Fats are slowly starting to regain some of their lost appreciation, but mostly the ones from vegetable sources which contain unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats are still seen as one of the unhealthiest things you could possibly eat.
The modern diet is richer in carbohydrates and contains significantly less fats than what we used to eat 3 decades ago. However according to CDC, during the same time frame, adult obesity has doubled in the U.S. while obesity rates among children have tripled. The statistics are probably just as discouraging in many other countries.
Nutritionists and health researchers conducted numerous studies, which have revealed the link between saturated fats, cholesterol levels and health problems like obesity and increased risk of heart disease is a complicated one. Also, there are other factors that need to be taken into account like total calorie intake, consumption of processed foods, exercise levels and so on.
While eating saturated fats from both animal and vegetable sources can actually bring us health benefits (in moderate amounts of course), there are some extra perks when we choose to cook with these fats.
Because of their molecular structure, saturated fats have a high smoke-point, are resistant to oxidation and become less altered during the cooking process. Here are 4 saturated fats that are great for cooking and your health, plus they have a delicious flavor.
Lard is not so popular these days, but chefs and bakers still prize it for its versatility. Of course, the quality of the lard depends a lot on which part of the pig it comes from (the best is leaf lard, from the pigs visceral fat) as well as the way it’s processed.
If you want to use lard for cooking you should know some of the store bought lard is bleached, deodorized and has added substances like antioxidants and emulsifiers to increase shelf life. Try to find high-quality lard made by artisanal producers or render it yourself.
Also known as clarified butter, ghee is a very popular fat in the Indian cuisine. Clarified butter is also used by many other nations, and it can be seen under quite a few different names. Ghee is basically the pure fat from butter, without any milk solids.
Because it doesn’t have milk solids, clarified butter has a high smoke point (482 °F/250 °C) although it still provides that delicious buttery flavor we all know and love. Also, ghee has only trace amounts of lactose and casein, thus even those who suffer from lactose intolerance can safely consume it.
Clarified butter is great, but you can also use regular butter for cooking. It’s true, it has a lower smoke point compared to ghee (302 °F/150 °C), so it’s not suitable for cooking at high temperatures.
However you can add it in soups, stews and any food that is slow cooked, boiled or quickly sautéed at low temperatures.
In the ranks of health enthusiasts, coconut oil is probably the most popular fat from the ones listed here. Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fats, so it’s perfect for cooking even at high temperatures.
It contains medium-chain triglycerides which are very easy to digest and lauric acid known to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Also, its subtle coconut flavor is appreciated by lots of people and coconut oil serves as a wonderful alternative to butter for making desserts.