Guide to Fats & Oils
Fats & oils are made from building blocks of fatty acids. Fatty acids affect health in different ways.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) have healing properties that are crucial for maintaining health. There are two types of EFAs: omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Fatty acids like the omega 3 family promote normal cell growth and function, thus helping to maintain healthy tissues and prevent degenerative disease. To maintain overall health, it is a good idea to keep the dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in balance. This means consuming approximately 10 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. To achieve more of a healthy balance select nutrient-dense, whole-foods high in omega 3 fats.
Monounsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature but start to solidify at refrigerator temperatures. They easily combine with oxygen in the air to become rancid; therefore it is best to store them in the refrigerator. When substituted for saturated fats in the diet, monounsaturated fats may help to reduce overall cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated oils or omega 6 fatty acids are liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. These fats are essential for health, but excessive amounts may promote inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.
Saturated fats and trans-fats are the main dietary factors for raising blood cholesterol.
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. When consumed in excess, foods high in saturated fat can promote inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Hydrogenated fats & oils, and trans fats are a result of food manufacturing. During food processing fats may undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation that results in the formation of trans-fats. This process changes liquid oil, naturally high in unsaturated fatty acids, to a solid and more saturated form that may be as harmful to health as naturally occurring saturated fats. Many commercial products contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – read ingredient labels on products to avoid consuming these harmful oils. Also, be aware that most restaurants and fast-food chains use hydrogenated oils in the making of fried foods.
Tips to Reduce Saturated Fat Intake:
• Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans-fat and/or cholesterol, such as full-fat milk products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and egg yolks.
• When consuming meat, use lean cuts and trim excess fat. Remember, lean cuts of meat still contain saturated fat even after trimming the excess. Limit portions to 3 ounces.
• Avoid consuming the skin of game birds (it is a high source of saturated fat).
• Use a fat separator (strainer) when making gravies or soup stock.
• Avoid frying or fried foods. When exposed to high heat during frying or cooking, most vegetable oils can form toxic products that can promote cell injury
• Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose 5 or more servings per day.
• Eat a variety of whole grain products. Choose 6 or more servings per day.
• Eat fish at least twice a week, particularly fatty fish.
• Include fat-free and low-fat milk products, beans, and skinless poultry and lean meats.
• Choose fats and oils with 2 grams or less saturated fat per tablespoon, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean and olive oils.
• Avoid processed food products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the list of ingredients.
• Avoid the use of hydrogenated shortenings. Choose those made from vegetable fat such as corn oil or canola oil.
• Use reduced-fat or no-fat dressings for salads, dips and marinades.
• Remember to count the “hidden fat” in bakery and snack foods as well as the fats used in cooking and on vegetables and breads.
• Remember that coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fat, even though they are vegetable oils and have no cholesterol.
• Use cooking styles that add little or no fat to food, and ask to have foods cooked that way when eating out.
• Read ingredient lists and food labels carefully. Pay attention to serving sizes.
• Substitute fish, vegetable or fat free chicken stock for part or all of the oil in a recipe.
• Onions sautéed in their own juice and pureed with light miso can be substituted for butter or margarine on toast or bread.
• A very loose oatmeal puree (1 c of rolled oats to 4 c of water) can be substituted for milk or cream in cream soup or gravy recipes.
• 2 egg whites can be substituted for each whole egg called for in a recipe.
• Use fats and oils sparingly. And use the ones lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol for cooking, baking and in spreads.
• Broil, bake, boil, or water sauté foods instead of frying. If frying, use minimal amounts of olive or canola oil. To water sauté instead of stir frying in oil, put 1/2 to 1 cup of water or stock into a wok or skillet, and bring to a rapid boil. Quickly add vegetables and keep stirring over high heat until done.
• Try “better butter” in place of butter. Use sparingly; it still contains saturated fat.
Better Butter Recipe:
Blend 1/4 cup of softened (or warmed) butter with
1/8 to 1/4 cup of oil such as olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, or almond oil
Spice up “better butter” by adding any spice of your choice: fresh garlic, hot chili pepper, tarragon, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon, honey, vanilla, or bitter orange oil