Must Try Foods That Boost Your Nutrition and Add Sustainability to Your Life
Bad to the Bone
By Tracy Turi
Land of Abundance
Can you imagine your family sitting down to plates piled high with multiple animal proteins, a starch, sauce(s), buttered vegetables, and buttery breads, and then following it up with dessert and an entire glass of milk? That was a typical meal for much of the twentieth century. Cookbooks in the 1930s advised the lady of the house to complete even a light meal with hearty desserts like pie ala mode, a gooey cobbler or chocolate layer cake. Americans were certainly less sedentary back then, but even as late as the 1990s, they consumed primarily saturated and trans fats. When Crisco was first introduced in 1911, it was made with partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil. It sold in droves because it was marketed as a more digestible fat. In reality Americans had merely substituted saturated with trans fats. Digestion, abundance and convenience resonated more than heart health and obesity. When I was a kid, many peanut butter brands still contained up to 25 percent partially hydrogenated fat. Oreos were made with lard until 1997.
The human body is designed to not run out of energy. Whatever energy isn’t burned gets stored in the body as fat (triglycerides) until needed. Fat is protective and vital to our long-term health, it even keeps our bodies warm. Yet our relationship with it remains conflicted and inconsistent. In the late 1970s, Americans began to restrict their total fat intake. At that point, all fat had become the enemy, and nobody knew about the benefits of fatty acids and antioxidants. Today we consume more olive oil than ever, but saturated fats, like butter and beef tallow, are suddenly back in vogue, while some healthier plant-based oils are frowned on because they either leave a large carbon footprint, have been extracted using solvents or come from genetically modified plants. At the same time we still consume much more soybean, canola, coconut and palm oils than olive oil, much of it in processed foods. Oreos might now be both kosher and vegan, but that white spackle is nonetheless made with a partially hydrogenated palm or canola oil base.
Bad To The Bone!
So how do we choose? I try to optimize my family’s health by cooking with a wide variety of compound- and antioxidant-rich plant oils every day. Thrive algae oil is one of my favorite new better-for-you choices because it’s also a versatile cooking oil. It contains zero trans-fat, is very rich in monounsaturated fat (making it heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory), and lower in saturated fat than olive oil. It’s a flavorless, almost colorless, neutral oil that doesn’t compete with the natural flavors of my food. Because it’s been refined, it has a 2-year shelf-life and, best of all, a 485-degree smoke point. This means I can cook at very high temperatures without breaking down the oil or even combusting tonight’s dinner.
Algae oil is also a sustainable choice. The facility is not only powered using waste sugarcane, the algae is fermented with sugarcane sourced from rain-fed fields, and the pressed biomass can be used for renewable energy. According to Corbion, the Dutch sustainable food ingredient company that owns Thrive, their process yields more oil per hectare than most other plant-based oils. The oil is manufactured using no pesticides. It’s also Kosher Certified (OU), Halal Certified (IFANCA ), non-GMO, paleo, and gluten-free.
Algae Isn’t Always Green Pond Scum
So, what is algae, anyway? There are thousands of species of algae, which are single- and multi-cell microorganisms (like seaweed) that grow on decaying matter. While neither a plant (they have no roots, stems or leaves) nor a fungus, they are a fungus-like material that thrives on sugars. Many strains are photosynthetic, but others are white because they lack chlorophyll. Thrive algae oil uses one particular strain of white algae (isolated from the sap of a German chestnut tree) that has been modified over time from plant traits of oil producing plants.
Each culture collection of algae is cryopreserved, pulled from the freezer when needed and fermented with cane sugar in large, sterile stainless-steel fermentation tanks until enzymes naturally break down the complex carbohydrates into fats. The resulting biomass is expeller pressed. Raw algae oil contains volatile compounds from the polyunsaturated fat, so it undergoes a refining, bleaching, and deodorizing process to make it a more suitable neutral culinary oil for high temperature cooking. Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E) are also added back to extend its shelf life.
Tracy Turi, is a trained chef, recipe developer and culinary trend watcher. She has a Masters in Education and has taught nutrition and culinary skills to area children since the 1990s. She is also an avid home cook and a mother to four children. She lives in Monmouth County, NJ.