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HEALTHY COOKING - What fats to use when cooking?

Depending to their resistance to heat, fats are more or less suitable for cooking. In order to preserve your health, it is important to use the right fat according to the cooking method. In this article, I would like to show you which fats are best to use.

Different types of fats

In the deep fryer, oven, pan… we use fats to cook everyday. Butter or olive oil in the pan, sunflower oil in the fryer, butter in pastries,… But are these fats suitable for these uses?

Not all fats endure the heat the same way. Their resistance depends on their fatty acid content:

  • Some fats are rich in saturated fatty acts. These words may ring a bell as you can see them written on nutritional labels: ‘with saturated fatty acids’. It’s often written on ingredients including animal fats, coconut or palm oils.

  • Some fats are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6):

    • Omega-3 are found in oily fish, linseed or chia oils.

    • Omega-6 are found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, grapeseed, or soybean oils.

  • Some fats are rich in monounsaturated fatty acts (omega-9). They are especially found in olive or sesame oils.

Depending on their fatty acid contents, heated fats can become denatured, or worse, unhealthy.

On a molecular level, it means that under the effect of heat (or other transformations such as hydrogenation), some fatty acts can change from a ‘normal’ form (cis) to a ‘denatured’ form (trans) that can be dangerous. These latest are called trans fatty acids.

Note: trans fatty acts are also naturally found in some animal products. However, these ‘natural’ trans fats have never been scientifically considered as unhealthy. In conclusion, only trans fats resulting from the transformation of unsaturated fatty acids seem to be harmful.

Cooking temperatures

As seen before, there are several kinds of fats. Each category has a different heat resistance. Please refer at the following table:

*When baking, other ingredient’s humidity helps to keep the temperature under 100°C.

** When frying, always use cold oil and slowly increase the heat.

Please note that even if an oil has high heat resistance, it is better to use them cold in order to enjoy all their nutritional contents.

Finally, try to avoid vegetable oils that are not ‘virgin’ or ‘first cold pressed’. The initial quality of the oil you are using is extremely important. Poor quality oil will bring less benefits for your health.

Note: even if butter contains mainly saturated fatty acids, and has a good heat resistance, the presence of proteins and carbohydrates traces makes its use at high temperature dangerous for the health.


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