Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
Eating fat doesn’t cause heart attacks.
For years, these assumptions lead the government to promote all the wrong foods. First of all, dietary fat and body fat are NOT the same thing. Also, remember that all calories are not created equal. One Harvard study from 2012 found that a very high-fat diet speeds up metabolism by 300 calories a day compared to a very low-fat diet. A speedier metabolism helps you lose weight! Lastly, eating saturated fat and cholesterol does NOT create blocks in our arteries.
Vegetable oils are clear, tasteless, and highly refined – corn, soybean, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils. These are highly unstable, highly inflammatory oils that were given a gigantic push by advisory groups we trusted, including The American Heart Association, the National Education Cholesterol Program, the National Institutes of Health and even our government’s own dietary guidelines.
40 years later, health authorities and nutrition experts are now finally confessing that what they told us was false.
Fat is essential for health.
Have you ever ordered salad dressing on the side? Or picked a low-fat dressing for your salad? Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that our bodies cannot absorb them unless fat is present. Fat stimulates the production of bile, which you need in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. So, a salad full of healthy raw vegetables without olive oil, or a plate of broccoli with just a squeeze of lemon, isn’t doing you the good you thought it was without some fat to break it down.
Low-fat dressing is full of refined oils, emulsifiers, artificial flavorings, and sometimes, surprisingly, high-fructose corn syrup. Low fat olive oil is highly processed and thus it has a lighter color. While it can last longer and be heated at a higher temperature, there are more chemicals and fewer nutrients. A healthier choice is heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil.
There is a lot of confusion around which cooking oil to use.
Every oil out there has about 120 calories and 13 g of fat per tablespoon. There’s no variety that’s magically lower in calories than all the rest. What really makes cooking oils different is their composition: Each one has a unique ratio of saturated fat to monounsaturated fat (MUFA) to polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). This ratio determines whether the oil is a solid or a liquid, how well it can withstand high temperatures, and what effects it will have on the human body.
Cold pressed or expeller-pressed refers to the way the oil was processed. Cold-pressed oils are pressed at low temperatures, which means they retain all the flavors, aromas, and nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by heat. Expeller-pressing is another clean way of producing oil: It means that oil was extracted mechanically instead of chemically.
Always look for organic, GMO-free oils and avoid dangerous, “partially hydrogenated” (trans) fats. Many conventional cooking oils are extracted from plants with industrial chemicals such as hexane.
When you expose oils to heat and oxygen, they go through a process called oxidation. Apply enough heat, and oil forms byproducts called “cooking oil polar compounds.” These compounds may be harmful to human health. Preliminary research shows they could raise blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease risk.
Here is a list of oils that should NEVER be heated but are very good for you. Next week’s blog will have a list of cooking oils.
WALNUT AND MOST OTHER NUT OILS
Walnut oil has a rich, nutty taste you would expect from the oil of cold-pressed walnuts. Since two-thirds of the fat in walnut oil is of the fragile polyunsaturated variety (meaning it’s easily damaged with exposure to heat), walnut oil is not recommended for cooking. Instead, use this oil for salad dressings and cold prep. Walnut oil should be stored in the refrigerator and will last up to six months. Just like the nut of its origin, walnut oil has also been show to reduce the risk of heart disease. A study in 2010 found that consuming walnuts and walnut oil helped reduce blood pressure.
Flaxseed oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, reducing risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer while also improving brain function. The omega-3 fat in flaxseed oil is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which converts in the body to two other omega-3s – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA and DHA occur naturally in good amounts in fish and seafood, so it’s important for someone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet to consume food sources rich in ALA. The daily recommended intake for ALA is 1.1 to 1.6 grams per day, and just one tablespoon of flaxseed oil provides seven grams of ALA. But, be careful with this fragile oil. Flax oil should not be heated and it is best in salad dressings, over cooked vegetables, added to smoothies or just by itself. Make sure to store it in an opaque bottle in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent oxidation.
Sesame oil is commonly sold “toasted” and has a rich, nutty flavor that complements tofu, rice and vegetables used in stir-fry. Like other nut and seed oils, sesame oil is highly unsaturated (85 percent of the oil’s fat is in mono- and polyunsaturated form) and it doesn’t hold up well to high heat or light. It doesn’t have much by way of nutrients, and it has an unfavorably high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Drizzle this flavorful oil over cooked foods or use it in an Asian salad dressing.
Cashews have a buttery, sweet, and salty taste, and are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals. They grow on cashew nut trees, native to Brazil. The nuts grow inside the seeds that hang from cashew apples.
Cashews contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients, but they also contain a lot of fat.
Not all fats are bad for you, and some types of fat can actually help your heart health. The fat in cashews is “good” fat, which is believed to help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke. The fat also helps you feel full and satisfied and may help in managing your weight.
Cashews contain the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, including oleic and palmitoleic acids. These are essential fatty acids that have been associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol. As a result, consumption of the monounsaturated fats in cashews is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cashews are an excellent vegetarian source of copper, providing more of the mineral than most other non-meat sources. In fact, eating a quarter-cup of cashews every day gives you 98 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper, which may decrease your risk of chronic disease. The copper and iron in cashews work together to help the body form and use red blood cells. This in turn keeps blood vessels, nerves, bones, and the immune system healthy and functioning properly.
Research shows that eating more nuts, such as cashews, can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In one study, cashews reduced blood pressure and raised “good” cholesterol levels.
Cashews contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants. When consumed daily, these antioxidant compounds can protect the eyes from the type of damage that can lead to blindness as we get older. Cashews can also help decrease the risk of cataracts.
According to Harvard research, two servings of nuts a day (two handfuls) is helpful in fighting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How to Buy
Look for dry-roasted cashews and unsalted, meaning the nuts were cooked without any added oil or sodium.
Cashews are offered in bulk and prepackaged containers. When purchasing from bulk bins, make sure the cashews are covered, and that the store has good product turnover to maintain freshness. You will find packaged cashews in a variety of containers – resealable and non-resealable bags, plastic jars, and foil-lined cans. When buying packaged cashews, choose vacuum-packed jars or cans over cellophane packaging as they will stay fresh longer. Whether in bulk or packaged, check to make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insects. Also look to see that the cashews are not shriveled, as this is a sign that they are past their prime. If possible, smell the cashews to ensure they are not rancid.
How to Store
Cashews have high levels of two things: oleic acid and oil. The oleic acid gives cashews an edge over other nuts by boosting shelf life; cashews last longer than almonds and peanuts, for example. The high oil content, however, makes them perishable and they can turn rancid quickly. Store cashews in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to avoid absorption of other food odors. At room temperature, they will not last long, but if you refrigerate them, they can last up to six months. Cashews may also be stored in the freezer for up to one year.
How to Cook
Cashews are versatile and can be used both raw and cooked in your favorite dishes as protein boosts or garnishes. Add them to chicken dishes, salads, in home-made or store bought granola.
Make cashew butter in a high-speed blender. It takes time so be patient because its rich creaminess is worth the effort.
Cashew Caesar Dressing is great drizzled over roasted potatoes or as a sub for mayo on any sandwich.
Cream of Cashew Pea Soup is dairy-free but wonderfully creamy!
Crunchy Cashew-Sesame Bars are energizing breakfast/snack bars you can make at home.
I use cashews often in baking. I soak a gallon jug of cashews covered in water overnight and store them in 1/2 cup portions in the freezer.
Rose Cardamom Chocolate Cheesecake is both vegan and grain-free – totally delicious.
Five-Spice Nuts with Soy Sauce and Sesame
Bon Appétite * Photo by Danny Kim
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari (gluten free), or Coconut Aminos (gf and soy-free)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of ground cloves
3 cups cashews
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 325°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook star anise pods, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and fennel seeds, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add brown sugar, soy sauce, cloves, and 1 Tbsp. water, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cashews and toss to coat.
Spread mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Bake, tossing once, until nuts are golden brown and no longer sticky, 15–25 minutes. Remove from oven and pour one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil over nuts and mix well.