The right fats belong in your diet. In part two of Ask the Dietitian, I answer common questions about cooking with healthy oils.
1. Can I really get healthy nutrients from a cooking oil? Yes, you can get healthy nutrients from cooking oil. Also, dietary oils are not just for cooking. They can be used with salad dressings and dips as well. Since oils are fats, they help to transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
2. Why can’t I just use olive oil for all of my recipes? Olive oil has a subtle flavor of olives – which can mask or overwhelm certain dishes – i.e. cupcakes, pancakes and other baked goods. Olive oil is a great oil – but it is strictly monounsaturated fats – no polys – and we do need both types in our diet.
3. How much oil should I use in my cooking? There is no absolute amount that we need to consume each day. I would gauge the recipe. Remember that while a small amount of a food is good, too much of it may not be good due to excess calories – especially since oils are strictly fat calories. Fats are also meant to enhance the flavors in foods, not drown them in flavor or ruin their texture.
4. Anything exciting going on in the area of healthy oils? For me, it’s the evolution of scientific and medical observations – whereby old hypotheses about food and health impact change – once we have better testing methods, well-designed studies and the ability to really look at specific areas of health and diet. For example, the NIH is funding research looking at the protective benefits of palm fruit oil on the brain, in the reduction of harm after a stroke. As scientists become more open to looking at food and health relationships and test theories, I am always excited about what we learn!