06 Mar

EVOO: Healthy oils

by Chantelle Janelle,

Fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet but all fats are not created equal. Cooks who reach for healthy oils are on the right track.

Culinary instructor Duncan Howden says the traditional cooking fat chefs prefer is butter. “Most chefs are taught from the beginning how to work with and cook with butter because it has great flavor, but it is absolutely terrible for our bodies.”

Fat supplies energy and helps the body absorb nutrients. But eating too much saturated fat, like butter or meat fat, isn’t a good idea. Dr. Elizabeth Stark says, “The saturated fats being the ones that promote heart disease. The unsaturated fats being the ones that can lower your bad cholesterol, increase your good cholesterol and have a health benefit.”


So today’s aspiring chefs are taught to use less saturated fat and substitute better fats, like unsaturated oils. Howden suggests “olive oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, those kinds of things.”

Cooking with fat makes food crispy and adds moisture. The chef suggests the Chinese method “stir-fry” rather than saute or deep fry. “They add a small amount of fat to the bottom of the wok, they get the oil very hot, they throw the food in and in 30 seconds or a minute, they instantly have a hot, piping dish of food cooked in a tablespoon of oil.”

“EVOO” or extra virgin olive oil is a cooking show buzzword. It’s healthy but not an all-purpose olive oil. Chef Howden says cooking destroys its rich flavor. “Keep the extra virgin olive oils for things like salad dressings.”

Boiling and steaming don’t need any fat at all, and you can build fat-free flavor with fruits, spices and herbs.

Another fat that’s good for you – Omega-3 fatty acids which are found in walnuts, flax seeds, beans, certain fatty fish like salmon and vegetable oils.

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