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    Archive for the ‘oils’ Category

    The Handy Dandy Cooking Oil Comparison Chart

    A few weeks ago, Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog asked me if I wanted to help build a cooking oil comparison chart that would help people make sense of the wide array of choices. The topic of cooking oils is one I am very passionate about, so I gladly jumped at the chance.

    The chart — a real visual treat! — can be downloaded here, but I encourage you to read this blog post first, as it explains the science behind the results (and contains some very important FYIs).

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Spicy Sushi Rolls

    spicytunarollIs a spicy tuna roll any less healthy than a non-spicy one?

    — Amanda Refler
    Washington, DC

    Spicy rolls offer a higher number of calories.

    That spicy sauce on top is made from a combination of mayonnaise, chili peppers, and, in some cases, oil.

    A standard spicy roll contains a tablespoon of mayonnaise and anywhere from two to three teaspoons of oil.  Some of the newer — and significantly larger — “special rolls” can contain as much as two tablespoons of mayonnaise and four to five teaspoons of oil!

    In that case, you are looking at anywhere from 57 to 314 calories per roll (57 assuming a tablespoon of mayonnaise and no added oil; 314 if there are 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 5 teaspoons of added oil).

    If your favorite sushi joint pulls off the mayo plus oil combo, you can definitely save several hundreds of calories by 86’ing the spicy topping next time you order two rolls.


    You Ask, I Answer: Calculating Calories in Deep-Fried Foods

    Fried Calamari 500How do you calculate caloric intake from deep fried foods?

    For example, if I have french fries, how many calories are from the oil? 

    When things are deep fried, there is still oil left behind afterwards, so it’s not as if all of it gets soaked into the food.

    — Tony (last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    This can get quite complex.

    First of all, certain qualities of oil can affect how much of it gets absorbed into a food.

    For example, if a food is deep fried in oil that has not reached a high-enough temperature, it will absorb more fat (and taste more greasy.)

    Additionally, since oil that is reused and reheated multiple times  chemically breaks down, it can be difficult to get it to a high enough temperature without sacrificing its quality.  A restaurant that reuses its oil will produce deep-fried food that is greasier and, therefore,  higher in calories.

    If deep frying is done optimally (unusued oil heated at the right temperature in which food is cooked for a very short period of time), very little oil absorption takes place.

    However, once you add breading or starchy coatings to foods (as is the case with pre-frozen, ready-to-fry french fries), fat absorption increases significantly.

    Since there are so many variables, this can truly only be figured out in a nutrient laboratory via detailed nutrient profile analysis. 

    For what it’s worth, a large order of McDonald’s fries provides  two tablespoons (250 calories’ worth) of added oil.

    The best “take-home tip” I can provide here is to always make sure the oil you stir-fry food in is sufficiently  hot (to minimize oil absorption).


    You Ask, I Answer: Oil Smoke Points

    sunflower oilI often read about the smoke points of different  oils.

    Does that have any nutritional importance?  Is a high or low smoke point the sign of a healthier oil?

    — Tamara Ripple
    (Location withheld)

    Oil smoke points do not provide any nutritional information (i.e.: oils with higher smoke points are not necessarily the heart-healthiest, or vice versa), but they are important from an overall health perspective.

    When any cooking oil begins to smoke, its fats deteriorate and become rancid.  In turn, all present antioxidants are deactivated and free radicals (compounds that are harmful to us at a cellular level) are formed.

    If you accidentally heat an oil to the point where it smokes, discard it!  Do NOT cook with it.


    ADA Conference: Define "Great"

    Frito-Lay had the following sign you see on your right at their stand (in case you can’t quite make it out, the first sentence reads, “Frito-Lay chips are a great way to add healthier oils to the diet.”) at the ADA’s Food and Nutrition Conference Expo.

    A “great” way? I think the marketing team got a little carried away.

    Most of their chips offer a measly gram of fiber per serving and not much in terms of vitamins and minerals, except for their potato chips, which contain a fair amount of potassium).

    Besides, I could think of better ways to get heart-healthy fats — avocados, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, tempeh, tofu, salmon, tuna, and flaxseed, to name a few.

    Most conventional chips are made with plant oils loaded with omega-6 fatty acids.  Although these fats are essential (and therefore must be sought out in food), the average American eats an excessive amount of them.

    Adding avocado slices to a salad, or some ground flaxseed to a smoothie truly are great ways to add healthy fats to your diet, since they also contribute vitamins and minerals.


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