Choose the best cooking oil for your recipe and your body

- Choosing the right oil cooking oil can be a challenge. Over the years, there’s been a great deal of hype and skepticism over specific types of oils.

The best advice, however, may be to use a variety, depending on your recipes.

Many studies have shown health benefits from the primarily plant-based Mediterranean diet.

One of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet is the use of monounsaturated oils, like olive oil, and avoiding saturated fats

Registered dietitian Alexandra Fucarina, from Tampa General Hospital, recommends choosing oils including canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower rather than fats that are solid at room temperature like butter, shortening, lard, and hard stick margarine. 

Blends or combinations of oils, which are often sold under the name “vegetable oil,” and cooking sprays made from these oils are also good choices. Some specialty oils, like avocado, grapeseed, rice bran, and sesame can be healthy choices but may cost a bit more or be harder to find.

In general, Fucarina says to choose oils with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and to avoid partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

Some oils have distinctive flavors, so try different types to discover which ones you like. Also, some oils are better for certain types of cooking than others, so you may want to have more than one type in your pantry.

Healthy oil or not, they all have calories. A great purchase is a spray bottle that allows you to add your favorite oil.  I bought an inexpensive Misto sprayer and love it so far.  You do have to be careful and wash it periodically because the oil can become rancid over time. 

You can usually use cooking oils just like solid cooking fats. For example, use them to:

-Make your own salad dressings, marinades, dips, and sauces.

-Grill, sauté, stir-fry, or roast foods.

-Coat pans to keep food from sticking.

-Spread or drizzle on foods for flavor.

-Season cast-iron cookware.

-Substitute for butter, margarine or solid fats in recipes.

As for saturated, plant-based fats, like coconut and palm, unless your diet specifically calls for their use, like certain ketogenic diets, Fucarina recommends you use them sparingly.

RECIPES

Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

1 glove garlic, minced

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp fresh thyme

1/2 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

Mix the garlic, mustard and vinegar in a small bowl.  Using a whisk, slowly add the oil.  Stir in the thyme and lemon juice.  Pour into a glass cruet or mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.   Bring to room temperature and shake well before using. 

The addition of garlic adds an extra dose of cancer-fighting antioxidants to this fresh, summery vinaigrette.

Grilled grouper with Italian herbs:

Ingredients:

2 (6-ounce) grouper fillets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning blend (a mix of dried fennel seed, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley, pinch of salt to taste)

Fresh lemon wedges

Directions:

Lay the grouper on a large enough piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle the Italian seasonings over the grouper and drizzle each fillet with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Crimp the foil tightly into a packet.

Heat the grill to medium heat and place the foil packet on the grill grates. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the foil packet from the grill and wait one minute before opening. The fish should be flaky and firm.

Hint:  My preference for fresh grouper is to place it in a wire basket and cook it on a grill.  

Sweet Potato Fries:

2  large sweet potatoes (peeled)

¼ cup orange juice (freshly squeezed)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus 2 teaspoons)

add  kosher salt (and freshly ground black pepper)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch squared strips (fry shape) and put them into a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, 1 tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper, to taste, the ground ginger and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking until reduced to a thick consistency. Remove from the heat, pour over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Rub 2 teaspoons of remaining vegetable oil on a rimmed nonstick baking sheet or use a silicone liner and omit oil. Arrange the sweet potato strips on the prepared baking sheet and bake until brown, about 25 minutes, turning after about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the potatoes to a serving dish. Eat and enjoy!

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