Fat is an essential part of our diet and is very important in fine cooking. Like protein, fats can either harm or improve our health depending on our choices. Fortunately, there are two fats that meet most culinary need and are tasty, healthy foods; olive oil and grape seed oil.
Fats and oils are essentially the same thing, except that fats are higher in saturated fatty acids, making them solid at room temperature. Higher levels of saturated fat and trans-fat consumption have been linked to higher risk of heart disease and other health problems. So, from this standpoint, regular consumption of plant-based oils rather than animal-based fats is a better choice when searching for healthy foods.
Plant-based oils like olive oil and grape seed oil also have important chemicals within them, such as polyphenols that act as anti-oxidants. Both of these oils have been shown to increase levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. In a healthy diet, HDL should make up about 30% of the total cholesterol. The ratio of HDL cholesterol is very important, because HDL levels as low as 20% of total cholesterol show a marked increase for risk of heart disease. Olive oil and grape-seed oil have been shown to increase the percentage of HDL cholesterol 10% or more. Therefore, simply by making these oils a regular part of your diet, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
My goal in talking about these fats is not to come up with recipes. Fats play an important roles in our diet but I do not consider them a food group. The reason is simple, fats are a very concentrated form of energy and are simply an additive to our diet. They should be consumed in tiny amounts.
Olive oil and grape-seed oil also serve very different roles in food preparation. Olive oil has a low smoke point and is best if not used in high-temperature cooking. It is great for salad dressings and flavored oils to add flavor to prepared foods. Always choose extra-virgin olive oil, less pure versions of olive oil will not provide the health benefits. Choose grape-seed oil for frying or grilling meats and vegetables. It has a high smoke point and can tolerate high-temperature cooking without losing its health benefits.
I am choosing to reduce my risk of heart disease, I am going to limit my use of butter in cooking to sweets and baked goods (rarely). I will also eat less meat and lean meat. Next week I will talk about beets and turnips. Here’s to better heart health, Salute!