Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Week 4: Using “Good” Fats for Cooking and Baking

My first jar of coconut oil. I chose the Whole Food's 365 brand, before delving into more expensive products (just wanted to make sure I liked using it - which I did).

My first jar of coconut oil. I chose to buy Whole Food’s 365 brand before delving into investing in more expensive products (just wanted to make sure I liked using it – which I did).

Upon reaching the aisle of the supermarket with the oil, my eyes started to glaze over as I looked at the huge variety of choices on the off white shelves. There is everything from olive oil to coconut oil to peanut oil. How do you know which choice is the right choice? Lisa Leeke’s post about eating healthy fats helped me sort out my questions. The idea of avoiding corn and soy based oils makes sense to me since they are very refined and could come from a crop with harmful GMO’s. Unlike canola oil’s more recent appearance on the market, for many many years people have been making olive oil and other plant based oils. One thing to think about is making sure the olive oil you buy is cold pressed, which is something I’d never given any thought to before I started researching. This ensures that all the nutritional benefits will still be there when you pick up the bottle from the store. You also want the oil to be processed as little as possible. It should also come in a darker bottle, which keeps out light. While the olive oil industry is mostly unregulated, you’ll have to go with your gut on which brand you are willing to trust in telling you their product has been cold pressed. In addition to olive oil being beneficial to your health, there are numerous benefits to using coconut oil (non-hydrogenated, unrefined, and expeller pressed). While it is still high in saturated fat, as is butter, it helps regulate the metabolism and is cholesterol free. It also has a higher smoking point that olive oil. I used it in a banana pancake recipe I made this morning and it made them taste just as wonderful as if I had made them with the butter the recipe called for (I swapped it out 1:1). My fiancee enjoyed them so much, he even asked if I’d done anything different with the recipe this time.

A few tips for cooking with and buying coconut oil:

  • the least processed version is unrefined expeller pressed coconut oil (never buy hydrogenated versions)
  • coconut oil has a higher smoking point than olive oil
  • virgin coconut oil tastes more like coconuts than does the refined version, which has a more mild taste
  • it comes in a solid form, but can easily be melted in the microwave (for use as an ingredient in baked good)
  • while it may be expensive, you want to try to buy the most pure version (in Lisa’s post her followers that commented recommended some of their favorite brands)
  • recipes with coconut oil to come!

Recently, I found out I have high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and high overall cholesterol (239 to be exact – it should be under 200). For a girl that is just nearing 27, that isn’t good news. I know that part of it is my family history, but part of it is the choices I’ve made. I’m done eating butter and using it to cook with. In the past, I’ve had a love affair with butter. Butter in pie crusts, butter on saltines, butter with a big fluffy slice of Italian bread. I’ve had my fair share of it and now it’s time to swear it off. Time to swap butter for healthy fats. What are your feelings on cooking with oils? What do you prefer to cook and bake with? Be adventurous and try something new. It might cost you a few dollars, but your health is worth it!

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