Next time you're in a large grocery store, take a look at the section with oils and see how many times your head spins around. Good golly there are tons of oils! I can't even name them all let alone have expertise on which one I should be using.
In my first week searching for local food in PA, I ran across Susquehanna Mills and was so surprised we have our own locally produced oil! We stock it in the store because they are a PA product (and the label is so pretty) but it's also lead me to discover what makes them special.
What are oils and why do we eat them? I'm glad you asked... or I asked because I'm rather confused. Oil is a fat, just like butter, that is liquid at room temperature. Oils have a unique mix of fats some which have been proven better for you than others. The American Heart Association has decades of research saying that saturated fats lead to higher cholesterol increasing your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Yikes! Let's try to stay away from those.
With all the eating happening the month of December, can we make things a bit healthier? Here's a link to a very interesting graph showing the health aspects and fat make up of the oils we eat. It shows butter with a high level of saturated fats (that's the bader one) but oils like Canola and Sunflower and Hemp as low saturated fats and higher good fats. Yeah!
One issue with oil is that with all of our mass produced foods, chemicals are often used in its production. I think we can all agree that less chemicals in our life is good. When looking to purchase oil, look for pressed products. This means the oil is mechanically created rather than extracted from the seed through chemical processing.
Yes, our heads are still spinning from all these choices and their health aspects. The good news is that you don't need to know everything about every oil. Think about what you need and choose a few that fit your cooking. Check out PCC Cooks great article on what to look for in in oil so you can use the right one for you.
Can we solve all our unhealthy eating this season with oil? No, it's still a fat and and should be used sparingly. But there are ways to make your holidays a bit healthier.
1. Read your labels! Look for "Pressed" or "Expeller Pressed" on the label so you know machines, not chemicals, were used in production. Non GMO is also a good thing to look for on the label. Hydrogenated is word to stay away from since those are the transfats that increase your risk of heart disease.
2. Make sure you are using the right oil for your cooking needs. Don't just use any old oil in making a salad dressing when avocado is a healthier option. Oils high in polyunsaturated should be avoided in cooking. Olive oil is a heart healthier choice and is great for high heat cooking. Think about what you use oil for, do a little research, and stock just a few kinds in your panty.
3. Like many foods, you get what you pay for. Getting a huge bottle of vegetable oil is going to get you a highly processed product.
There are many different opinions on the health factors, production techniques, and even the substitution ability of oils. Spend just a bit of time thinking about this product and choose one that's right of your pantry. Happy cooking!