The tide seems to be slowly shifting away from demonizing fat. While my family doctor admits my cholesterol is “so good it isn’t even on [her] chart,” she still isn’t comfortable with the fact that I cook with lard. Coconut oil and olive oil, however, are much more acceptable fats for food preparation. Fat is not unhealthy; it supplies energy, helps us feel more full, balances blood sugar, promotes cell growth, decreases inflammation throughout the body, and regulates hormones.
Not all fats are equal, though. Trans fats, or “hydrogenated” fats, have been considered contraband at my house for years. In addition to lard, coconut oil and olive oil are staples in my kitchen. The question of which to use for a specific recipe is more complicated than just the ingredient list. There is a bit of a science to cooking (and shopping) that can help you ensure that the recipes you use provide the full nutritional benefit to your family and do not create unintended health consequences.
Why the Smoke Point is So Important
When fats or oils reach a certain temperature, they begin to break down and lose nutritional value and flavor. At this point, called the smoke point, carcinogenic oxygen radicals are also generated. Recipes need to be evaluated by comparing the oils used with the temperature at which they are prepared.
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