Let’s talk about Oils! Oils are our fabulous fatty friends and most of us use them in cooking everyday. Now I know that many of you will sit there and see fat as your number one enemy. Surely eating fat will only lead to you getting fat? WRONG!!! Let’s get one thing straight – Fat is your friend. Your body needs it to survive, and by choosing your fats carefully will help it thrive.
Still need some convincing? Here’s a list of why fat are in fact fantastic:-
- Fats fill you up – That’s right by eating more fats your less likely to eat as much food in general. Fats make you feel fuller for longer and can help curb cravings, which means less pointless snacking between meals.
- Fats = Function – There’s many fatty acids that your body can’t produce itself or doesn’t produce enough of. This is where eating the right fats can make up the deficit and help your body function.
- Fats make you Fun – Okay maybe this is a bit of a stretch, they can’t actually make you a comedian, but they do provide you with heaps of energy (and we isn’t more fun when their energetic?). Fats provide twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins and when consumed correctly will get you through your day with ease.
- Fats are vitamins friends – There are many major vitamins which are in fact fat-soluble which means that can only be absorbed with the help of their friends fat. Vitamin A, D and E are all examples of fat soluble vitamins.
- Fats are a Fortress – Did you know that a membrane surrounds every single one of the cells in your body? That membranes job is to keep all the good stuff in and all the bad stuff out, as well as allowing things to flow in and out of the cell when necessary. These membranes are made up of phospholipids, glycolipids and cholesterol – all types of fats!
- Finally fat are just down right essential – The British Nutrition Foundation has provided a recommended daily amount of fat shown below.
Now that you have heard all the fabulous facts about fats I think it’s important to make 1 thing very clear – ‘Not all fats are created equal’. So not all the above facts are true about all fats (sorry that Bacon double cheese burger with fries is actually still bad for you (so if you must consume this remember to do it is extreme moderation!)).
One of the best sources of fats and one that you probably eat without thinking is oils. Most of us cook with them everyday, but have you ever considered if you are using the right one? Here is your guide to which oils to use in cooking and when, and why, and how!
So Let’s Talk About… Oils
Olive oil is by far one of the most well known on this list. Often considered to be one of the healthiest oils due to it’s association with the Mediterranean diet; A title which it fully deserves but only if your using it right.
- Benefits – Olive oil is a heart healthy fat and helps keeps ‘bad’ cholesterol levels down and therefore raising the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in your body. It’s also full of anti-oxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and is easily digested.
- Downsides – Olive oil has a relatively low smoking point. By heating it above 200°C (390°F) not only are you destroying the flavour but also destroying it’s healthy properties, in fact at extremely high temperatures it can even become toxic.
- When to use – Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best for dressings and dips. It can also be used in very low heat cooking but this super oil is always best cool.
Although this oil has been around for years on the beauty market it’s a bit of a new kid on the block in the cooking world. It is becoming more and more widely available in supermarkets and trust me it’s worth seeking out.
- Benefits – Avocado oil is full of good fats and is even lower in saturated fats (bad fats) than olive oil. It’s also loaded with vitamin E which helps balance hormones, thicken hair, repair damaged skin, prevent diseases, improve vision, balance cholesterol, and even help treat people with Alzheimers (Avocado oil is literally the over-achiever of the oil world).
- Downsides – Ummm… we’ll get back to you on this one. (However do make sure you store it in a dark place as bright lights can change it’s chemical composition)
- When to use – At all times!! Not only is this oil delicious and delicate for dressings and dipping, but it also has an unusually high smoking point. This means it’s perfect for roasting, frying and searing proteins.
If you haven’t heard of this big hitter in the oil world then you must have been living under a rock (Seriously where have you been?).
- Benefits – Coconut oil is a bit of an oil power-house too. Coconut oil is a brilliant source of energy and when ingested is used directly for energy instead of being stored as fat. It has also been reported to have thyroid stimulating affects (which affects weight loss), anti-aging properties and can help prevent illnesses and kill harmful micro-organisms. To top it off, if you like coconut flavour then it tastes delicious.
- Downsides – Coconut oil is really high is saturated fats, which are the bad kind, however preliminary research suggests that the fats from coconut oil work differently to other types of saturated fats (in a good way). Coconut oil also has quite a strong taste and can affect the taste of what your cooking if used in large amounts.
- When to use – Coconut oil is brilliant for cooking, roasting and searing as it has a very high smoking point. It can also be used as a butter substitute in baking.
Rapeseed Oil (Canola Oil)
Rapeseed oil is the British representative for oils and it’s a pretty good one for us to have in our corner. It’s mellow with a mild nutty flavour and is one of the fastest growing used vegetable oils in the UK.
- Benefits – It has one of the lowest levels of saturated fats of all the oils (Nearly 50% less than olive oil!!). It also rich in vitamin E and Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 and 6 are both ‘essential fatty acids’ as our bodies aren’t capable of producing them. Both are important for cell membranes and are involved in regulating blood pressure. Rapeseed oil is also one of the cheapest and most widely available of all the good oils on this list.
- Downsides – Although as a fat it is pretty impressive, it is seriously lacking in some other key nutrients such as proteins and vitamins. At the end of the day it is still a vegetable oil and is generally considered unhealthy. Although not generally the case in the uk many canola oils are made using Genetically Modified crops – watch out for this when buying.
- When to use – Only use if you can get your hands on organic cold-pressed stuff (and generally only if avocado and olive oil are not an option). It can be used in dressings and dips but doesn’t have a particularly strong flavour. It is also good for cooking and roasting due to it’s high smoking point.
Flaxseed oil is made from whole flaxseeds and is packed full of goodness but is also a bit of a diva so watch out.
- Benefits – It has a huge amount of omega-3’s and has been proven to to lower blood pressure when consumed daily.
- Downsides – It is highly sensitive. First of all it hates heat and will go rancid quickly. It must be stored in the fridge once opened and if you don’t buy a high quality oil then you really are asking for trouble.
- When to use – Only use if you can get your hands on high quality oil and DO NOT COOK with it!! It is however great for salad dressings. It can also be added to protein shakes if you want to add omega-3 to your diet.
Before we go I would just like to share a last couple of tips with you for buying oils. Regardless of which oil you choose it’s important to follow these 2 rules:-
- Whenever possible choose ‘cold-pressed’ or ‘expeller-pressed’. This means the oils have been pressed at low temperatures and have therefore retained as much of their flavour, benefits and nutrients as possible.
- There’s no such thing as a low-fat oil. I’m sure after reading the benefits of fats none of you are in a rush to go get ‘low fat’ varieties (or at least I hope you aren’t). This is especially true when it comes to oils. Every oil will contain around 120 calories per tablespoon and this is exactly the way they should be. Any oil that is claiming to be less is simply not natural.
Before I go I would like to just remind you that I am not a trained nutritionist and am by no means qualified to advice you on personal nutritional needs. This article is as a result of my own personal interest in nutrition and my own personal experience with foods. The information in this post is primarily a combination of information from credible books and government websites. If you have any concerns about changing your diet please consult a doctor or qualified nutritionist first.