is primary, or most.
So which type of oils should you always have on hand? Here are the three healthiest picks:
Olive Oil: Rich in antioxidants and flavor, olive oil is the reigning champion. Extra-virgin is the best bet for salads or dipping, while virgin and pure can take a little more heat, making them great for sautéeing. Olive oil can’t take super-high heat, though, so forego it for things like searing.
Canola Oil: This light-tasting oil is your kitchen workhorse. It has healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while still holding a moderately high smoke point and resistance to rancidity, making it a solid choice for just about any type of cooking or baking.
Walnut Oil: This nutty-tasting oil is a bit pricier than most, but a little goes a long way. Full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it is marvelous drizzled on veggies, or added to some canola oil when baking (try it in carrot cake!).
And you might be wondering about your morning toast. Which is better: Butter or margarine? As a general rule
, margarine is better than butter, due to having much less saturated fat. However, hard margarine often contains trans fats
, which is the Dolores Umbridge
of fats: Seemingly wholesome, but pure evil at its core.
A little bit of "bad" fat every once in awhile won't hurt you, but for everyday use, why not give yourself the gift of keeping it heart-healthy?