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Lets Hear it for Real Fat!

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Fats are hydrophobic. In other words, fats repel water. Even oil-based emulsions like mayonnaise rely on a third party to hold each tiny droplet of oil in suspension—egg yolk, mustard, or certain starches are common choices. Despite what some folks tell you, food fried at higher temperatures actually absorb more oil than those fried at cooler temperatures.  Natural oils and fats are traditional cooking mediums.  Today’s best options are cold pressed, extra virgin oils, and organic humanely raised animal fats.  The more filtered an oil, the lower the mineral and polyphenol content. Always buy oils that are solvent-free.

Fats conduct heat and can do so at higher temperatures than water. When you baste a roast in fatty pan drippings, that coating functions as a temperature buffer, allowing your food to heat evenly and preventing the exterior from drying out before the interior is fully cooked. Under normal conditions, water cannot be heated past its boiling point of 212° F at sea level, whereas fats can reach temperatures of 400-500° F.

Fats lubricate food preventing sticking to cookware surfaces.

Fats add or enhance flavor and enhance textural nuances of foods. This is vital for “mouth feel.” Many of the flavor compounds that make herbs and aromatics such compelling seasonings are what we call fat-soluble, meaning they will actually spread and coat your tongue better when they are immersed in lipids. Using fat in anything from marinades to braises helps coax out, layer, and evenly distribute flavors.

Monounsaturated oils, specifically olive oil increase the nutrients available through digestion. The tradition of tomatoes and olive oil is well supported by research; the antioxidant content of the tomatoes increases when combined with olive oil.

Traditionally, oils are extracted from nuts and seeds through mechanical crushing and pressing. If bottled immediately, the oil is a cold-pressed “raw” or “virgin” oil, which tends to retain its natural flavor and color. Virgin in the case of olive oil also signifies only the perfect fruits were used. Unrefined oils have higher levels of minerals, enzymes, and other compounds highly sensitive to heat and tend to be susceptible to rancidity; these are the oils best-suited to drizzling, dressings, and lower temperature cooking.

To produce oil with a high smoke point, manufacturers use industrial-level refinement; bleaching, filtering, and high-temperature heating to extract and eliminate extraneous compounds. This produces a neutral-flavored oil with a long shelf life and a higher smoke point.

Clarified butter and ghee follow the same basic concept: a process designed to extract more heat-sensitive components; milk solids—from fat to raise its smoke point.    When heated past its smoke point, fat starts to break down, releasing free radicals.

 

Health Benefits of Traditional Fats

Fats speak to the integral health of our whole body. Without healthy fats, we would not exist. [1]

  • Fats give your cells structure.
  • They are a significant source of fuel for your body.
  • Fats are needed to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene.
  • You need healthy fats for optimum brain, nerve, and heart function.
  • Fats make hormones and help to regulate them.
  • Fats are essential for more youthful skin.
  • Fats act as a cushion for your organs.

 

Olive Oil is not only one of the oldest oils still in use for cooking, but it also has some impressive science to support its use for health. The unrefined olive oil contains minerals, vitamins and compounds that serve as anti-inflammatories. This is especially important when it comes to brain health. [2], [3], [4]  The antioxidants in olive oil are essential for aiding the digestive system in absorbing nutrients found in vegetables. Especially those high in carotenoids; winter squash, carrots, tomatoes, lycopene: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, kale and xanthine; dark greens, cruciferous vegetables, chard.

For a maximum flavor reach for extra virgin olive oil, you may want several types on hand providing a delicate fruity or strong peppery flavor.  For times when you don’t want a lot a pronounced flavor, you can use “Classic” olive oil or “Pure.”

How you plan to use each type of olive oil matters because the flavor is affected by cooking. Olive oils, especially extra-virgin, have a varying range of smoke points, this depends on the type of olive, where it was grown, and how it was produced.

The International Olive Council (IOC) in Madrid, Spain, sets the grades and standards for world olive oil trade, which members of the North American Olive Oil Association agree to follow. [5]

To Traditional Foods made with Care and Intention, Flavored with Love.

 

Our Journey With Food Cookery BookExcerpt from Our Journey with Food Cookery Book

[1] https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/facts-on-fats-dietary-fats-and-health

[2] Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory, protects brain against Alzheimer’s;  June 21, 2017,  Temple University Health System: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170621103123.htm

[3] Extra‐virgin olive oil ameliorates cognition and neuropathology of the 3xTg mice: role of autophagy; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553230/

[4] Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort; http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2017/01/04/WNL.0000000000003559.short?sid=f6a60041-6b89-41fe-827d-49a0f92359fa

[5] Grades of Olive Oil; https://www.aboutoliveoil.org/grades-of-olive-oil-video?utm_campaign=olive%20oil%20videos&utm_content=77894857&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook

 

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