Tweaklet #59 – Cooking Oils

There was a cheesy TV commercial when I was growing up about car oils with two guys speaking in terrible New York accents and the punchline was “oils and ain’t oils”.

It was cheesy but memorable ad! And I mention it today because this also applies to cooking oils. Some commonly used cooking oils are very bad for our health. So here’s some information about oil that I’ve learned.

The first one to avoid is anything labelled vegetable oil. Usually this is heavily refined soybean oil, or possibly heavily refined cottonseed, safflower, corn or grapeseed. Obviously it’s the heavily refined part that is of concern – they are processed under high heat pressure and using industrial solvents!

The other big issue with these vegetable oils is that they are mostly composed of polyunsaturated fats, which is the most reactive type of fat). This means they are prone to oxidation and free radical production, when exposed to heat and light.

What this means for our body is that these oils cause inflammation which can in turn lead to many internal problems and even serious disease such as cancer and heart disease.

There are a number of other unhealthy oils, like Canola and Margarine, which we’ll tackle in Part Two. For now let’s look at the top three HEALTHY alternatives.

Virgin coconut oil – because it is very stable at medium to high temperatures and full of healthy fats that provide great health benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil which is good for low temperature cooking and to use in your lovely homemade salad dressings.

Real Butter – particularly grass fed butter which contains important nutrients, vitamins and omega-3s.

So remember my fellow Tweakleters OILS AINT OILS and when you’re cooking, baking and making dressings, consider ditching the vegetable oil and explore some new alternatives.

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Tweaklet #52 – Salmon

We’ve talked about the health benefits of eating fish before and one of the absolute best is salmon. Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Salmon is nutrient dense and particularly recognised for its high levels of Omega-3s.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or fish oil help enhance bone health to keep conditions like osteoporosis at bay. They act as a natural anti-inflammatory to relieve inflammation and protect the nervous system from oxidative stress and age-related damage.

Studies show that salmon can do everything from helping boost brain function, sperm production and eye sight, to improving bone and skin health. It is full of heart-healthy fats, protein and rich in vitamins like A, D and calcium.

As demand for salmon has increased a lot of it is now produced in farmed conditions. There is a lot of debate about wild salmon versus farmed salmon. Generally speaking wild salmon has a much better nutrient profile than farmed salmon, but the biggest difference is the condition of many salmon farms. Living in a closed environment means the fish are more likely to need to be treated with chemicals which they readily absorb and pass on.

So when you’re shopping for salmon how can you tell the difference between wild and farmed?

The first sign is the colour. Farmed salmon is lighter and more pink, while wild has a deeper reddish-orange hue. Farmed fish will also a lot more fatty marbling in its flesh—those wavy white lines—since they aren’t fighting against upstream currents like wild ones.

Salmon is very versatile. It’s great simply pan-fried. Or it can be grilled or roasted or cooked in a paper parcel in the oven to seal in the flavour. And it takes flavour well so you can add a pesto or a crust or any of your favourite spices or herbs, and turned into an Asian, Indian or Mediterranean delight. You can crisp up the skin or take it off altogether.  And if you can’t buy fresh then good quality tinned salmon is OK too.

I find that even people who aren’t big fish lovers like salmon so if you haven’t had any fish for a while now’s the time to shop for a nice juicy deep reddish orange piece of salmon.

Mmmm, that’s got my mouth watering and some ideas flowing, so I’m off to get some salmon!

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Tweaklet #42 – Lemons

Lemons are one of those things that people swear by. From cleaning pots and polishing furniture to using lemons as a bug spray, they are everyone’s favourite cure-all.

And in fact their use in our diets is very versatile and beneficial. Because they are full of vitamin C and antioxidants, lemons help boost our immune systems and fight inflammation. And we know, don’t we, that inflammation is at the root of so many health issues and diseases.
Fighting rogue cells in the body, like those that form cancer cells, are definitely part of a lemon’s life work.

Lemons also help prevent kidney stones, increase iron absorption and improve the health of your skin.

The interesting thing is that lemons, with their ultra-tart taste, are thought of as very acidic, yet inside our bodies they are highly alkaline, so that means they are great for restoring a healthy balance in our gut.

Perhaps their most impressive benefit is their effect on heart health. Again the high levels of vitamin C make them the most beneficial, out of any fruit or vegetable, in keeping our hearts healthy and strong.

I find the easiest way to include lemons in my diet is with a daily hot water drink with a slice of lemon and grated ginger. I have it before anything else most days. It’s like drinking a cup of absolute goodness and even if the rest of my day’s eating goes horribly wrong, at least I know I’ve given myself a real lemon boost.

So when life gives you lemons……..consider yourself lucky!

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Tweaklet #41 – Cholesterol: Natural Solutions

Cholesterol is a big subject and the cause of it isn’t just food related but today we’re just going to focus on some simple food tweaks that can help lower cholesterol.

Essentially the mix is including a range of healthy fats, quality vegetables
Firstly there’s olive oil which is loaded with heart-healthy saturated fats which has been shown to drop bad cholesterol levels.

Good old vegetables are next as they are nutrient dense and high in vitamins and minerals.

Nuts are great all-rounders in lowering all the bad cholesterol markers. And they are high in fibre and healthy fats. Seeds like flax seeds are also excellent for heart health.

Fatty fish like salmon are packed with beneficial omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol.

Then there’s spices like Turmeric and garlic that play their valuable part. Other vegetables like beans and legumes and sweet potatoes contain active cholesterol-lowering compounds. Avocados are excellent too, as are persimmons, that unusual fruit.

Green tea, which is rich in antioxidants can be used to good effect as can gluten-free whole grains. The usual things to avoid apply – caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and trans fats. To help with cholesterol, like COQ10 and fish oil…….and essential oils that help lower and manage cholesterol levels.

Once diagnosed cholesterol is something many of us can manage successfully with some tweaks to our diet and it certainly can’t hurt to tweak things in that direction anyway.

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Tweaklet #38 – Raw vs Cooked

An interesting topic of discussion amongst foodies and nutritionists is raw versus cooked. There is a growing amount of evidence to support the health benefits of eating raw food as opposed to cooked and in fact shifting to a completely raw diet is no longer thought of as a fad.

A raw food diet is usually one that includes a wide selection of fruits and vegetables and eliminates all packaged and processed foods.

Contrary to popular belief raw food is actually more easily digested than cooked, plus raw food retain more nutritional value from not having been heated.

Raw foods help to alkalize the body and reduce acidity and the digestive enzymes mean they are more easily eliminated which means there is less chance of food fermenting in our body.

Some of the benefits of eating raw, apart from better digestion, getting more fibre, and easier pooping….. include a lowering of inflammation………. improvement in heart health and liver function…… as well as giving us more energy and better clearer skin.

Raw versus cooked is a really interesting topic and a fun one to play around with. As with any kind of dietary change, take it slowly and do your research to find out what suits your body the best.

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Tweaklet #35 – Fish

I know cooking fish can be a bit divisive!

It can be slimy to handle. When it cooks it can be smelly. Do you buy fresh or frozen and how do you deal with a whole fish?

Don’t worry, I completely understand. I love eating fish and I know healthwise it’s really worthwhile, for all those fabulous omega threes that keep our hearts healthy and stave off cancer and inflammation, but I have to admit I am not the bravest when it comes to dealing with fish.

I’ve got a few tips though about choosing fish and about cooking it so that your hands and your home remain smell-free!

Fish types vary from region to region but a few things are true everywhere.
Firstly, buy from the best source possible as you want to avoid farmed fish.

Generally speaking, farmed fish does not have the same level of nutrients, can cause inflammation and they are often treated with antibiotics which we don’t want to be eating.

When it comes to buying frozen or fresh – fresh is great if you know that it really is fresh. A lot of fish is frozen on the boats these days so arguably frozen could mean fresher. Just do your best to still buy a local fish as a lot of frozen fish travels a very long way and can have been in the deep freeze for many months.

Now to the fun cooking part! If you have some reasonably firm fillets, like salmon or cod or whatever your local robust fish is, you can make a lovely almond crust and bake it in the oven, or wrap each one up in baking paper along with some Asian flavours of garlic and chilli and ginger and a little tamari and bake them in the oven.

Making a light curry is also great for flaky fish. Then for lighter more delicate fish you can dust the fillets with spices and simply pan fry them in a little olive oil or coconut oil.

Of course there are endless options for cooking fish and we’ll do more of that in the cooking series but for now, go on, be brave, and buy some fish!

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Tweaklet #33 – Dairy

Most of us have grown up drinking milk and yet cow’s milk is one of the most common causes of allergies.

About 65 percent of us, isn’t that a staggering number, has a reduced ability to digest lactose and suffer from a variety of issues when they have dairy – stomach bloating…….respiratory problems……digestive issues……skin problems…..and increased inflammation. A lot of that has to do with dairy increasing mucus production……urghhhh we definitely want to avoid mucus!

So, understandably more and more people are seeking out dairy-free options and there are plenty. We’re not talking artificial substitutes either, there are loads of plant-based options to choose from that still provide calcium and other vital nutrients.

So to have a go at being dairy-free you stop eating milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, custards, ice cream, sorbet, whey and casein (KAY-seen).

What you can try instead are goats milk, this is still dairy but has much lower levels of lactose. Then there’s coconut milk……..almond milk………and kefir. Kefir and similar products are actually dairy but are fermented but the fermenting process changes the chemical make up making it much friendlier to our bodies.

You can have a lot of fun making your own nut kinds of milk. It’s a really simple and rewarding process and I’ll do a Tweaklet on how to make them soon.

I am not lactose intolerant but I do suffer from bloating and with some respiratory issues when I overdo dairy. I certainly feel a lot better when I keep it to a minimum and even better when I cut it out for periods of time. Why not try experimenting with not having dairy and just see if you notice any difference in your body.

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Tweaklet #30 Ginger – Powerful and Delicious

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE ginger! I make a ginger and lemon hot water drink every morning before I drink anything else. Freshly grated ginger! Yum. It goes into most dishes I cook –sweet and savoury.

I’m sure you find that there are certain foods that you are naturally drawn too? Well, ginger is one of mine.

It’s been around forever and is known for its powerful medicinal properties in both traditional and alternative medicine.

It’s a health enhancer in so many ways. It helps with upset stomachs such as morning sickness and motion sickness…….. It reduces the kind of inflammation that most commonly contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and brain disorders. Its powerful antioxidant qualities can help prevent, slow down or even stop serious diseases in their tracks.

Ginger eases menstrual pains…. fights fungal infections…… protects against stomach ulcers….regulates blood sugar……lowers cholesterol…. Relieves joint and muscle pain……and promotes good gut health.

Fresh ginger can be grated into literally every dish, pretty much. Just scrape back the skin with your fingernail or peel it back. Add it into soups, stews, stir-fries……. Meat dishes…..Veggie dishes……Juice it or add it to smoothies. Then, of course, you can also generously sprinkle dry ginger into your food or use ginger essential oil or buy a ginger supplement.

Ah ginger….,my , zesty peppery, delicious and nutritious friend, you’re the best!

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Tweaklet #28 Tumeric – the healing power of yellow!

One spice that you just can’t help knowing something about is Turmeric! This glorious golden spice is so vibrant and its magnificence goes far beyond its place as the number one spice in Indian cuisine, this is a powder that for centuries has been used to heal the body both inside and outside.

Turmeric is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. It’s well known for speeding up the healing process of wounds and skin conditions. It’s great for digestion and has powerful antioxidant properties which can protect your liver and other organs from being damaged by strong drugs.

I really don’t use enough Turmeric which is what has prompted me to do this particular Tweaklet, so let’s look at ways to include this fabulous health booster into our diets.

Tumeric is a member of the ginger family and as you already know I love ginger! Depending on where you live you may find turmeric fresh and can grate it into your favourite stir fries, soups and savoury dishes.

If you only have access to powdered Turmeric you can sprinkle it into eggs….. greens……. Rice……. roasted vegetables …..and meat dishes or use it as a rub. You can add it into dressings…….. and sauces and put turmeric into your smoothies and tea.  Just sprinkle away and be generous!

For those of you who want to make full use of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, look up recipes for golden milk. I haven’t tried making it yet but I will and we can then compare notes!

So that’s our golden Tweaklet for today – turmeric! I’d love to know how you include Turmeric in your daily diet.

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Tweaklet #25 The Cruciferous Family: Superfood Crusaders!

What did our mothers always tell us? To eat our greens….right?? Which I guess either made you love them or hate them.

These days it seems that whether we like them or not, green vegetables are pretty essential. And the ones in the cruciferous family……the WHAT family, I hear you say? I’m just showing off because I’m learning about them too.

The cruciferous family includes green vegetables like Broccoli…..cauliflower……cabbage……Brussel sprouts…..Asian greens like Bok Choy and pak choy……rocket or arugula……kale….collard greens….mustard greens……radishes…….watercress……kohlrabi and quite a number of others.

Why are members of this family such superfood crusaders? Well because they work so hard at defending our health.

They reduce inflammation…..regulate blood sugar and enhance heart health……They balance our hormones and help us lose weight.

They are full of fibre but low in carbs so they’re great for digestion and keep us fuller for longer.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always listen to my mother, so if you haven’t been eating as many greens as you should then when you up your intake you could expect to experience a bit of wind……flatulence I mean…..but it will pass…..so to speak……so stick with it and start noticing the difference that these little superfood crusaders are making to your health.

Thanks for watching todays Superfood Tweaklet! We’re all doing our best to Tweak our health aren’t we.

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