The fat you choose to use in cooking can make the difference between a meal that supports health and a meal that throws off free radicals (thought to be a primary cause of the degeneration we refer to as aging). The higher the cooking heat, the more likely you are to be bombarded with free radicals, set off by breaks in fatty acid chains. There are only a few fats that can defy oxidation and its cousin, rancidity. What’s the determining factor? It’s the stability of the fatty acid chain.
- Saturated fats are the most stable fats because their fatty acid chains are short or medium in length and they contain no double bonds between the atoms of the chains, making those chains secure and stable.
- Monounsaturated fats are long chain fatty acids, but because they have only one double bond in between the atoms of their fatty acid chains, they are able to remain fairly stable.
- Polyunsaturated fats are long chain fats with two or more double bonds between their atoms, making them the least stable of all.
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Learn to Use Fats and Oils with Confidence
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil top the list of fats suitable for cooking at high temperatures because more than 90% of them are saturated. Coconut oil can maintain its integrity, changing form from liquid to solid repeatedly for years without sustaining damage. Extra virgin coconut oil is the best for cooking because it has been only minimally processed.
Coconut oil confers a range of health benefits that include supporting the immune system, heart and thyroid gland, proving energy, regulating metabolism, promoting healthy skin, and improving insulin secretion. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
Yes, butter is slowly making a comeback as the healthful food it always was. Butter’s short and medium chain fatty acids are 68% saturated, putting it in second place for high heat cooking. But there’s more to butter than the frying pan.
Butter is one the best sources of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a known cancer fighter. In one study, women who consumed 4 or more servings of butter or other high-fat dairy foods lowered their risk of colorectal cancer by 41% compared with those who did not. Butter is also a good source of cancer-fighting selenium and vitamins A and E. Like coconut oil, butter is protective of the heart.
If you’re still juggling the butter vs margarine debate – don’t. Choose butter.
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