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Super Basic Food Knowledge - Episode 3 -Fats

Fats make food taste good. Of course we need a certain amount of fat in our diets but we tend to eat way more than we need and we consume the wrong ones.

Processed and fast-foods are typically high in fat and when combined with sugar create a dangerous combo and addiction potential, which is what the manufacturers of these products want to do. They are also a trigger for weight gain. I probably don't need to tell you what these are but here is a sample list anyway!

  • Baked Goods such as cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and pastries

  • Boxed Candy

  • Oils, lard, butter, mayonnaise, many salad dressings and sauces

  • Cheese

  • Meat - beef, pork, poultry etc.

It is relatively easy to avoid these foods. Well, that's a lie. Many people have told me that they can give up almost all fatty foods except...... What is your 'except'? The most common exceptions are cheese, chocolate, eggs, and bacon. I have read about an individual who is vegan but must have bacon. Most of us are aware of the health pitfalls associated with these foods and we make choices to eat or avoid them. There are many healthier options.

A difficulty arises when recipes call for oils or fats such as butter or lard to saute or Knowing the fat content of the foods you eat when dining out or getting takeout is also a challenge.

It is still important for your body to get healthy fats in moderation from your diet. Animal fat is loaded with saturated fat, whereas plant-based fats such as olive, sunflower, safflower, canola etc. oils are much lower in saturated fat. Saturated fats congeal and appear solid at room temperature. With the exception of coconut oil, plant-based oils do not solidify at room temperature. So, the approach depends on where you are starting from. (This post is not focusing on eating an animal vs plant-based diet as we have discussed that before.)

If you currently use animal fats such as butter or lard for cooking, using plant-based oils instead is far better. Making the switch from cooking with animal fat to cooking with plant-based oils is a move in a positive direction.

If you have already converted your diet to plant-based completely or partially, the choice is different. It is certainly better to eat vegetable oils than saturated animal fats. However, if you are willing to take the next step, consider eliminating oils altogether or reducing your consumption. Keep in mind that fats are very calorie-dense, 9 cal/gram. They are still processed foods as they are not in a natural form.

This passage from states that studies found meals prepared with olive oil reduced flow-mediated dilation, a measure of arterial blood flow, by 31 percent.

Another concern with added oil is its sheer calorie density and potential to promote overeating and weight gain. At 4,000 calories per pound, “oil follows essentially the same model as processed sugar, which is also pressed from plants,” explain Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD, in The Forks Over Knives Plan. “Think about what oil is: fat—and nothing but fat. … Oil of any kind has more calories per gram than any other food we know. And without any fiber or water in it, oil lacks the bulk to convey to your senses how many calories you have eaten; this virtually guarantees you will consume more calories at the meal than you need.”

So the dilemma is what to do!! Even most vegan recipes call for olive oil when cooking. If you are not a purist like me, using small amounts of oil to stir fry or add flavor to a dish is probably fine. Keep it to the minimum needed. Better yet, can you replace some of the oil with the actual food the oil is processed from? For example, eat black olives on your salad and avoid making a dressing that contains mostly olive oil. The same reasoning can be used for avocados, peanuts, sunflowers etc.

Note: Oils have different temperatures at which they break-down and should not be used (smoke point). For olive oil this is between 374 and 405 degrees F or 190-207 degrees C. If you notice your oil smoking when you are heating your pan, use a higher smoke-point oil for your recipe. I recommend avocado or grapeseed oils which stand up to high heat.

If you can minimize your use of oils in general to small amounts for cooking, that's great. However, when you start using them extensively, for example, to make a salad dressing, look for ways to decrease your intake.

The question I ask before eating anything is ; "Is it processed and if so, is the processing something I could do myself at home?" Without the right equipment and instructions, I could not press foods to extract their oil and I am not using my feet as a press HA! 😋 Extra-virgin olive oil is less processed than a light-colored olive oil but is still processed.

I don't choose to consume oils. It's a wonderful ability we have as humans to have these choices. However, sometimes I wonder - are all of these choices a benefit or curse? It can be overwhelming.

So what makes sense when adding fat to your diet? USE THE WHOLE FOOD! Use the avocado, the olives, the nuts, the corn, soybeans or tofu in their whole form. Note: technically tofu is a processed food made from soybeans. However it is not hard to make it from scratch at home so I choose to take the easy way out and buy organic well-known brands with soybeans and water as the only ingredients. Did you know you can make tofu from any kind of bean - doesn't have to be soybeans.

When cooking (for example making a stir fry), I let my pan get smoking hot and then add a small amount of vegetable broth which I use to saute my garlic, onions etc. It works great. Sometimes, I just ignore the oil component of a recipe and try without. Experimenting is a great option and fun. I make my own plant-based milks and even pancakes using oats, lentils, quinoa or sweet potatoes. There are plenty of recipes available on how to do this.

A lot of baking uses oil or butter. Here are some tips for eliminating the fat. This information comes from www.forksoverknives, "3 Expert Tips on How to Cook without Oil" (and I have added one more). They also have many informational charts and recipes that avoid oil.

1. Choose the right cookware. High quality non-stick pans, good quality, heavy-bottomed stainless steel, and enamel coated cast iron are good options. You can also line pans with parchment paper, which is basically non-stick. Silicone baking sheets, cups etc. are great for baked goods.

2. Choose your oil-free cooking method. For baking, try substitutions such as apple sauce, fruit puree, mashed bananas, pureed dates, nut butters. For sauteing or stir frying, see the tip above.

3. Try upping the flavor of the food by using spice combinations. For roasting, just skip the oil altogether and use spices and maybe a bit of vegetable stock, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar or other vinegars for flavor. Try roasting veggies rather than frying them. Now we have the alternative of air-frying and where a recipe might call for using a bit of oil in your air-fryer, I skip this.

4. Experiment with oil-free condiments. You can use beans, lentils, veggies like cauliflower, carrots and potatoes along with a plant-based milk and nutritional yeast, miso or nut butters to make sauces without butter, cream and oil. For that matter you can make vegan mayo, butter, and milks easily. There are many salad dressing recipes that avoid fats. I use the same one over and over - I mix Dijon mustard with a good quality balsamic vinegar until it has the consistency I like. ) Simple and delicious.

There are vegan sites that focus solely on cooking without oil or animal fat. healthyveganeating on youtube or instagram and are 2 good ones but there are soooooo many. You can google fat-based vegan for more choices. This is not intended to be yet another recipe blog.

If you are a person who finds food experimentation and cooking to be laborious, then keep it really simple. When you look for recipes you will find plenty of simple ones. Beans and brown rice or quinoa mixed together with spices works every time for fat-free protein. .You can even buy these products already cooked or cook batches yourself for multiple meals for the week. Quinoa is very easy and fast to cook.

A note on nutritional yeast- this is available in most grocery stores and is a vegan seasoning that substitutes for cheese. It has a cheesy flavor. It is simply a deactivated yeast and is high in nutrients.

I certainly hope you get the gist of the suggestions in this post. The bottom line: reduce your fat consumption! Plan your meals around nutrient-dense foods. Fats are calorie-dense but not nutrient-dense. Most importantly, have fun with experimenting. I have mixed together foods I never thought would go together and they work! If you don't like something you try, so be it. Not a big deal. Don't let it stop you from continuing to try. Yesterday I listened to a podcast where the host was talking about eating bananas with mustard. Ok, I draw the line here. Yuck!!!

Here are some of my favorite substitutions for foods most of us love:

1. Nice Cream - basically an ice cream crafted from frozen bananas and fruit or cocoa etc. Google it - there are a ton of recipes.

2. Wraps - I have been making wraps out of lentils, quinoa, oats and sweet potatoes. Trader Joe's also has jicama wraps and I eat those daily.

3. Fried food - I use my air fryer for potatoes, sweet potatoes and jicama sticks.

4. Veggies - I think roasting vegetables brings out the flavor in them and gets them crispy. Broccoli, cauliflower, or any root vegetable roasts well.

5. Pizza - I use Ezekiel wraps or my homemade wraps and top them with lots of veggies and homemade cheese. Recipes for making vegan cheese out of cashews, potatoes, tofu, etc. are readily available. You can even use cauliflower cream with nutritional yeast.

I hope this has inspired at least some level of awareness of things you can change for that ultimate journey to the healthiest you!!! Have fun and let me know how it goes!!! 🧡

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