Our bodies need fat to function, and lucky for us, its using fat in cooking that really makes food taste good! Why does frying work so well, and, wait a second, shouldn’t it be avoided? Like the plague? Or something worse?
Yes, some fats should be avoided like the plague, because they pretty much are the plague! Those are called trans-fatty acids, and are partially hardened, or hydrogenated, to increase their shelf-life, and decrease expense. Our bodies cannot break down these fats, and trans-fats also harden the cell membrane and raise LDL cholesterol. I tried to find simple info on why this is so for the LDL cholesterol problem, but all the explanations I found I couldn’t understand, so while I choose to believe Chris Johnson of On Target Living, I have yet to find a good explanation of how cholesterol works.
Anyways, while trans-fats are horrible, and are in every processed food out there (any package that says hydrogenated has trans-fats regardless of what the nutrition label says) the good news is that if you cook at home, you don’t have to worry about trans fats at all! Any fat in your meat or fish or cheese, basically, any naturally occurring fat, is good and necessary for your body in small amounts. This is saturated fat. The best saturated fat around is coconut oil, which has a really high smoke point. This means it won’t smoke up your house as it gets really hot, so you can use it when you need some really intense heat.
Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados and most nuts. These are also helpful in raising HDL cholesterol levels, and they apparently are up there in the “good for your body to do what it needs to” thing.
But this is not a nutrition blog. I’m bringing up this stuff about fat because people who are paranoid about fat, yet eat packaged foods, need to hear that a couple tablespoons of olive oil is far less harmful that the 19 or even 30 grams of trans-fat that one can consume in a single serving of, say potato chips.
Everyone is in a hurry to get healthy, but no one is in a hurry to get to the store and actually buy some groceries! So let’s do this!
Even if you are not a nut person, fats like olive and coconut oil can be consumed in appropriate amounts through sauteing and frying food in them. But it is important to let the pan get hot before you put the fat in (not so much with butter, as it burns very easily) otherwise your food will still stick to the pan. Wait until you can really feel the heat with your hand hovering about two inches above the pan. Then dump your oil in and carefully lower whatever you are cooking onto it without letting it drop in and splash you. I mean, you could do that if you want, but you will pay for it later.
Thanks to Brittany Barb (Long) for the pic!