Is there such a thing as healthy dietary fat? There are different schools of thought on this issue. But first an introduction to a few terms
Saturated fats, like butter and shortening, are solid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fats are always liquid. They include oils like canola and walnut oil.
Monounsaturated fats, including olive oil, are liquid at room temperature and become solid or cloudy when cold.
From a calorie perspective, all fats and oils have the same profile – 9 calories per gram.
Conventional nutritional wisdom says that saturated fats are related to heart disease and high cholesterol and should be avoided and replaced with olive oil or even canola oil. Others argue the exact opposite – that butter, especially grass-fed butter, is actually heart-healthy and more nutrient dense and therefore preferred over oils.
The body needs a certain amount of fat for proper brain functioning. Dietary fats are also crucial for women in their childbearing years.
But is any oil or saturated fat truly healthy? All oils like canola, safflower, sunflower oil and corn oil are highly refined and processed. Even butter is processed, in the sense that it doesn’t appear in nature. Additionally, some nutrition experts say that it’s a mistake to extract the oil from an otherwise healthy whole food (such as olive oil from olives). Whole foods are healthy exactly because they work as a complete nutritional unit.
An alternative school of thought says that the only healthy fats are those that are not processed at all, but rather naturally appear in plant-based foods. These healthy fats come from leafy greens, soy products, seeds, nuts, avocados, olives and coconuts.
If you do your homework (and there is a LOT of conflicting information out there!) and decide to minimize or eliminate your use of oils altogether, you’ll need to adjust the way you cook. Here are three easy tips to cooking without oil.
- Vegetables can be sautéed in water or vegetable broth. I didn’t believe it would work until I tried it myself. Alternately, steaming vegetables will cook them without oil while helping to preserve their nutrients.
- Applesauce or bananas can be used to replace the oil in many baked goods.
- Use silicon mats or parchment paper for roasting vegetables and avoid the need to grease the pan.
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Author: Rebeca Espinoza