Food Quotes

"No therapy or drug known to modern medical science can rebuild tissue that has been damaged by disease or trauma. Food alone can accomplish this feat. It is for this reason that nutrition is an indispensable weapon against disease".
Dr. Bernard Jensen (1908-2001)

Friday, March 20, 2009

In the Pantry - Healthy Fats and Oils

This pantry post is all about healthy fats and oils. I decided to devote an entire post to these elements of traditional foods since they are so important for health. Our supermarkets carry so many unhealthy oils that are cheap, but so very destructive to human health, causing untold amounts of free radical damage. We might pay a small out-of-pocket cost for these types of oils, but we are paying huge prices in terms of degenerative illnesses and medical expense.

And it's not only that these fats and oils directly damage our bodies, they also do not provide essential nutrients that we need in order to produce the bio-chemicals that maintain optimum health and a sense of well-being.

So without further ado, here is a list of the fats and oils that I keep stocked in my pantry:

Bottled Oils and Fats:
Extra virgin, cold or expeller expressed oils, such as olive, flax seed (buy only flax seed oil that has been refrigerated in dark bottles as this oil is very unstable [turns rancid quickly] if not kept cold; never cook with it as it is very damaged by heat), peanut oil, sesame oil, high-oleic expeller-expressed monounsaturated safflower (I use this for cold applications such as mayonnaise and salad dressings - I would not heat this oil). I find these oils at Trader Joe's (olive and sesame), at Whole Foods (safflower, peanut, flax seed).

Coconut oil
deserves a paragraph all it's own, even it's own post, which I will do soon. This is perhaps the healthiest, great tasting oil on the planet. If you like the taste of coconut, buy "virgin, unrefined organic". It smells and tastes like coconut. I use it to make tacos, eggs, to saute and stir-fry with. Most people who have not eaten coconut oil before notice a slight sweetness but cannot identify it as a coconut taste. Few, if any, guests have not liked it. But, if you do not care for coconut, you can buy the next best coconut oil that has been slightly refined (it will indicate this on the label) to remove the taste and smell of coconut. The health benefits are not as optimal, but it is still a very nutritious and beneficial oil to use. For all the health benefits of coconut oil, visit this site. Also, see the side bar under "Resources" for the best prices on coconut oil.

Red palm oil is also very healthful. I do not use it however, because I do not care for the taste. Red palm oil is unrefined and it is a very dense dark orange color that remains in food after cooking. I once made eggs with it, and, you guessed it, they were an unappetizing dark orange. If that were the only disadvantage, I would use red palm oil. But I really cannot tolerate the taste. However, I do use a "shortening" that is made from 100% refined red palm oil. The taste is neutral and it looks much the same as regular trans-fatty shortening (white). Of course, there are not trans fats in this palm oil shortening and it is a very healthy alternative to standard shortening that we now know to avoid like the plague.

Refrigerate all of the above oils in dark bottles except for virgin organic coconut and palm oils, which are fine to keep at room temp because they are extremely stable. (If you do not have dark bottles on hand, save empty dark wine bottles, or if you do not drink wine, ask a friend who does to save her emptied bottles for you.)

Note: Never buy processed polyunsaturated oils, including canola oil or partially-hydrogenated (or hydrogenated) oils, such as shortening and margarine, and never soybean oil even if it is cold-pressed because of a myriad of toxins, carcinogens, anti-nutrients, and phyto-estrogens.

Butter: Raw, organic butter from grass-fed cows is best, though I do not buy it because it is so pricey. I stock organic, pasteurized butter from grass-fed cows (this next best), which I get at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (if I have a coupon). Butter can be kept at room temperature for a few days as it is fairly stable and will not oxidize quickly. This applies to butter that you use on toast, etc. Refrigerate butter still in the wrapper.

Duck Fat: This delicious to cook with. I used to stock it, but no longer have a source for it, though I keep looking. Buy only that which is from a healthy animal (see note below).

Beef Fat (called "Suet"): Whenever I make beef stock, I take the suet off the top of the stock (refrigerate stock after it's finished and cooled and the fat will collect on top, making it easy to remove.) Suet is one of the fats I might use when I saute beef or need to add fat to a beef or other red meat dish.) (Buy only that which is from a healthy animal (see note below). This is an inexpensive fat to use since it would ordinarily be a discarded waste product. Refrigerate suet.

Chicken Fat (called Schmaltz): Everything said about suet (beef fat) above is true for schmaltz. It is a product of bone stock make from the chicken carcass. Remove the fat as for beef stock above. It is another inexpensive good fat. Refrigerate schmaltz after rendering it from the stock.

Lard (fat from pigs): Do not cringe in disbelief! I love lard for adding a wonderful flavor to dishes. It is a healthy fat to use as long as it comes from a healthy animal (see note below). I render my own lard from the fat that is included in the pork order that we purchase from a local farmer. Also, just a warning about the so-called lard that is available in the supermarkets: it is partially hydrogenated which absolutely ruins whatever good qualities it might have had to begin with, not to mention that it came from an animal that was raised in unhealthy conditions. Keep lard refrigerated.

Bacon drippings: Another source of inexpensive good fat is bacon drippings. After frying bacon (do not overcook - bacon should not be crispy) bacon from a healthy animal (see note below), strain off the drippings (fat) into a jar. Use for many different dishes - any kind of beans, creamed corn, etc. Keep bacon drippings refrigerated.

Note: A healthy animal is one that has been raised on organic pasture and not given antibiotics, steroids or hormones. These kinds of animals are usually raised by small farmers committed to humane and healthy practices. Click here for "Eat Wild" which can provide a listing for these kind of farms in your area.

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