Splash in the Pan

Whether it’s sautéed vegetables or a salad with dressing, chances are you’ll be reaching for cooking oil. Although your body needs a little fat for mental agility and absorption of vitamins, it’s the type of oil you use that really counts. Margarine, butter, palm oil, and coconut oil are hydrogenated — the primary source of unhealthy trans–fats. Better choices are canola and olive — both are loaded with beneficial omega–3 and omega–6. When mixing oil in your next dish, keep these tips in mind:

  • Flavor: Oils should complement the dish. Macadamia, walnut, olive, peanut, and sesame add a lot of flavor, so they’re best suited for dressings, dips, and stir fries. Low to medium flavored oils like canola, grape seed, sunflower, and vegetable supplement the dish, but don’t overpower it.
  • Quality: High nutritional quality refers to the percentage of essential fatty acids in the oil, unsaturated versus saturated fats, and blood cholesterol impact. Flaxseed and canola are excellent sources of omega–3 fatty acids, and are low in saturated fats.
  • Usage: The lower the oil’s smoking point, the lower the temperature has to be when the oil burns. Sesame oil, for instance, has a low smoking point; others such as canola, corn, and grapeseed are higher and don’t burn as easily.

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