According to the American Heart Association (2016), nearly 9 in 10 people are worried about consuming dietary fat. But contrary to popular belief, fat is actually a good thing. How do we integrate healthy fats into our diet? Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a good place to start.
We’ve all heard of Omega-3’s at this point but what are they? Omega-3’s and omega-6’s are essential polyunsaturated fats. This means that we cannot naturally synthesize them in the body, so we have to obtain them from outside sources in our diet. A good place to get omega 6 is from cooking with vegetable oils.
A lot of people think that coconut oil is the best kind of cooking oil because it can resist the most heat so one can avoid ingesting oxidized fats. However, this is a myth. When you’re cooking on a frying pan, your oil is highly unlikely to become oxidized. Why? First, the minimal amount of time spent cooking reduces any chances of oxidation. And second, the heat on your pan will never reach temperatures hot enough to induce oxidation. To put it in perspective, oxidation is minimal even in deep-fat frying.
So when is oil bad? Oxidation can occur, but likely not from your cooking. It occurs when your oil is too old. So next time you go to the grocery store, try to avoid getting the large tub of olive oil and opt for the smaller bottle. It may seem convenient to buy in bulk to save yourself a trip to the grocery store later, but in the end old oil is the real culprit that causes oxidation. You can tell when your oil is too old and oxidized because it will have an unusual smell. Rancidity is the number one enemy.
Another myth is the belief that coconut oil is the healthiest kind of oil to use when cooking. Every oil naturally contains vitamin E (which is an antioxidant), but polyunsaturated oil (vegetable oils) reduces the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in our bodies while coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol.
Typically we get enough omega 6’s from our cooking oils, but we don’t get enough omega-3s. Research has shown that adequate omega-3 consumption supports cardiovascular and brain health. These are all great benefits we can implement into our lives to manage the challenging work UCSB thrusts upon us. A good place to get omega-3’s into our diet comes from our very own backyard, the ocean. Algae and fish such as salmon, anchovies, and sardines contain both short and long chain fatty acids. If you don’t like fish, there are plenty of other sources that contain good omega fats. Walnuts, in particular, are a great-fat food that supplies a rich source of ALA (the plant source of omega-3’s). Among nuts, walnuts contain the most ALA out of any plant-based food sources trailed by pecans. Other plant-based sources you can incorporate into your diet to get your daily dose of ALA includes chia seeds, flax seeds, avocado and pumpkin seeds.