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Cooking Oils

From coconut to walnut to extra-virgin olive, the choice of oil to use in your cooking and meal preparation can sometimes be a confusing one. What might be best for salad making may not be ideal for sautéing. And what about monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils versus saturated ones? Here’s a quick rundown on selecting the best cooking oil for the job:

Olive Oil
This healthful oil has long been a staple of the Mediterranean diet. It is rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels in the body. Available in different forms such as extra-virgin cold pressed (the gold standard) and light the oil is graded by production method, acidity content, and flavor. All types of extra-virgin and virgin oils are made from the first pressing of the olives with no additional heating, chemicals or processing.

Olive oil is considered best for salads and bread dipping. Olive oil has a slightly lower smoke point than many other oils,temperatures of 420 degrees F and below, so it is best for quick sautéing if used in cooking. Just like Italians have done for hundreds of years, extra-virgin olive oil should be your “go to” oil in a healthy kitchen. Other MUFA oils include avocado, peanut, and many nut oils. These oils are great for adding specific flavor to dishes and have higher smoke points.

Coconut Oil
Always a favorite of raw food enthusiasts and vegans, coconut oil has recently been embraced by Paleo Diet eaters as the ideal all around kitchen oil. Although a saturated fat and once considered taboo for heart patients, coconut oil’s health benefits are now emerging. Recognized as an immune booster and a raiser of good HDL cholesterol, it can certainly be included in a healthy diet. Often used as an alternative to butter in baking for dairy-free diets, coconut oil is solid at room temperature but quickly melts when heated. I recommend you warm the oil before sautéing or before adding coconut oil to batters and doughs for baking. This fragrant oil has a higher than average smoke point making it a good choice for high temperature cooking and as a sautéing alternative to olive oil.

Grapeseed Oil
Another recently embraced cooking oil often favored by professional cooks, grapeseed oil is of the polyunsaturated type (PUFAs) making it a good choice for high heat cooking as well. As a by-product of wine making, this light and subtly flavored oil is often preferred when the intense taste of olive oil is not wanted. It can also be used in salad dressings and other dishes as a replacement to canola oil. Many vegetable oils are high in PUFAs such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oil. The highly aromatic sesame oil, also a polyunsaturated variety, is often used as a finishing oil in Asian dishes because it’s flavor can easily overpower cooking.

Remember that when it comes to utilizing oils in the kitchen, no matter how healthy they may be, all contain a lot of calories. Just one tablespoon of olive oil contains 120! So, if you are monitoring your weight, use your oils sparingly and judiciously in order to reap the best of what they offer (flavor and heart healthy fats) while not breaking the caloric bank. I have been using it for over a month now, and certainly view publisher site think it’s a step in the right direction

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Sharon Richter, RD
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Phone: 212.977.7779

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