Drizzle to Your Heart’s Content
Nut Oils Give a Boost to Your Cooking and Your Health
By Eliza Ward
Oils made from pecans, macadamia nuts, avocados, pistachios, and walnuts can contribute significantly to a healthy diet, and make some of the tastiest finishing oils imaginable. In regions where flavorful seed and nut oils are prevalent, they provide many of the daily fat calories both during cooking and as last-minute flavor-enhancing drizzlers at the table. It turns out that nut oils are another key part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, along with freshly pressed olive oil.
Many of us remember the “low-fat” craze popular during the last quarter of the 20th century. Bolstered by American Heart Association recommendations, many of us were told that the key to controlling weight and chronic conditions, such as heart disease and high blood cholesterol, was to eat a very low-fat diet.
As we now know that way of thinking was misguided. The new millennium ushered in an age of “positive” thinking when it comes to dietary fat. New research supports a new understanding about the importance of “good” fats (mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids) as part of a healthy diet – as opposed to “no” fats or “bad” fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats.
Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 vs. Omega-9 Fatty Acids
With the “good” fat debate more or less settled, some are now focused on three of the main types of “good” fats: omega-3 (linolenic), omega-6 (linoleic), and omega-9 (oleic) fatty acids. It has been proven that a balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with a high level of omega-9 fatty acid, significantly reduces the risk of a cardiovascular related disease.
As it turns out, because of the abundance of omega-6-heavy corn and soy oils in our foods, meats and packaged products, the typical American diet is especially high in omega-6, and especially low in omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are less volatile and, therefore, foods high in omega-6s have a longer shelf-life. However, a diet disproportionately high in omega-6s is bad for our bodies, leading to inflammation and other chronic conditions. So the goal is to increase our intake of dietary omega-3s and omega-9s
, and just as important, decrease your consumption of omega-6s
, in order to “balance out” your fatty acids.
With all the new information around omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids, it’s hard to resist simply running out and buying a bottle of Krill Oil capsules. After all, being a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the functional eating club, adding a little Krill Oil to my morning power smoothie would be the obvious solution, right?
Not really. Adding high omega-3 fatty acids to our diet is relatively easy - pills and bottles of fish oil abound in your local supplement store. But, without making changes to your current diet and decreasing your consumption of omega-6s, you won't easily achieve your fat-balancing goals. As healthy as Krill Oil may be, it's very hard to consume enough pills to make up for over-consumption of omega-6s in the typical American diet. The key to success is substitution.
Tips to Achieving a Fat-Healthy Diet
Achieving a more balanced fat diet is easier than you think. Using nut and seed oils more often makes fat-balancing both easy and delicious. The key is to replace high-omega-6 foods and cooking oils with more balanced oils, or high omega-3 and high omega-9 oils whenever and wherever you can.
Here are a few quick suggestions that will get you on your way:
- Increasing your consumption of high omega-3 fish, such as Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon and Northwest Wild-Caught Black Cod. Fresh and canned Tuna, Anchovies and Sardines are also high in omega-3s. Look for those packed in olive oil as opposed to vegetable oil. While your at it, finish your fish with a drizzle of pistachio or walnut oil - yum.
- Make your own salad dressings using nut and seeds oils, or a mix of nut oils and olive oil. (Make sure you make small quantities at a time and store your dressing in the fridge, as omega-3s are less shelf-stable than omega-6s.)
- Look for high omega-3 eggs in your local grocery store, and use them whenever you cook and bake.
- Buy grass-raised chicken and meats, instead of traditional grain-raised ones. Most commercially raised beef and chicken are fed on corn and soy - both high in omega-6s.
- Replace the corn or soybean based vegetable oils in your pantry with Nut and Seed Oils for medium or low-heat cooking, and with fat-balanced Rice Bran Oil for high-heat cooking or baking. But don't store your nut oils in the pantry - store all nut and seed oils in the fridge or freezer before opening, and in the fridge after opening.
- Use nut and seed oils at the table instead of butter or margarine. Both are high in saturated fats - or "bad" fats. Additionally, most dairy cows are fed a diet high in corn and/or soy, and most margarine's are made from high omega-6 oils, such as corn oil.
- Snack on raw or roasted nuts, instead of commercially packaged sweets, corn chips, potato chips or baked goods purchased at your local coffee shop. Most packaged products are manufactured to maximize shelf-stability, which always points to omega-6s.
Not only will your health benefit from switching to nut and seed oils, but you might discover that your cooking will take on a new, delicious dimension. The switch can give your cooking a great flavor boost, add to your eating experience, and open up a new world of culinary delights to-boot. Just think of all the flavorful opportunities that can be created.
Time is of the Essence
And now is the perfect time to switch – just as summer’s bounty is hitting the market. Get some delicious nut and seed oils involved with your garden-fresh produce today. And once you're hooked, these oils will effortlessly follow you through the rest of the culinary seasons. Soups, salads, pasta, risottos, vegetables, poultry, meats, seafood, and even desserts can be your canvases for these amazing drizzling oils.