Dietary fat can get a bad rap, but knowing how to consume the right fats is vital for your health. Plant-based oils can provide essential fatty acids, allow your body to absorb vitamins and minerals, and are a nutritious source of energy for your cells.
To reap these benefits, choose oils that are rich in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. These are usually liquid at room temperature, and are derived from plant sources. The benefits of these oils include a lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and thereby, a lowering of cardiovascular risk. They may also play a role in suppressing unneeded inflammation, and supporting a diverse microbiome.
Let’s review the types of mono- and polyunsaturated oils, and their roles in cooking. In doing so, we must first discuss “smoke point.” Smoke point, also known as the burning point, is the highest temperature an oil can take before producing smoke, and turning bitter. When oils are heated beyond this point, free radicals are created which can damage cellular structures.
Traditionally, low-smoke point oils are extracted from nuts and seeds by pressing, and mechanical crushing. If bottled immediately after the first pressing, a “virgin” oil is produced, such as extra-virgin olive oil. These oils are flavorful, but are not able to withstand high cooking temperature-i.e. they have a low smoke point. They are also prone to becoming rancid and oxidizing. They should be stored in a dark container away from sunlight. These oils are best suited for dressings, low temp cooking or drizzling.
Manufacturers can use filtering, high temperature heating, and bleaching to give plant oils a longer shelf life, a higher smoke point, and a neutral flavor. Examples of these oils include avocado oil, safflower oil and grapeseed oil. These oils are well suited to high temperature sauteing.
EVOO is cold pressed, packed with monounsaturated fats and has a low smoke point of 325-375 F. Ideal as a finishing oil “ drizzling,” sauteing but not frying or roasting.
Avocado Oil has a high smoke point of 375-400, has a neutral flavor and is full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats.
Safflower Oil is neutral in flavor, high in monounsaturated fats and has the highest smoke point at 510 so is ideal to use to fry and saute.
Pure/ Light Olive Oil is refined, has a smoke point of 465 and most of the flavors are filtered out. Good for frying.
Grape seed Oil has a smoke point of 390, is from seeds of grapes and a byproduct of winemaking has a clean light taste and is high in polyunsaturated fats.
Kitchen-Prescription Recipe: Roasted Beet Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Roasted Beet Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 1/2 pounds of small to medium beets, a mix of red and yellow, tops removed
1 Cup of water
Several handfuls of baby arugula , triple washed
2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
One recipe of Apple cider vinaigrette, see below
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the beets, cut side up in an oven proof saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid. Add 1 Cup of water to the pan, cover the beets with the lid, and roast in the oven for approximately one hour, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Under running water, peel the skin from the beets and discard. Slice each into six segments and arrange over the arugula on a plate . Drizzle with Apple cider vinaigrette, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, and serve.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon of thinly shaved onion
3 tablespoons of organic Apple Cider Vinegar, preferably with the ‘mother’
1 tablespoon of water
¾ Cup of extra Virgin olive oil
One minced garlic clove
Fresh thyme leaves from two stalks, approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
Combine the thinly shaved onion and the Apple cider vinegar in a bowl, and allow to sit for five minutes. Add the water, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, thyme leaves, grainy mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine, and taste for seasoning. This recipe makes enough for several salads, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
K-P Cooking Tips:
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, and, like butter, should be used sparingly.
Oils should be stored in dark containers, away from sunlight, as they can oxidize. Pay attention to the expiration date, as oils, especially virgin oils, will lose flavor, and go rancid over time.
Canola oil is promoted as being a heart healthy oil because it is primarily monounsaturated, but that is not the whole story. Canola seeds, related to the rapeseed plant, are GMO crops. This means that they have been sprayed with herbicide, including glyphosate (Roundup), unless purchased in an organic, expeller-pressed form. Glyphosate has been linked with metabolic syndrome, as well as many other medical conditions including cancer and autoimmunity.