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Friday, November 27, 2009

Making The Switch

When I started studying about healthy fats about six years ago, I realized that I was using very unhealthy fats.  I was buying butter (went through a very short phase on margarine because it's so cheap, glad that didn't last long), but I was using canola for cooking.  I read Dr. Mary Enig's very in-depth book, Know Your Fats and my eyes were opened!  At the same time, my suspicions about butter were confirmed.  Yeah!  Butter really was better for you.  I learned how bad canola is and why.  I learned that of all the vegetable oils, peanut oil is the most stable.  It contains omega-6 fatty acids, whereas the other vegetable oils contain a combination of omega-6 and omega-3.  I know, I know, we hear a lot about omega-3 and how good they are for us.  BUT, omega-3 oils are damaged when heated.  All the vegetable oils in the general grocery store are very refined and have been heated to high temperatures.  Omega-6 oils are not damaged as bad with heat.

So, I switched to peanut oil for most of my cooking.  It has a high smoke point and thus makes nice crispy french fries and is great for stir fry, which is done at a high temperature.

But that was six years ago and I have since learned that while peanut oil is better than canola and soybean oil, it isn't the best.  In fact, consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids is detrimental to our health, one example is inflammation.  We hear a lot about this lately, how inflammation is at the heart of a lot of diseases, click here for a great article on that topic.  Then I read this article in Prevention magazine that said omega-6 oils are responsible for a slower metabolism and fat storage.  I don't know about you, but I don't need a slower metabolism!  So I started looking for alternatives.

I have used tallow for our french fries quite a few times now and I'm happy with it.  Best of all, my picky family is happy with it.  :)  I decided to try making my homemade croutons with coconut oil instead of peanut oil and they turn out great.  Next up was hash browns.  These are the shredded potato variety, not those pre-formed patties--those are loaded with trans fat.  Last Sunday I tried using half coconut oil and half butter (because I needed them to brown, coconut oil alone doesn't brown very well) and they, too, turned out great.

On Monday night I tried making fried rice with coconut oil.  I have always used peanut oil.  There were pros and cons.  On the positive side, I was happy that the oil didn't smoke at all.  I drizzled the oil in the pan immediately before adding the eggs to scramble and the rice to fry.  If I had left it very long, it would have smoked (coconut oil has a lower smoke point than peanut oil).  Another positive was that this seemed to be a good fat for keeping the rice from sticking to the pan.  But we lose points in the taste category.  The coconut flavor was too predominate.  My family wasn't thrilled.  My son hates coconut oil (but I do require he take a dose everyday for eczema, he just holds his nose).  My husband is a picky eater and didn't care for the taste, although we did eat the entire batch of rice.  I am going to buy a refined coconut oil for this recipe, it won't have a coconut flavor.  This will still be healthier than peanut oil, so I am happy.  :)

Remember, we all need to be taking our babysteps, don't get stuck in a rut.  None of us has "arrived."  Keep changing, keep learning, keep growing.

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