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Cooking Fats and Oils 

Get to Know Them Well (Beware of the Hidden Dangers)

Cooking fats and oils add a significant amount of fat and calories to our diets. Fats and oils play a major role in our health—or lack thereof. The types of oils we choose for cooking and how much oil we eat can help or hurt our cardiovascular systems and overall health. 

Consumption of Oil

Most people consume too much fat and oil. Not only do we consume food that is naturally high in saturated fat such as meats and dairy foods, highly processed manufactured food and oily snacks, restaurant and fast food literally dripping with oil, but we also add more oil and fat to much of the food we prepare at home.

We add oil to salads and salad dressings. We use it for cooking. We slather butter on bread. We spread mayonnaise on sandwiches. And of course, let’s not forget about the milk and cream we use in cereal and coffee. Not to mention the desserts we eat, which are typically theme parks of concentrated fats, with high-fat ice cream and cakes laden with frosting and whipped cream toppings. 

Adding a tablespoon of oil and fat here and there really adds up, adding pounds to our bodies and ultimately adversely affecting our health. High-calorie concentrations of fats are “displacement foods” -- they fill us up, preventing us from getting the whole complement of nutritious foods we need every day.

How Are Oils Produced?

Most cooking oils are extracted from nuts (palm kernel, walnut, almond and coconut), seeds (safflower, sunflower, sesame, canola, flax),  fruit (olive, avocado), grains ( wheat germ, corn) and beans (soy and peanuts) by either chemical or mechanical means. 

In chemical extraction, the ground plant ingredient is soaked in a chemical solvent such as hexane, which is then removed by boiling in high temperatures Amira Elgan of about 300ºF. This is often the preferred method, as it yields more oil and gives manufacturers a higher profit margin. 

The second method of extraction produces “cold-pressed” or “expeller-pressed” oils in which the ingredients are heated to temperatures of 122 to 200ºF before pressing for extraction of oil with no use of chemicals or solvents. The extraction process produces oil in its natural form, labeled and sold as “unrefined” meaning it is 100% expeller pressed oil of the first pressing.

Refining oil can include many different manufacturing procedures including deodorizing and bleaching. Unrefined oil has a cloudy appearance and stronger aroma and flavor. Sometimes these unrefined oils are filtered to remove some of the sediments. But filtering can also reduce the amount of nutrients in the oil. 

Unrefined, unfiltered oils are the most nutritious. Unrefined oil has short shelf life and can become rancid easily when exposed to light, too much air or high heat. It’s best to keep unrefined oils refrigerated or in a dark, cool place.

Most oils found in supermarket shelves have been refined. That means that oil has been highly processed until it looks transparent. The processing of oil strips most of its nutrients including vitamin E, a natural nutrient in oil, which aids the absorption of essential unsaturated fatty acids by the body. 

Refined oils usually have higher smoking points than their corresponding unrefined oils so they can withstand higher heat without breaking down. However, using oil to cook food in high heat causes most nutrients in food to be lost. 

To maximize nutrient intake from food, use organic, cold pressed, unrefined, unfiltered oils and cook your meals using low to medium heat—never high heat.

(This article is first in a series on cooking oils.)

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Words of Wisdom

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."

Abraham Lincoln

The Research Department

The Food Standard Agency in the UK has found that most packed lunches children bring to school do not meet standard nutritional guidelines for school meals. The study found that 9 out of 10 children’s lunchboxes contain food too high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

No similar study has been conducted in the U.S. but with the sharp increase of obesity cases among adults and children (65% of adults and 15% of children are overweight) has U.S. experts calling for the general public to demand a revamp of how junk food and beverages get marketed to children and adolescents. 

Here are the specific demands these top researchers are making:

  • Food companies to stop bombarding children with ads on TV, radio, in magazines and movies for junk food, fast foods and soft drinks. 

  • Schools to quit selling these kinds of foods and drinks in the cafeteria, vending machines and school stores.

  • Celebrities to stop hawking these foods. (Some examples: Beyoncé Knowles touting Pepsi; Shaquille O'Neal endorsing Burger King.)

  • Companies like Disney and Nickelodeon to quit letting their characters represent sugary cereals, junk food and fast food. (Example: Kellogg's Disney Mud & Bugs cereal features The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa on the box.) 

  • Fast-food chains and food companies to stop pushing huge portions. 

To read the complete article click here.


Food for Thought

The packed lunches our children and adolescents take to school should comprise wholesome, organic foods to make well-balanced meals, especially important for their body and brain development.

Every lunch box should contain foods like fresh fruit (pears, mangos, melons, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, plums, cherries, berries, cherry tomatoes, etc.); vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cucumber, jicama, etc.); nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.); seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc); bean and vegetable salads; sandwiches made with whole grain breads; organic health bars such as AllGoode Organics Real Food Bars and bottled water or organic aseptic juice with no added sugar.

Here are some vegan sandwiches you can make using whole grain bread:
Organic peanut butter and juice sweetened fruit spread
Hummus with baked tofu
Hummus with cucumber and carrots 
Pesto and baked tofu
Hummus and veggie burger
Pesto and seitan (cooked in a tomato sauce)

Often times, leftover dinner can make a good lunch snack or filling for a sandwich.

Hummus and pesto are the healthiest spread alternatives for sandwiches. It’s best to eliminate mayonnaise or switch to a healthier organic plant based variety such as vegenaise, a dairy free alternative with no cholesterol and low in saturated fat. (Follow Your Heart and Wildwood both make spread alternatives usually carried by health food stores at the refrigerated sections.)

Dairy lovers can occasionally add a slice of low-fat cheese such as Swiss, Provolone or mozzarella.


Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week


Click on the picture for a closer look!

Chili Tofu and Chickpeas (vegan) 
Serves 4 to 6

If you have chickpeas cooked or canned, this can be a really quick, simple yet nutritious meal to make. It’s high in protein, vitamins, lycopene and complex carbohydrates, which are in fact necessary and good for optimum health.

Ahead of time: cook chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready: (use organic ingredients if possible)
3 tablespoons safflower oil
3 fresh garlic cloves 
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and cut in 4 pieces (or substitute with bell pepper)
1 small onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
8 fresh plum tomatoes cut in quarters (or one 28-oz canned whole peeled tomatoes)
1 (20 oz) fresh firm tofu cut in ½ inch cubes
3 cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2½ tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

1. Heat oil on a large pot or pan over low heat. Meanwhile, process garlic and onion in the food processor or blender until finely chopped. Keep processor handy to use again (no need for washing) but in the meantime, put the garlic and onion mixture in the pot stirring and sautéing for 3 minutes or until translucent. 

2. Put Anaheim pepper pieces and tomatoes in the food processor and puree them well. Add tomato mixture to the tofu mixing well and cooking for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add chickpeas, corn, chili, paprika, and cumin stirring thoroughly cooking for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Dairy lovers: if you must, eat it with a small amount of plain low-fat yogurt, sour cream or cheese.

Cook’s tip: This dish may be made one day in advance. Serve with tangy cabbage and tomato relish (recipe next week). 

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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.