By Rosie Schwartz, RD, FDC
Did you know that fat is an essential nutrient? While for many years, people avoided eating all manner of fat, scientific research is showing that consuming the right kinds and amounts can help you to reap the benefits for good health.
While there’s no doubt that fat tastes good, it adds much more to meals than you may realize.
Firstly, including fat in moderation, such as an oil in salad dressing or cooked vegetables, improves your nutritional status. Sautéing your broccoli in some garlic-scented oil is not only palate-pleasing but it also helps you to absorb certain fat-soluble nutrients in the vegetable such as beta-carotene. Research shows that having your salad bare, or with diet dressing, not only leads you to eat less salad, but it’s also less nutritious.
Healthy fat is essential
The essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic, are those your body can’t make and are necessary for a wide array of processes in the body, including the functioning of your brain and immune systems along with hormone production, to name only a few.
Generally speaking, dietary fats fall into two groups – saturated and unsaturated with the current recommendations being that we eat less saturated fat. These are solid at room temperature while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
These essential fatty acids are found in these unsaturated oils or foods which contain them. Enjoy a variety as each not only offers different flavours but also some unique advantages to health.
Canola, camelina, flaxseeds and oil and olive oils are a few examples of healthy fats but they’re also found in a variety of foods such as nuts and seeds and avocados.
A bounty of Canadian-grown selections to choose from.
Here are some facts on a few healthy oils grown in Canada.
Did you know that canola oil was named after Canada? It has a stellar reputation for its heart health benefits as not only does it contain the least amount of saturated fat of all vegetable oils but it also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3-fatty acid.
It’s also a fat that we as Canadians, consume too little of. Science shows that omega-3 fats offer anti-inflammatory action and as inflammation is now thought to be part of the cause of many chronic diseases ranging from heart disease and diabetes to cancer risk and auto-immune and inflammatory diseases, it’s key to focus on upping your omega-3 intake.
Cold-pressed canola oil is a lesser known option. Like extra virgin olive oil, which is known for its antioxidant content due to compounds known as polyphenols, cold-pressed canola also provides a range of polyphenols. The flavour profile, aroma and colour all depend on a number of factors such as the soil and climate or growing temperatures which vary as you move through canola-growing areas.
Chances are you may not have heard of camelina oil. While it’s a recent addition to our marketplace, this oil is actually an ancient crop, a seed belonging to the mustard family, and now grown in Saskatchewan. It’s chock full of omega-3 fats, along with vitamin E which protects the oil from going rancid as quickly. It also has a high smoke point, making it a desirable choice for cooking.
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil
Flaxseeds may be little, but they sure do pack a potent mix of disease-fighting compounds. They’re also a rich source of ALA along with blood-cholesterol lowering fibre and lignans, compounds with anti-cancer action. But in order for you to reap flax’s health benefits, the seeds must be ground.
Flax oil is another popular choice and while it doesn’t contain the fibre or lignans, it’s still a super source of ALA. Unlike the other oils, flax oil should not be used in cooking and must be kept refrigerated. Enjoy it in preparations such as salad dressings.