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Prairie Fare: Is It Time for An Oil Change in Your Recipes?

We have many oil choices in the grocery store, and some of them are more healthful than others.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Whew!” I thought to myself when I opened the can of solid shortening. It looked OK, but the aroma almost took my breath away.

I have one recipe where I use this particular type of fat, and I hadn’t made it in at least six months, based on the date I had listed on the container. Along with the passage of time, the warm conditions in our cupboard promoted rancidity.

Food science principles were haunting me in my kitchen.

During the process of rancidity, “peroxides” are produced when fat is exposed to oxygen in the presence of warm conditions and/or light. In the short term, rancid fat will not make you sick, but it will affect the flavor and aroma of the food.

My family would have turned up their noses or covered their noses if I served them a smelly dessert on a holiday. I tossed the canister of shortening in the trash.

I altered my recipe and used butter, which tasted much better, but it turned my frosting yellow. Next time I will purchase a very small can of solid shortening and keep it in the fridge or freezer. Cold temperatures delay rancidity.

Using oils in cooking and baking is a healthier choice. However, liquid fats are even more susceptible to becoming rancid than solids. Be sure to buy what you will use within a few months. In many recipes, you can substitute 3/4 a cup of oil for 1 cup of solid fat but you may need to experiment a little.

We have many oil choices in the grocery store, and some of them are more healthful than others. Oils often are described as being high in “monounsaturated” fat or “polyunsaturated” fat. These terms refer to the chemical structure of the fatty acids that make up fat.

You may remember learning about fat and oils in a chemistry class. If not, here’s a quick lesson about some fat terminology.

Fats are chains of carbon atoms. If a fat has many double bonds within its chemical structure, the fat is considered polyunsaturated. If the fatty acid has one double bond, the fatty acid is monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are considered heart healthy.

Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol without affecting “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

For example, canola oil is low in saturated fat and a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including heart-healthy (and quite famous) omega-3 fats.

Canola oil is pressed from canola seeds, which are grown in abundance in North Dakota. Canola oil is made up of 61 percent oleic acid, 21 percent linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fat), 11 percent alpha-linolenic acid (a polyunsaturated fat and also an omega-3 fat) and 7 percent saturated fat.

Canola oil has a light flavor, which makes it versatile in cooking. Canola oil works well for sautéing and stir-frying because it has a high smoke point of 460 degrees.

The smoke point is the temperature where oil begins to break down and release smoky fumes. Any type of oil can catch on fire if you overheat it, so always stay vigilant in the kitchen when you are frying food.

Olive oil is made by pressing olives, and the color varies from greenish to golden. Olive oil also is high in monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is sold as “virgin” or “extra virgin.” Extra virgin olive oil has less acid, a fruitier flavor and a stronger aroma than virgin olive oil.

Olive oil, on average, is 75 percent monounsaturated fat, 11 percent polyunsaturated fat and 15 percent saturated fat.

Olive oil imparts a characteristic flavor to your foods. Using olive oil in frying may cause your food to brown quickly because it will begin to break down and smoke at 374 degrees.

Vegetable oil is listed in many recipes. Is it made of vegetables? No, there’s no broccoli or carrots in it. Vegetable oil is a plant-based oil that may include canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean, sesame, sunflower or any combination of these oils.

Here’s one note of caution regarding oils. If you choose to make your own “flavored oils,” be aware that homemade flavored oils, such as mixing cloves of garlic in oil, have been linked to botulism, which is a potentially deadly form of foodborne illness.

If you decide to make a flavored oil, store it in the refrigerator and use it right away. Do not store homemade flavored oils on your countertop. Commercially produced flavored oils have an added acid or a preservative, which keeps them safe, so enjoy those in moderation.

If you are feeling a little creative, try making some homemade salad dressing with your favorite oil and acid. It’s perfect with some delicious, tender mixed greens.

Personalized Homemade Salad Dressing

1 c. oil (canola, sunflower, olive oil, etc.)

1/3 c. acid (red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc.)

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Optional ingredients (sugar; mustard; chopped peaches; minced onions; chopped red, green or orange peppers)

Whisk together all ingredients or place in a covered glass jar and shake. Serve over mixed greens and chopped vegetables. Store unused salad dressing in the refrigerator.

Makes 21 servings. Each serving (about 1 Tbsp.) has 90 calories, 10 grams (g) of fat, 0 g of carbohydrate, 0 g of protein and 115 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 9, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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