Food is my thing.
Not politics. Not sports. Not fashion.
Food is the thing that intrigues and entertains me.
I am fascinated by the pleasure it gives us, by its necessity, by the chemical transformations it undergoes, and by the effect it has on every cell in our bodies.
Food is one of the more complicated aspects of our daily lives. From day to day our appetites and preferences can shift and as we age the way our body processes food changes. We are constantly faced with choices, for which I am grateful although sometimes a little overwhelmed.
There is no area where I find it more important to be an informed consumer than with food. I am hungry for information about where a food comes from, it’s processing process, it’s history, it’s environmental impact, it’s health qualities, and it’s downsides.
All of this knowledge allows me to make informed decisions about what I consume. Does it stop me from eating that chip made from corn from Iowa that was shipped to China to be fried in trans fat and covered in artificial color and flavor? Often times yes, it makes it less appealing to me but if I’m in the mood I may eat it anyway but fewer and less often.
Many of the choices that I make as a consumer are about lessening my impact on the planet and limiting my exposure to potentially harmful substances. Not eliminating, just limiting. I have no desire to live in a bubble.
After some research many months ago about what happens to most fats when exposed to heat I pretty much quite cooking with anything but butter and coconut oil.
Saturated fats are some of the most heat-stable fats available; they won’t start to deteriorate and potentially cause a free radical free for all inside your body. And that old worry about cholesterol? The problem stems from the “modern” diet of trans fat, processed foods, sugar overload, and meat, eggs, and dairy that are not grass fed. Coconut oil and grass-fed butter can even have positive effects on your bad cholesterol by reducing inflammation in the body.
What about olive and canola oils, which are generally touted as ‘healthy’ choices?
I love olives and the flavor of olive oil but heat quickly destroys the benefits so it’s not suitable for cooking. My other concern with olive oil is regarding it’s purity. Nearly every week I come across an article, like this one, telling me that the olive oil I’m buying may be more like “olive-canola-safflower-oil”. I still keep it around for flavoring salad dressings or drizzling on cooked grains but I no longer think of it was the healthiest choice.
Canola oil requires both high heat and chemicals to extract the oil, a process that turns some of the omega-3 content into trans fat. Buying unrefined, cold-pressed (low heat processing), expeller-pressed (chemical free processing) canola oil helps avoid this issue but leaves you with an oil that isn’t suited for cooking on anything more than the lowest heat. Canola oil is also commonly genetically engineered so if you’re not down with that than you want to also add “organic” to your list of demands.
My bottom line is that coconut oil and grass-fed butter taste really good to me, aren’t very heat/light sensitive, and probably have health benefits. By using them both as my primary home cooking fats I limit my intake of potentially harmful overheated and over-processed oils.