Fat Gives Things Flavor: 5 Fat Facts to Savor Your Culinary Skills
One could argue that the flavor of a food, dish or meal is merely a perception, what tastes good to someone may not taste good to someone else. But there is neither debate nor disagreement about the importance and role that fat adds to a dish to enhance flavor and taste while eating a meal. Fat gives things flavor! Thankfully fat is back in fashion, after a hiatus from its mislabeled bad reputation as a macro-nutrient linked to heart disease and weight gain. Don’t misread my words that seem that I am a ‘fat-promoter’ what I want to inspire for you foodies and cooks is that having fat present in a dish plays a key role in food pleasure and taste. My message is that fats are essential for flavor (but also for a body’s good health) and like everything in our diet and lifestyle, there is this balance between eating enough fat and eating too much, and adding the right choices of fats that are healthy to eat, because high intakes of less healthy animal fats are not recommend by health professionals. If you need additional information, read to the bottom of this article where you can find links on what types of fats are healthy and my recommendation to eat a Mediterranean diet, (a high in healthy fats diet); this type of eating is very flavorful, one that I follow and feel great on.
I want to inspire you to cook with healthy fats, to add these lipids to the dishes you prepare during the cooking process or at the end like they do in Italy; oh those belli Italians love to top a hot bowl of pasta or pizza with good dash of olive oil before enjoying the first bite. Don’t feel guilty about fat and adding fat to foods. You’ll even find your kids will appreciate your cooking even more. Whether whipping up a real French vinaigrette for a green salad, roasting potatoes in the oven with herbs and oils or sauteing vegetables with a garlic infused oil, using natural fats is the trick for flavor.
5 Facts about Fat and Its Role on Taste, Flavor and Meal Satiety
#1 Fat Helps With Weight Control and Food Satiety:
Eating regular meals that contain a good balance of healthy fats can help you stay in weight control because of the link between fat having a higher kilo-calorie mass per gram along with a higher meal satiety and pleasure. On both a psychological and physiological level, eating fats in a cooked meal draws the body to eat less quantities of the dish because of a reached satisfaction for calorie intake, fullness factor and satiety earlier than eating a fat-free or low-fat dish. The French are experts on this Fat Fact #1.
#2 Fat Traps Aroma Compounds:
Fat carries and traps volatile flavor aroma compounds in foods so they do not get lost in the air during the cooking (heating) process or when the dish is served hot on the plate. (Think of the steam that escapes when you are cooking). If you smell the aromas of your food a lot when you are cooking, then the flavors are escaping in the steam and not staying in the dish. (For this fact, along with fat, cover your dish and cook at a lower temperature). Many aroma compounds are fat soluble and stay linked onto lipids during cooking and eating. A dish that contains little or no fat will not hold onto these fat soluble aromas and will escape in evaporation. For more information, read this scientific article on Gastrophysics: Texture, Taste and Aroma.
Fat helps define the structure and texture of food. Scientists use the term mouthfeel because of how it feels to rub the tongue onto the roof of the mouth. (I think about eating a wonderfully high fat ice cream and how this has high mouthfeel). This is a wonderful tactile feeling, isn’t it?
Recently scientists have determined that fat is considered the sixth taste, along with salt, sweet, bitter, acid and umami. There is data that suggests that our brain’s olfactory system links to fat receptors on the tongue and we physically perceive fat as a taste sensation. What this means is that the fat taste passes from the tongue taste buds with a link with our odor system to produce flavor.
The addition of fat allows food to cook at higher temperatures and develop tastes of a dish thru high temperature Maillard chemical reactions that alter amino acids and sugars to add browning, caramelizing and flavor. Two typical examples of Maillard reactions are cooking meat and roasting sliced potatoes. The addition of fat to these foods adds to this Maillard browning chemical reaction and taste.
Healthy Fats and Mediterranean Eating
The Mediterranean diet is my favorite eating plan and way to cook with adding healthy fats. This diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world, it is anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, full of flavor, satiety and an excellent choice for weight control.
Here are some links to following a Mediterranean diet:
The healthiest fats to add to your cooking are heat stable vegetable and seed oils such as olive oil, walnut oil and rapeseed oil. A good quality butter, instead of hydrogenated vegetable oils (such as margarine) is a good choice to cook with or add to foods. I make a French vinaigrette for our twice daily salads, and this is an easy way to eat healthy fats, enjoy fresh foods, and help with weight control.
I leave you with some inspiration from Julia Child:
“Fat gives things flavor.” and “If you are afraid of butter, use cream.”
Have you reached the end and want to read more? Please tune in on the blog for more ways that you can move to ‘foodie happiness’ with the simple pleasures of a meal or drink, prepared or served with flavor, taste and presentation at the forefront. Simple dishes, simple ideas, simple tricks to bring taste and appreciation.
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