23/09/2007 (Vanguard) - As a certified nutritionist and fitness coach, am faced with questions everyday from concerned clients and the most common questions are “what type of oil is best to cook with?” “is margarine better than butter?”
To get a very clear answer to these questions, it is important to know the content of the various types of oil, how they are made, and why they are unhealthy or healthy
To get a clearer picture of which oil or fat is healthy, it is important to know that a little of fat which when heated to a certain degree becomes oil; be it saturated, polysaturated or monosaturated.
Fat is an essential part of any healthy diet and it plays many important roles within the body. To name a few; it is imperative in the uptake and storage of fat-soluble vitamins; it helps protect your internal organs; and it also gives energy. The problem with a lot of people fat intake is two fold. First, an excessive intake of fat can dramatically increase the risk of ill-health-obesity and coronary diseases being the two main culprits. It is recommened that we consume roughly 30% of our daily diet as fat, but a lot of people will find their intake veering towards the 40-45% mark.
Secondly, as with carbohydrate, it is important to consume the right type of fat (so what type of fat?) Fat or Oil add delicious taste and “mouth feel” to foods but often at a dangerous price, there are fats that kills (trans or hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated fats), fats that kill in excess but heal in moderation (saturated and polyunsaturated fats), and fats that heal (omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats)
The fats to be avoided are trans fatty acids, often called “Trans fats”, such as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. You need to limit your consumption of saturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is found mostly in animal fats. It raises significantly the LDL or bad cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are found in products such s mayonaise, salad dressings, heat-processed satflower oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil.
Transfats(hydrogenated and partially hydrgenated fats)
Hydrogenated oils are the cheapest oil that has been bleached, the oil is subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high temperature reaction to force hydrogen through it until it is saturated. Emulsifiers are then added, and the oil is deodorized at high temperatures and steam cleaned.
Margarine is an example of a product containing hydrogenated oils, like white flour, margarine must be bleached to hide it’s gray colour and then dyed and flavoured to resemble butter.
Adding hydrogen atoms to liquid fats and oils make these oils stay in solid form at room temperature, this means that they are much less likely to become rancid, and their shelf life is greatly prolonged. This process however alters the chemical structure of the fat to an unnatural “trans fatty acid”, which become an enemy of the heart by raising LDL(bad) cholesterol level and lowering HDL(good) cholesterol. Trans fats have been found to be more harmful to your arteries than saturated fat, and they are implicated in heart disease and cancer.
Trans fats, called hydrogenated fats are present in margarine shortening and most commercial peanut butter. Margarine in stick form usually has more than 20% trans fatty acids, whereas most tub magarine or soft magarine only contains about 15%.
These bad fats are found in almost evey item in the supermarket: that is some cereals, breakfast bars, crackers, pastries, rolls, processed or packaged foods. Bad fats are also found in the bakery sector, in doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pies etc; many salad dressings contain hydrogenated fats; the best way to avoid these fats is to look for the words “partially hydrogenated” or “ shortening” on labels, if either of these words is on the label, don’t eat the product. Just as we should restuarants that allow smoking, we should also avoid restuarants that continue to cook their food in these deadly fats.
Saturated fats rarely can be found in fruits and vegetables; they are primarily found at a fast-food restuarant (such as fried chicken, hamburgers and so on), and dairy products such as whole-milk products, as well as commercial fried foods and processed foods, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pies and pastries.
Saturated fats are also found in cured meat such as bacon, suasage, ham, hotdogs, cold cuts, salami and perpperoni. Red meats are also usually quite high in saturated fats; SOME VEGETABLE OILS SUCH AS COCONUT OIL, PALM KERNEL OIL, PALM OIL ARE ALSO HIGH IN SATURATED FATS, Men should limit their intake of red meat, men who consume high amount of red meat increase their chances of prostrate cancer by two or three times over men who do not.
Intake of saturated fats should be limited rather than completely avoiding them, because they do provide benefits to the body when consumed in moderation. Saturated fats enhance our immune system and allow calcium to be incorporated into our bones, when consumed in moderation. (In moderation means not more than 7-10% of our coloric intake should come from saturated fats). Moderate amount of saturated fats also protect the liver from toxins, help prevent breast cancer and colon cancer, and help promote weight loss.
Polyunsaturated fats (omega-6 fats)
Polyunsaturated fats oxidize much faster than monounsaturated fats, that is why these fats becomes more rawed so quickly. It is liquid at room temperature and remain in liquid form even when refrigerated or frozen, they are divided into two families: omega-3 fats and the omega-6 fats.
When polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, commercial salad dressing and others are used in cooking, especially deep frying, oxidation occurs even faster. Oxidation also occurs in your arteries as free radicals attack polyunsaturated fats, which are carried in LDL cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated fats are not the worst fats, but they aren’t the best either, they come from healthy sources, but they tend to be overprocessed by the time they reach the consumer. Eating too much polyunsaturated fat increases inflamation, which is associated with heart diseases, arthritis,cancer and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Polyunsaturated fats are essential for life and must be consumed daily in small amounts. (IF YOU MUST USE VEGETABLE OIL, CHOOSE SMALL AMOUNTS OF COLD-PRESSED POLYUNSATURATED FATS i.e CORN OIL, FLAX SEED OIL, SESAME OIL, SOYABEAN OIL AND SUNFLOWER OIL.) . It is best to avoid heat-processed oils and replace your salad dressings with extra-virgin oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic oil.