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Proper Cooking Methods Will Preserve Vital Nutrients in Fats and Oils

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As we have been learning, fats and oils are essential parts of our diet that provide energy fuel and other important benefits such as antimicrobial actions.    Our bodies require all types of fats to form well functioning cellular membranes and to support brain and nerve health.  Fats can oxidize rapidly when exposed to air, light, and heat and this causes a negative chain reaction creating free radicals (unstable damaging molecules) and some trans-fats (less desirable forms of fats that are not as usable by the body).

Fried foods are favorites in their many forms – fried chicken, French fries, stir fries, and even fried cheese.  Frying is not a recommended form of cooking because of the damage that occurs to frying oils.  If frying is still desired, the best fats/oils to use are coconut, palm, palm kernel, cocoa butter, and butter in small amounts.  These fats have a higher heat tolerance and have lower damage values according to Udo Erasmus in his book, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill (1993, p. 126).  Essential fatty acids found in nut and seed oils are highly damaged by frying, so avoid using these oils.

Lard is not a good choice for frying due to the high heat and hydrogenation process that renders the substance highly damaged and of no food value according to Erasmus.  However, Mary Enig, considered the expert on fats and oils, does recommend lard, the rendered fat from pigs, especially if handled properly as lard can become rancid quickly (Know Your Fats, 2004, p. 135).  Check for organic sources for cooking and baking.  Detoxification of rancid/spoiled fats and oils uses up vital nutrients, so choose good ones.

For low heat frying/cooking choose unrefined olive oil, refined peanut oil, and avocado oils.  Sunflower and safflower oils labeled as high oleic are also suitable for low heat cooking.  Remember too, that once an oil or fat smokes, it is damaged and very unhealthy.

George Mateljan in his book The World’s Healthiest Foods (2007, p. 57) offers a great alternate suggestion to frying that saves the health value of oils.  First add broth to your skillet and heat it to steaming.  Then add vegetables and cover, cooking only as long as the vegetables require.  Oils can be added at the end for flavor and this preserves all the healthy nutrients.  He calls this “Healthy Saute.”  I have tried this and it works great.  I make my own vegetable and chicken stock, so I freeze some in ice cube trays to have on hand when I need just a little bit.

The most important thing to remember about using fats and oils to preserve their vital nutrients is to not burn them.  Burning creates carcinogenic properties.  Buy high quality fats in dark bottles and in small sizes.  Of course organic sources are best for optimal health.

Krystle Shapiro is a licensed massage therapist.  She owns Touchstone Massage Therapies and is completing her masters in holistic nutrition.  She can be reached at 208/290-6760.

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