While celebrating the miracle of oil with foods doused in the main character, the real marvel of Hanukkah is when eight days of oil-slicked latkes don’t send you to the cardiologist.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which happens roughly in orbit with Christmas on the calender.* After the temple in Jerusalem was sacked by a neighbouring Hellenistic empire, a measly spit of oil – used daily to light a monumental candelabra – was found amid the rubble and lasted an astonishing eight days. Ever since, the miracles of illumination and the freedom of religion are commemorated with candle lighting and delicious (but heart-suspicious) oily treats.
To honor the grease of celebration, we prepared a short list of healthy oils to stock a well-rounded kitchen:
1. Olive Oil. The champion of the Mediterranean diet! Olive oil consists mainly of monounsaturated fats without excess polyunsaturated or saturated. Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press of the olives and the flavour speaks of it. With a fairly low temperature at which it will decompose (the smoke point), it is better for salads than cooking. Virgin olive oil is an improvement for low to medium temperatures (sautéing), and light olive oil for higher temperatures. For a similar fatty acid profile but a higher smoke point, try Avocado oil. Olive oil can be eaten crude (without refining), and when cold-pressed it’s prime for the closest shelf within reach.
2. Flaxseed/linseed Oil. Apremier plant source of alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid which the body can convert into more usable forms (DHA or EPA, available directly from fish, krill or algae). At the same time, flax doesn’t add significant linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat tends to predominate in Western-typical diets and can be harmful in excess. Eat raw, as flaxseed oil is prone to oxidation with heating.
3. Hempseed Oil. Deemed one of our Celebrity Superfoods, eat hempseed oil raw for the ideal ratio of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Hemp oil has a mild nutty flavour and is useful for salad dressings.
4. Coconut Oil. Though high in saturated fats (therefore solid at room temp), coconut oil contains triglycerides of medium length (primarily lauric acid), which are converted to energy efficiently by the body. Part of our arsenal in The Age Old War, coconut oil is incredibly heat stable and useful for cooking.
5. Sesame Oil. Like hemp and flaxseed, sesame oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid of the omega-6s). It contains many antioxidants (such as vitamin E) which help minimize heat oxidation and the taste is irreplaceable. Still, sesame oil is best used towards the end of cooking or raw. Also crowned a Celebrity Superfood, sesame seeds are very resistant to rancidity.
With the holiday of lights glimmering, so are the oils used to prepare the traditional foods. These healthy options for Hanukah and year-round make us feel we’ve actually struck oil.