Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oils - Which to Use, Which to Toss

How many of you cook with oil? Whether you're sauteing onion, baking muffins or popping popcorn, you likely use oil. Oil should be used sparingly as it is high in fat and calories, as well as thick and heavy for your body to digest. While some oils, in moderation, can be healthful, many oils are simply garbage, literally. 

Many oils you find in the store are the dredge from the processing of vegetables. The oils are chemically expeller pressed, refined and often from genetically modified vegetables. There has been much written lately about canola oil. Although it is cheap (which isn't always good), many believe it is actually toxic for human consumption because of the high erucic acid content. While some disagree, namely the Canadian government who exports the oil in massive quantities ($), I am not willing to risk it. There are too many other oils that aren't clouded in suspicion.

Vegetable oil, however, is not one of them. Vegetable oil is usually corn oil or soybean oil, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, the corn and soybeans used in this highly processed oil are almost always genetically modified and usually extracted using a chemical solvent. Genetically modified plants have been modified in laboratories to enhance desired traits, such as resistance to pests and longer growing seasons.The best known example of this is the use of an isolated gene inserted into the corn and soybean plants that produce crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. This new gene enables the corn and soybean plants to produce their own pesticides against insects. If the plant kills its own insects, what do you think it does in your body?

So what oil should you buy?  Always buy organic, cold pressed and unrefined whenever possible. The darker the bottle, the better as light affects nutrients and taste. Expeller pressed isn't the best option because the process heats the oil to over 120 degrees, destroying most health benefits and flavor. Store oils in the refrigerator for maximum shelf life.

Olive oil is considered a "good fat" because it is heart healthy and lowers cholesterol. It is gentle on the digestive system and full of antioxidants. Choose extra virgin as this type retains the most nutrients and flavor and is less processed than regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is best used for marinades, dressings and low-heat sauteing as it smokes (which you don't want) at a lower heat than some other oils. People have used olive oil on their skin and hair for centuries. Used as body oil, shaving oil or in your bath, olive oil has been found to minimize wrinkles and more importantly, lower the risk of skin cancer. 

Grapeseed oil is a good choice for everyday sauteing, frying, baking, marinades and dressings. It has a much lighter taste than olive oil and can withstand higher heat used in frying and sauteing. It lowers the bad cholesterol, is full of antioxidants and is high in several key vitamins. 

Coconut oil is delicious and has been found to have a host of health benefits. It is good for your heart, thyroid, metabolism, and immune system. Although it has saturated fat, it is naturally occurring. As a matter of fact, cultures who use coconut oil and other similar saturated fats have nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease. Coconut oil imparts a coconut flavor, so use sparingly. For example, if a recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for grapeseed oil, I will use 1/2 grapeseed oil and 1/2 coconut oil. It is not only good for baking (and popping popcorn!), but it is incredible for your skin (and smells great!).

Sesame oil is my go-to for any Asian food recipe and can withstand high heat. Perfect for stir-frying or adding a delicate sesame flavor to a marinade or dressing, this oil should be a staple in your pantry. Toasted sesame oil has a stronger flavor than the lighter version. Sesame oil lowers blood pressure, as well as sodium and sugar levels in the blood. It has also been found to slow the growth of melanoma when used topically.

Check out the Recipes page to find recipes using these healthy oils!

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