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Cultural Cooking

Different cultures use different ingredients to cook with, and some of these ingredients are not so healthy for our heart. Below we have listed some healthier ingredient swaps that you might like to try.

The Food Cruncher has put together some tips to help you make healthier cooking choices. We hope you find this page useful.

Our focus is on fat, as choosing the wrong types of fat to cook with can increase your risk for heart disease. We do need some fat in our diet as fat is involved in helping the body absorb some vitamins (A, D, E, & K), is needed for energy, a healthy immune system, and helps our brain to function.

The two main types of fat are saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature. These fats usually come from animals, and coconut. Eating too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol, and increase your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Examples of saturated fat include:

Dairy foods such as cream, cheese, full fat milk, and full fat yoghurt
Butter, ghee, lard, hard margarine
Coconut oil and palm oil
Fatty and processed meat (like bacon, ham, salami)
Unsaturated fats are the best fats for heart health. These include:
Vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, olive, peanut, walnut, corn)
Plant-based spreads
Below are some tips on fat swaps to make your cooking healthier:

Indian Cooking
Fat Swap
Coconut Oil Avocado or Sunflower Oil (curries)
Coconut Cream Coconut Milk ( a better choice )
Coconut Milk Lite Coconut Milk ( a better choice )
Lite Coconut Milk + Half Lite Coconut Milk/ half water - best choice
Ghee or Butter Canola Oil or Sunflower Oil (similar smoke point). (3-4 ratio, eg if recipe says 4 tablespoons of Ghee, use 3 tablespoons of oil). Ghee and butter are very high in saturated fat, so swap it for these oils for a much healthier choice.

Asian Cooking (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese)
Fat Swap
Coconut Oil Peanut oil, sesame oil, rice bran oil.
Soy Sauce (not a fat but very high in salt and bad for blood pressure)
Try using Worcester sauce – it has around 75% less salt than soy sauce (even the low salt soy sauces).
If you won’t change to Worcester sauce, at least use low salt soy sauce, and cut the recipe amount in half and use half water.
Coconut Aminos – made from fermented coconut sap, flavour similar to soy sauce, MUCH less sodium, a little expensive but a good option to consider.
Fish Sauce
+ Fish sauce is super high in salt! Substitutes include 1/2 low salt soy sauce and ½ rice vinegar (or other vinegar).
+ Half low salt soy sauce and 1/2 lime juice.

European Cooking
Fat Swap
Lard, Suet, Duck Fat Olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil.
Butter Olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil.

Mediterranean Cooking
The main fat used in Mediterranean cooking is olive oil. No swaps needed!

Easy Swaps
Fat Swap

Fatty meat & processed meat (like bacon, ham, salami, canned meat)
Lean meat with fat and skin removed.
White fish
Oily fish at least once a week (salmon, mackerel).
Meat-free days
Full fat diary foods (milk, yoghurt, cream, cheese)
Low fat milk (semi-skimmed or skimmed)
Low fat yoghurt
Reduced fat cheese, cottage cheese.
Coconut – fresh, dried, desiccated Dried fruit & nuts

Butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, hard margarines, suet

Vegetable oils (olive, sunflower, soya,) plant-based spreads
Cream based curries and pasta dishes
Swap for tomato or vegetable-based curries and pasta dishes.
Frying with butter or lard
Fry with a small amount of vegetable oil, or use a spray, OR bake, boil, grill, or steam.
Creamy salad dressings (like mayonnaise, ranch, Ceasar dressing). Olive oil based dressings or low-fat mayonnaise.

Cooking at high temperatures
Use sunflower, canola, peanut, and sesame oils as these have a high smoke point. Avoid coconut oil, goose fat, lard, dripping, and butter as these are highly saturated fats and not good for your heart. Avoid deep frying (food will be very high in calories and can contribute to weight gain).