In today's food world, fats are finally starting to get more credit! They are crucial components to cooking, baking, and your health.
In cooking, fats transfer heat to foods, prevent sticking to a pan, emulsify or thicken sauces, and develop a crisp texture when frying.
In baking, fats tenderize, leaven, hold moisture, and create a crumbly flaky texture.
Our bodies utilize fats to create energy, protect organs and cells, regulate fat soluble vitamins, and provide essential fatty acids (our body cannot make these, but needs them to survive!). We use oils in a majority of our meals to create digestive fire, enhance taste, and increase health benefits.
Quick differentiation: Unsaturated fats, aka oils, are liquid at room temperature and saturated fats (such as butter, ghee, and coconut) are solid at room temperature.
Coconut oil is is the only saturated fat (or fat that is solid at room temperature) not derived from an animal source.
It has gained tremendous popularity (& flack) in the past few years. Besides its many health benefits, it adds a slight nuttiness & is also very good for your hair & skin.
Health benefits: increases HDL (the good cholesterol), increases brain function, boosts immune system & reduces skin inflammation.
There are two types, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) which is often used for drizzling on salads & olive oil which can be used for nearly anything (regular Olive Oil smoke point is 465 F).
Health benefits: EVOO has anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, beneficial for those with heart disease, depression, dementia & obesity.
Ghee is sometimes referred to as clarified butter. It is made by boiling regular butter and removing the milk solids that form at the bottom. You can even make your own ghee.
Ghee, however, goes a little further than clarified butter. The milk solids in ghee are caramelized & the result is a deeply intense, complex golden elixir. Ghee will keep at room temperature for months & is known to improve in flavor as it ages. It is very popular in Ayurvedic cooking.
Health benefits: aids in digestion, great for lactose & casein sensitivities, made from grass-fed cows, contains an essential fatty acid & is rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, & E.
Mustard oil is commonly found in Indian & Asian cooking. It's amber in color & very pungent in taste. Since 1990, it has gotten a bad rap in the U.S. for containing erucic acid. There is debate as to whether or not enough could be ingested for it to be problematic. With that said, Indians have been using mustard oil for millennia. The key is to heat the oil to its smoke point (480F) which kills off the erucic acid.
Health benefits: boosts cardiac health, contains antibacterial & anti-fungal properties, improves hair & skin, reduces inflammation, relaxes/rejuvenates the body & stimulates blood flow.
Tan in color & has a nutty aroma but neutral flavor. As the oil is heated, it brings out a deep nuttiness that pairs well with ginger & citrus flavors. Most of the sesame oil used in India is un-toasted.
Health benefits: helps lower cholesterol, promotes bone growth, decrease anxiety & depression, reduce plaque & whiten teeth & reduces inflammation.