Monday, August 20, 2012

A Graphic On Cooking Oil

Today’s blog entry focuses on fat, and I’ve found this interesting graphic to share with you folks to serve as a talking point. I don’t totally agree with the following recommendations, but I think it’s helpful to learn from them. The broad brush strokes of these images are correct, including using saturated fats for high heat uses, and reserving unsaturated oils for dressings, salads, and other circumstances in which they would not be exposed to heat. The reason for this is that unsaturated fatty acids are damaged by heat, becoming oxidized in the process – oxidized compounds breed more oxidized compounds, and unless you’re eating an antioxidant-rich diet, this fire can be hard to put out.

Similarly, the graphic recommends avoiding highly-processed, refined oils, including margarine, hydrogenated oils, canola oil, and others. Many of these oils are heavily oxidized in the refining process, with the concommitent problems that that causes. Others contain trans fats, which, thankfully, many of us know to avoid.

However, this graphic is not altogether perfect, so let me offer my own opinions on a few topics. One thing I’d like to note is that the author doesn’t emphasize enough that saturated fats should be avoided. Coconut, butter and ghee may be preferable to margarine or hydrogenated oils, and are less-easily damaged under high heat conditions, but modern American diets still overwhelmingly favor saturated fat, and nearly all of us could do with some reduction in the amount of saturated fat we take in.

Secondly, there’s a small note saying that PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) should be avoided in the diet, which I don’t agree with. The author is right in that ALA, the main omega-3 fat in flaxseed oil, may have some negative effects (and I do want to emphasize the word may), but this fact is far overshadowed by the massive benefit offered by the polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oil, and are remarkably beneficial to health. You wouldn’t want to put fish oil on your salad, but at the same time, I think it’s important to underline the health-promoting qualities of PUFAs.

I hope you enjoy this chart, and I’ve come back from the AANP conference buzzing with ideas for the blog! Stay tuned!