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Diet Myth: Fat Is Bad For You

 

This post originally ran on June 4, 2010

The recipe was originally posted on September 24, 2010

Is Fat Bad For You?
No it is not!
The fact is our body NEEDS fat.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet.
Fat is a source of energy for the body, it helps the body absorb nutrients, aids in nerve transmissions, and maintains cell membranes.

Fat can become problematic when consumed in excess and is not burned off with activity.

And the type of fat consumed is also a big consideration. Not all fats are created equal. Dieticians tell us it is best to minimize the amount of saturated and Trans fat in our diets.

Monounsaturated fats, so called good fats,  found in things such as nuts, olives, avocados, and olive oil are actually good for us. So too are the polyunsaturated fats (omega-3) found in salmon and fish. So dieticians say we should eat more of these kinds of food.

But you do not need to cut out all fats, nor should you. Fat makes you feel full longer. So if you eat too little fat you may get hungry between meals and then eat more.

Fat is also a binder. It helps hold food together. If you remove fat from food it falls apart. So something has to be added to those fat free cookies to make them cookies.  Guess what is added!!  SUGAR. Lots and lots of sugar. And sugar can make you gain weight.

Which is worse? Fat? Or sugar? Personally I prefer a little fat. But that is a personal decision. Only you and perhaps your doctor can make that decision.

Also, remember that it is portion size that matters. Moderation is the key.
Foods Labeled “Lite,” “Low Fat,” or “Fat Free,” Are Healthier
Not necessarily.
“Fat free” or “Low in Fat” is NOT the same as calorie free.

Often times food products that say, “lite,” “low fat,” or “fat free,” are loaded up with more processed sugars and more processed flour to make up for the fat that has just been removed. Many times low fat  foods have MORE calories than the real thing. 

BUT since the package says, “lite,” “low fat,” or “fat free,” the tendency is to eat more of it (50% more according to research) and so unknowingly we end up consuming far more calories than we think we are. We feel virtious because we eliminated fat, but load up on sugar calories instead.

And we wonder why we can’t lose weight.

Check the nutrition label for calories per serving. The trick here is to be sure to find out how many servings are actually in that package of food. One package may contain 2, 3, or more servings. You have to read the fine print on that Nutrition Label.

All fat has 9 calories per gram.

Multiply the grams of fat indicated on the label by 9 and you will know exactly how many calories from fat you are really getting. Many labels round up or down.

But fat in and of itself is not the culprit.

In general a good rule of thumb is to eat real food and not foods that are created in the laboratory as often as you possibly can. Many of the chemicals in pre-packaged and processed foods replace real food simply in order to make it look better or to increase the shelf  life of the product.

Personally, I don’t think I should have to have a degree in science to know what I am eating. What is disodium guanyate anyway? In other words, make your own spaghetti sauce instead of buying boxed or jarred with all of its chemical preservatives and food substitutes. You may actually end up consuming fewer calories since the fat in real food is more satisfying and helps us feel fuller too. You will also save money cooking for yourself, a huge factor during this recession.

If you do buy packaged foods look for the ones with the fewest ingredients.

DISCLAIMER: The information for this very brief discussion of an extremely complicated topic was gathered from the following sources: WebMDNet Doctor; HealthCastle; Real Simple; and from the books:  Eat Drink and Be Merry by Dr. Dean Erdell  published by Harper Collins 1999; and The Fat Fallacy by Dr. Will Clower published by Three Rivers Press 2003. Please also keep in mind I am not a dietician or a nutritionist. I just love to eat well. And I like to cook. And so I just write a simple blog trying to provide inexpensive yet delicious recipes for you, information about how to survive the recession, and helpful information about food and the joys of eating.

Featured Recipe:   Sausage with Hominy and Spinach

This is an easy Sunset Magazine recipe. And it kinda, sorta has a fall feel about it too. I think it is the sausage. So it is perfect to share with you so near the fall equinox. 

Hominy is just dried and puffed whole kernels of corn or maize. Hominy is a Powhatan Indian word and is one of the ways Native Americans fixed corn.

Hominy comes in both a white and a yellow variety. There is no difference in taste. But I like to use the yellow in this recipe simply because the yellow right next to the green of the spinach looks so pretty and bright.

NOTE: Before we begin lets talk about how to cook the spinach. Spinach cooks down very quickly. You can add a whole lot to the skillet but by the times it cooks down it does not look like there is much there. So add the spinach in batches and cook.  And then add another batch and cook or toss. And then add some more until all spinach is used up. I used 5 ounces of spinach and you can see how quickly it cooked down.

Wine Vs Broth: I have used both wine and vegetable broth in this recipe. I really like the wine. It imparts a nice dry semi-tart flavor. I did not use it this time simply because I did not have any white wine in my fridge. I had red and a rosé. But no white. And I used chicken broth simply because I had no more vegetable broth in my pantry. I did not notice any change in taste using the chicken broth. I find this recipe divine no matter those minor details.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

4 sausages of your choice (I use sweet Italian.)

½ cup dry white wine or vegetable broth, divided (I used chicken broth.)

1 can (29 ounce) hominy drained and rinsed (I skip the rinsing part.)

About ¼ teaspoon salt + 1/8 teaspoon of salt (I don’t measure)

About 1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 garlic cloves sliced

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes (I omit totally.)

10 ounces fresh spinach leaves

Here is what you do:

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees.

Sunset tells us not to use a non-stick skillet. But I do and the sausages brown very well.

Anyway, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the sausages. Cover and cook 4 minutes, turn over and cook through, about another 4 minutes.

In other words, brown well on all sides.

While the sausages are browing  is a good time to slice the garlic. I have found that if  I don’t do it now, I may not have time later. Better safe than sorry and have to rush around and spoil the meal. And I have had that happen.

When the sausages are done transfer sausages to a baking sheet, cover with foil and place in oven to keep warm.

Add 1/3 cup of the wine or stock to the pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula scrape up any browned bits left buy the sausages.

Add the hominy and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; or to taste.

Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid has evaporated and the hominy is hot and starting to stick to the pan. If you look closely at the picture below, you will see how dry the pan is. Get to there and cook about 1 minute longer.

Here is where Sunset Magazine and I part. They say to, “Transfer the hominy to the baking sheet with the sausages.  Add the rest of the wine or broth to the pan, heat, scraping up any hominy pieces and pour over the hominy.”

I skip this part. I do not pour the wine or broth over the hominy because I keep the hominy in the skillet. First few times I made this I followed the directions. But being the lazy cook I am it got to be a bother. So I just push the hominy to one side of the skillet…………

………… and then pour in the liquid. It works just as well. For me it just makes the preparation quicker and easier. Over the hominy, under it, beside it. Makes little difference to me.

But doing this also means I don’t add the extra olive oil to cook the spinach in. I just pour the wine or broth into the skillet, turn the heat up a bit and start adding  some of the spinach. (See NOTE above on how to work with spinach.)

Toss some of the garlic slices on top of the spinach. If you are using the chile flakes this is when you would add those too. Toss the spinach with tongs until wilted. This will not take long at all. Then add more spinach and more garlic slices. Do this until all the spinach and garlic are used up. I had 3 batches.

Batch #1 See how much spinach is there.

After about 20 or so SECONDS the spinach will look like this. Just keep turning it over. Tongs work very well for this.

Now add another batch of spinach and some more of the garlic  to the skillet and turn and cook, and turn and cook, turn and cook. Keep adding batches of spinach and garlic till there is no more left. Then cook until spinach is done.

Do not over cook the spinach. This whole process takes about 2-3 minutes AT MOST. I don’t like my spinach over cooked. Just wilt and heat. (Ignore this if you like your spinach cooked more.)

When the spinach is nearly done I add the sausage back to the skillet.

Now plate the spinach and hominy and add the sausage. Pour any remaining juices in the pan over eveything.  Eat and enjoy.

Yes. I really do eat what I cook.

I like that Sunset Magazine shares a lot of variations for this recipe. Use what ever kind of sausage you like, spicy hot, knockwurst, andouille, or chicken apple.

Instead of spinach use kale, chard, or other greens. You may need to par-boil these greens before using in this recipe however.

Instead of hominy try white, pinto, or cranberry beans.

Instead of sausage try pork chops or chicken breast halves, or even hanger steak.

I love options!!!!

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

1 tablespoon olive oil                       $0.12

4 sausages of your choice                $3.00

½ cup dry white wine/broth             $0.16              

1 can (29 ounce) hominy                 $1.90

2 garlic cloves sliced                       $0.08

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes             $0.05

10 ounces fresh spinach                  $3.99

Salt & pepper

Total cost for 4 people = $9.30
Cost per person = $2.33

Quote of the Day   

If you have much,  give of your wealth. If you have little,  give of your heart.    

Arab Proverb 

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