Oil Me Up
Find out what’s new in the world of oil from NYC and beyond.
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December 4, 2005
City Health Department Shows Trans-Fat the Door
After a survey conducted earlier this year showed that 30% of City restaurants were using hydrogenated oils, the Department launched a campaign to get rid of trans fats, which are found in partially-hydrogenated cooking oils and spreads.
“To help combat heart disease, the number one killer in New York City, we are asking restaurants to voluntarily make an oil change and remove artificial trans fat from their kitchens,” Health Department Head Thomas Frieden announced. We are also urging food suppliers to provide products that are trans fat free.”
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), trans-fatty acids or hydrogenated fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol levels and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol when used instead of cis-fatty acids or natural oils. These changes in blood cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease.
Take Two Tablespoons And Call Me in the Morning
Olive oil has long been lauded as a central component of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Researchers recently discovered an anti-inflammatory compound in freshly-pressed olive oil that they named oleocanthal. Oleocanthal has a similar effect on inflammation as ibuprofen.
Researchers noted that the amount of the compound in olive oil is much lower than the active ingredients in a tablet of ibuprofen, but hypothesized that regular consumption of olive oil over a long period of time may have a protective effect against inflammatory diseases like heart disease.
Grapeseed Oil Gets Hot
We recently spoke with grapeseed oil supplier and chef Valentin Humer of Salute Sante!, who recommends using the oil as an all-purpose cooking oil. Humer comments, "From a health perspective, grapeseed oil has almost 50% less saturated fat and almost ten times more essential fattty acids than olive oil." Grapeseed oil has been shown in some studies to increase HDL levels in the blood, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you have had as much trouble with smoke alarms in small apartments as we have, you may want to know that grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point (485°F) than almost any other common cooking oil. Where most oils tend to burn and leave a charcoal taste coating your food, grapeseed oil won’t blacken—even over a high flame. This translates into less smoke, while allowing your meal to retain a more natural flavor. So if you are looking to heat up your nightlife, grab a bottle of grapeseed oil along with your Merlot and get cooking.
We did, and were pleasantly surprised with the full, yet light flavor of grapeseed oil. It has the oaky undertones that you would associate with a nice white wine, making it perfect for sautéing chicken and all your favorite veggies. But don’t just stop on the stove. Try mixing it with raspberry vinegar, lemon juice and a bit of brown mustard for an easy salad dressing.
Fish or Flax? Omega Confusion
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we all eat fatty fish at least two times a week because of the meat’s high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
According to the AHA, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil:
- Lower your chances of arrhythmias, which can cause a sudden deadly heart attack
- Decrease the growth of plaque in your arteries
- Lower blood pressure (slightly)
Supplementation with EPA and DHA (fish oil acids) even reduced the overall death rate in patients who had already had a heart attack. But the AHA cautions that data is not as clear for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of omega-3 fatty acid found in flax seed oil, soy foods, walnuts and canola.
While there have been enough promising studies suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health for the AHA to make their recommendation, reviews of all published data, including a recent report in the journal Atherosclerosis, found that the data is less than complete. Researchers from Tufts University agree with the Heart people that the evidence on ALA is less than clear, but go further, claiming that the lack of long-term data limits their ability to make a recommendation on fish oil consumption for the prevention of heart disease.
Better safe than sorry, you might say. But what does that mean? We continue to hear reports that global fish supplies are contaminated with mercury and other poisonous toxins. Do you know if your fish is mercury free? So, while the evidence is less clear on the positive impact of ALA’s, we know that the side effects of mercury are bad. What do you think?