BJ Here! (No, here, to the left. There you go.)
Have you ever been muddled by the fads and facts around what cooking and baking fats are best for you? There’s a lot buzzing around the grape vine! “Butter will give you high cholesterol.” “Margarine is going to give you cancer,” “Oil is lower calorie than butter”, “butter is higher in vitamins than oil.” What’s the big deal with the differences between veggie oil and olive oil? And what even is coconut oil?
Wonder no more, Here is the skinny of the top 5 fats in today’s kitchen.
What is Margarine? Margarine is an extract of vegetable oil that has been mixed with chemicals in a process called hydrogenation.
The Pro’s: Margarine is cheap. Fewer saturated fats mean it is lower in calories than Butter
The Con’s: There are no vitamins, (Oil does contain Vitamin E, but the chemical refining process destroys it), it contains trans fats (bad fat, which raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol), and all margarine contains trace amounts of toxic chemicals as well as Nickel. Consumption of Nickel leads to lung cancer and kidney disease among many others.
What is Veggie Oil? This oil is made by chemically processing seeds from crops such as rapeseed, (canola oil) soybean, sunflower and other seeds. This process is not natural occurring and must be achieved through chemical extraction, usually with a petroleum solvent. After extraction the oil must be heated in an acid to dissolve its waxy consistency. The oil is then chemically deodorized because it stinks and additives are mixed in to give the oil its olive-oil-mimicking color.
The Pro’s: It’s cheap. It is cholesterol free. Veggie oil does not contain trans fats or cholesterol unless it is hydrogenated to make margarine, which creates trans fats.
The Con’s: These oils are made from genetically modified crops through the use of chemical extraction and refining. They contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats which are highly unstable and oxidize easily in the body. This leads to inflammation and mutation in cells. These effects are why veggie oil is now being discovered in association with clogged arteries (inflammation) and skin cancer (mutated cells.)
What is butter? Butter is solidified fat and oil from the cream in milk. It solidifies naturally and only needs to be aided with agitation (turning, or mixing) to speed the process up.
The Pro’s: Butter is high in Vitamin’s A, D, E, and K. It contains no toxic metals or chemicals. Even though it is a dairy product, there are no milk sugars or protein in it, which means milk sensitive people can still consume it. It contains Dietary Cholesterol (good cholesterol.) The fresher the butter is (organic or raw) the more of these vitamins and good fats it contains.
The Con’s: Butter does contain saturated fats, (HOWEVER, at 33mg per tablespoon, you could eat nearly an entire stick of butter raw (3/4 of it) before you reached your 200mg Daily Recommended allowance.) It cost more than margarine.
What is Olive Oil? Olive oil is the liquid fat from olives. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the oil from the first pressing. Sometimes this is also marketed at Cold Press, this means the oil is never warmer than room temperature, which means no vitamins, nutrients or flavor was lost or altered from heat. (Heating organic matter results in denatured proteins, like when we get a fever to kill virus, same deal, the hotter something gets, the less stable it is, which is why high fevers are dangerous. Well, it’s also dangerous to your food! This is also why raw or steamed veggies are healthier than roasted. See a pattern?) Virgin Olive Oil is the second pressing. Pure or Regular Olive Oil is chemically refined, nutritionally deficient, bland in flavor, and unnaturally acidic.
The Pro’s: Promotes good cholesterol and fights the bad cholesterol. Contains antioxidants and vitamins and is gentle on the digestive system. Studies show it may help prevent gallstones and soothe ulcers. It can also be used as a deep conditioner for hair and skin. It can be used to polish furniture, (even metal and leather), fix squeaky doors, stuck zippers, and prevent hair balls in cats. A sip at night can prevent snoring, and it can be used as a person lubricant. (What? Yeah, I just wrote that.) The list of uses really does go on and on.
The Con’s: It is more expensive than vegetable oil.
What is Coconut Oil? Coconut oil is natural oil expelled from the meat of coconuts when under pressure. Like Olive Oil this is done with just pressure and no heat for higher end oil, and with heat to produce a lower end oil that is lowers the effectiveness of its many health qualities. Both varieties however, are beneficial. Like butter it is higher in saturated fats than other oils, but this fat is mostly from good cholesterol and not from trans fats that contributes to bad cholesterol.
The Pro’s: It can be used for frying, and baking. It can be used as a substitute for shortening as well as butter and other oils; from cookies, to pie crust. It has a milder flavor than other oils and absorbs odor, which makes it ideal for things like cooking fish. It contains good cholesterol. It is both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. These properties make it highly versatile as it can be used as a daily supplement for Omega-3 and Omega-6 balancing, for deep conditioning hair, as a lotion, as a sunscreen, hair ball control in cats as well as skin and coat health in cats and dogs. It can be used as a scratch, scrape, and burn ointment, and daily consumption can help balance blood sugar, your thyroid hormones, boost metabolism, increase digestion, help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and boost energy and endurance, among many others!
The Con’s: Cost. The most expensive on this list, averaging between $8-$12 for organic 16oz Jar, depending on the distributor. Non-organic can be found for much cheaper (and still maintains many of the mentioned benefits just in reduced measure.)
I cut out margarine and veggie oil long ago and have never missed them. What I use in my kitchen today is a mix of Olive oil, butter, and especially Coconut oil. (I keep one jar of coconut oil in the kitchen, and a small one in the bathroom because I use it for so many things!)
Happy cooking, Friends!