The best oils: The best oil to have in your home is extra-virgin olive oil or organic canola oil. For cooking, you can also use sesame or peanut oil. That’s because their smoking point-that is, the temperature at which the fat burns-is very high. Cook beyond it, and you’ll end up with a burned, charcoal flavor. Once heated, oils can become rancid and also can generate toxic chemicals, so you lose the major benefit of eating these usually healthy foods. Also, it’s best to cook the food, rather than the oil. So don’t heat the oil directly in the pan; instead roll your food in the oil first and then heat the food so the oil doesn’t become overheated. Here are smoke points for some commonly used healthy oils: Unrefined canola oil: 225 degrees Unrefined sunflower oil: 225 degrees Extra-virgin olive oil: 320 degrees Virgin olive oil: 420 degrees Sesame oil: 410 degrees Grape-seed oil: 420 degrees Refined peanut oil: 450 degrees Semirefined sesame oil: 450 degrees
Stupid (Aging) Fats: Saturated Fats: Found in meats and dairy products, these fats will make you gain weight and clog your arteries. Bottom line: Limit saturated fat to lean sources like lean cuts of beef and low fat dairy products. Aim for less than 4 grams of saturated fat per serving. Less than 20 grams or less than 30 percent of your daily allotment should be from saturated and/or trans fats combined.
Super (Youthful) Fats: Polyunsaturated Fats: These are like monounsaturated except that they contain more than one unsaturated bond. They are usually present in vegetable oils and sesame oils. They may improve arterial and brain function, and will help keep up your satiety levels. Bottom line: Make 20 percent to 40 percent of your fats polyunsaturated.
Stupid (Aging) Fats: Trans Fat: This is the fat that contains hydrogenated vegetable oil. It’s the worst kind of fat and will stunt weight-loss efforts. Trans-fatty acids are in all kinds of food-especially when long shelf life is important-from buttered popcorn and cookies to chips and margarine. Bottom line: Say no. Stay away from them the way you’d avoid highways on the day before Thanksgiving.
Super (Youthful) Fats: Monounsaturated Fats: They come in two forms: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, in the form of fish (3s) and nut oils (3s and 6s). The omega-3s have been shown to improve arterial and brain function. They’re found in olive oil, canola oil, fish oils, flaxseeds, avocados, and nuts (especially walnuts). They’ve also been shown to reduce blood pressure and lipid levels when used in place of carbohydrates. Bottom line: Make about 30 percent to 40 percent of your fats the monounsaturated variety.
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