March 21st is the first day of spring, so why not celebrate with a bit of spring cleaning? This week is your first cupboard clean up assignment: it's time for an oil change. You do it for your car...but what about your body? The days of low fat, high sugar living are over but you can't afford to overlook the quality of the oils you put into your body.
Why? Dietary fats have a multitude of influences on your health. Fats are incorporated into the membranes for all of your cells and can deliver a glow to your skin. The oils we eat can help raise or lower your cholesterol; they can deliver important fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants to help improve our health and they can cause or calm inflammation. Just as important, fats help carry flavour and provide a wonderful texture to the foods you eat.
This week, follow my 5 step plan to cleaning up your act...
Step One: Remove all products from your cupboards that contain trans fats. Don't look for trans fats on the nutrition facts as foods that contain small amounts of trans fats can still legally be labelled as trans fat free. Look for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" on all of your ingredients lists. If packages are unopened, donate food to your local food bank.
Step Two: Smell all of your cooking oils. The healthier an oil is, the quicker it turns rancid. If oils start to smell like paint thinner, it's time to toss.
Step Three: Toss out oils that are high in omega 6 fats, such as soy and corn oils and margarines. Also ban cheap vegetable oils that are chemically processed such as canola and sunflower oils. Our North American diet is already too high in omega 6 fats, which contribute to inflammation, a contributor to chronic disease.
Step Four: Stock the following: a small amount of butter (organic if possible) for occasional baking or as a treat on good bread. Keep it in the fridge. Buy extra virgin olive oil for everyday use (salads and sautéing) and virgin coconut or good quality peanut oil for high heat frying.
Keep your liquid oils in a dark, cool place. Not by the stove!
Step Five: Ensure you buy only what you can use in a couple of months. Use the sniff test often to ensure that your oils are fresh and healthful. If you want to buy value packs of oil, keep them in the fridge and leave only a small amount at room temperature. Note that olive oil will turn cloudy and semi-solid in the fridge. This will not affect the oil and can be reversed by bringing oil to room temperature.
Spring has sprung!