Ever since a study was published that supposedly exploded the myth around saturated fats not being artery cloggers after all, the Internet has exploded with products touting the health benefits of plant based oils. Before rushing to the supermarkets or health food stores to stock up, bear in mind more studies arguing the pros and cons of saturated fats and oils are sure to appear. So what is the truth?
Oils can contain long chain (LCTs) or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Each is a special class of fatty acids. They bear more resemblance to carbohydrates than fats and oils so they are a quick source of energy. LCTs require substantial bile acids and numerous digestive steps for breakdown to occur. In the bloodstream they are absorbed by fat cells that, not unexpectedly, are stored as body fat. In comparison, MCTs are water soluble, thus entering the bloodstream faster and transported directly the liver. Only a small percentage is converted into body fat. Foods containing MCT include palm oil, coconut oil and milk fat. Both LCTs and MCTs are like carbohydrates; the former is suitable for a slow release of energy, while the latter is suitable for quick energy. MCTs may promote less weight gain because they encourage thermogenesis (fat burning increases heat generation). Thermogenic diets high in MCTs have been touted as a type of weight loss routine. There are numerous plant-based oils:
• Pumpkin seed oil extracted from the toasted seeds of the Styrian pumpkin contains mono and polyunsaturated fats. Ideal for salad dressings and dips.
• Hemp seed oil contains not only polyunsaturated fats but omega3 fatty acids; believed to be good for the heart, cancer prevention, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
• Apricot kernel oil contains mono and polyunsaturated fats. It can be used for salad dressing, sautéing and pan frying.
• Pecan oil contains polyunsaturated fats and omega3 in addition to zinc, magnesium and selenium. It's exceptional as a salad dressing and dip.
• Hazelnut oil contains monounsaturated fats as well as antioxidants which are believed to delay or prevent some types of cell damage. It's best for low heat cooking or as a drizzle over finished dishes.
• Tea seed oil is wonderful at high temperatures so lends it to stir frying. It contains mono and polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants.
• Rice Bran oil makes it ideal for stir fry because of its high smoke point. It contains mono and polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants.
• Avocado oil contains monounsaturated fats and lutein that's beneficial for eye health, and phytosterols that have been shown to lower cholesterol.
• Macadamia nut oil has a very high smoke point so it's ideal for frying. It possesses a rich, buttery flavour excellent for popcorn and baking. Like many other oils it contains monounsaturated fats and omega3.