Cooking with fats

Even though I’ve know for ages that heating oil for cooking, is not great, I have largely turned a blind eye to it. Habits die hard when it comes to frying onion. That kitchen aroma…ah! And the taste of caramelized onions is so delicious.

Many recipes start with “chop a small onion and fry in olive oil”. Here’s the not so good news. Healthy olive oil, largely made up of monounsaturated fat, is subject to oxidation when heated, making it a poor choice of cooking oil. However coconut oil is the most heat stable oil to cook with apparently, being unaffected by the heat. All

Coconut oil and fresh coconut

Coconut oil and fresh coconut

fats are damaged by heat but some more than others. Generally oils are more vulnerable than solid fats as oils contain mono or poly-unsaturated fatty acids (meaning more double bonds). This makes them more vulnerable to oxidization and the forming of harmful free radicals.

Here’s a Geeky science fact for those interested: heat causes the fatty acid molecule to lose an electron and become a ‘free radical’. This is what does the damage to DNA and other cell structures, causing aging and even cancer. Ways to reduce this damage is to

  • stop cooking with oil
  • next best, cook with less oil
  • thirdly, reduce the heat and length of cooking time
  • and finally, include plenty of antioxidants such as vitamin C and E in your diet…(remember, add plenty of colourful plant foods to your diet). These antioxidants provide the missing electrons and neutralize the free radicals, rendering them harmless.

In the last 3 months, since adopting a new style of cooking, to support family good health, I have STOPPED frying all fats! Finally! And the results feel great. Everyone is losing weight, I have plateau-ed at an ideal weight effortlessly, and we are all feeling clearer and more energized.

A cooking trick that I have been using (and even claim to have invented!) is to ‘simmer-fry’ a chopped onion in ½ cm of water, instead of frying it, at the start of a recipe. I never add any oil to the cooking process but I may pour some olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil onto the cooked dish on my plate. An alternative is to add some olive oil or coconut oil to the simmering onion and water after a minute or so. The presence of water will ensure that the oil temperature never rises above about 100 degrees C. You may miss that caramelized fried onion smell and taste but overall I think it is a small price to pay for good health, and the taste is still great.

More in my new book Eat Dance Shine, Chapter 8 “To cook or not to cook?” published by Filament Publishing, out 26th April

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