Nutrition: Choose The Right Oil for Delicious, Healthy Meals Every Time

Parvati Magazine is delighted to introduce Vancouver-based nutritionist Aura Ziv, RNC CPT, as a contributing editor for the Nutrition column. Aura helps people all over the world to make healthy choices and get free from emotional eating. This month, Aura spoke about oils with celebrity chef Rob Feenie. Rob is High Chef at the Vancouver location of the Cactus Club Cafe, a trendy Canadian restaurant chain offering the best in global cuisine using local, fresh ingredients. Learn from Aura and Rob which oils will provide the best complement and health benefits for your next dish.

Being a nutritionist, I take cooking oils quite seriously. They are a staple to our diet and can support or hinder the body’s natural healing process, depending on what we choose and use. Using the best oils to cook with requires some careful thought – not just in terms of flavour, but in considering their nutritional impact. Today’s restaurants are increasingly health-conscious. Many well-known chefs are now choosing fats and oils that enhance the health benefits of the five-star meals they serve their guests.

You don’t need an expensive meal to bring quality food into your own kitchen. You just need to know which oils to use to enhance the value and texture of your food. It is becoming well known that canola and vegetable oils are so over-processed that they are no longer good for our health. The body struggles to digest them. They can cause clogs and blockages in the kidneys if eaten often and in large amounts. Organic, cold-pressed oils, however, are still the number one choice for quality and taste.

Here are some suggested oils to try for your next favorite dish, and their health benefits.

Olive oil. Sometime in the nineties it became popular to cook with olive oil. It is a great oil to eat raw. Drizzling it on top of already-cooked food, or using it in baked foods where cooking temperatures don’t get hot fast, is optimal. However, it turns rancid at high temperatures, developing more free radicals and becoming cancerous to the body. It should not be used for frying or other intense heat. In a nutshell: heated olive oil is bad for your health, but raw olive oil is cancer fighting and good for your health.

Grapeseed oil. This is a great oil to cook with. It is the oil mostly widely used by Vancouver’s celebrity chef Rob Feenie, High Chef at Cactus Club Cafe. Feenie says, “Grapeseed oil doesn’t go rancid under high heat and has a very neutral flavour, almost tasteless. You can really accentuate a dish with herbs and spices with a neutral-tasting oil, but these flavors can easily be overpowered by a powerful tasting oil like sesame oil.” Grapeseed oil is naturally high in Vitamin E, which works to lower cholesterol and fight heart disease.

Avocado oil. This is also becoming a chef’s favourite. Avocado oil has a nutty flavor and helps to reduce psoriasis symptoms and arthritic pain in the body. It has a very high smoke point and does not go rancid at high temperatures, so it is a good oil for frying. It’s great for stir-fried vegetables and complements any whitefish dish.

Sesame oil is often used in Asian dishes and has a strong, almost pungent flavor. While it is safe to cook with sesame oil even at high temperatures, the flavor can be a love-or-hate relationship for many. When you cook for guests, it may be advisable to cook with a less flavored oil such as grapeseed, unless you are cooking an authentic Asian dish that calls for sesame oil in particular. Sesame oil has many antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Flaxseed oil removes toxins from the body, which can help reduce the appearance of cellulite. It also is easy on the tummy and can help to eliminate diarrhea and IBS stomach issues. It is not advised to heat flaxseed oil, as this will destroy its healing properties. But it is a popular choice to add to smoothies.

Peanut oil is very similar to olive oil in its health properties, but has a more distinct flavor and can be used for cooking. However, do not combine it with many other herbs or spices, or your palate may explode in competing flavors.

Aura Ziv headshotAura Ziv, RNC CPT is a passionate nutritionist, personal trainer and health coach. She has helped hundreds of clients over the last ten years achieve their health and wellness goals. Her favorite sayings are “Get the mind right and the body will follow”, and “A successful person does what an unsuccessful person does not want to do.” Aura has been featured on Breakfast TV and is a published health & wellness writer and public speaker. Learn more at Eatgoodfeelgood.ca.

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