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Cooking & Oils

There are a number of factors when considering cooking for MS, but frying is a key one. It is best to avoid frying with oil at all if possible. If absolutely necessary, a small amount of extra virgin olive oil may be used. The omega-3 and omega-6 oils are too unstable to cook with, particularly flaxseed oil, so it should definitely not be used in cooking at all, but particularly MS cooking. Heating them rapidly causes oxidation, and conversion to fat breakdown products which are deleterious for health. It is important to avoid the commercial so-called cooking oils altogether. These products are refined, bleached, deodorised, heated and generally tampered with and have little resemblance to the original food.
Extra virgin olive oil on the other hand is relatively stable. But avoiding cooking with it altogether is best, as all oil degenerates with heat. Extra virgin olive oil has a distinctive flavour, lasts for ages, and is money well spent. The general all-purpose oil around the kitchen should be this extra virgin olive oil. It is really the only unrefined vegetable oil that is available commercially. Ordinary olive oil is treated in much the same way as the other refined vegetable oils and is probably best avoided.

Substitution is important in cooking for MS. By substituting olive oil for most of the fats in recipes, such as butter and margarine, and by using only the egg whites, and substituting soy milk for cow’s milk, it is possible to make a range of cakes and desserts which contain very little saturated fat, but taste wonderful. The moistness in cakes can often be achieved by substituting fruit juice for the suggested oil. It is sensible to use only a small amount, but if possible avoid oils altogether in cooking. Baking though is not nearly as bad as frying. Baking doesn’t raise the temperature of the oil anywhere near what it reaches during frying, when unstable frying breakdown products are formed. These are very harmful once incorporated into cells in the body.

Although the concentration in the Taking Control Program is on the omega-3s, they and the omega-6s shouldn’t be used for cooking. Sesame oil, an omega-6, for instance, is wonderfully fragrant, and can give an Asian dish a superb aroma and taste, but can be simply added over the dish at the end of cooking prior to serving rather than being used in the cooking process. Some people prefer to take their flaxseed oil supplements in this way as well. The oils should preferably be stored in the fridge, where they will last longer. All contain some saturated fat, and this is probably the main reason not to use too much of them.
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  1. Cameron-Smith D, Sinclair AJ. Trans fats in Australian fast foods. Medical Journal of Australia 2006; 185:293