How to Get Through an Israeli Hanukkah Without Gaining Weight

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Donuts. Israelis scarf them down this time of year. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum.

Just about everyone enjoys the jelly donuts that are so popular in Israel during Hanukkah. Sure, they're chock-full of calories and send our cholesterol levels soaring. But the good news is that when making them, some fats are better than others.

Oil and fats contain huge amounts of energy. A gram of fat consists of nine calories and a spoonful of oil around 50. So choose your oil wisely. Oil and fats are found in nuts, avocado, tahini, fish, meat, eggs and dairy products, and 30 percent of our diet should include healthy fats.

As for Hanukkah, one regular-sized donut with jam contains about 500 calories. One small potato pancake, a Hanukkah treat more popular in the Diaspora than in Israel, contains 200 calories and 14 grams of fat. These delights have lots of calories due to the frying, during which they absorb oil.

So what’s the right way to fry? First, use clean oil; don’t reuse oil. In deep-oil frying, combine olive oil with another oil, or combine cold-pressed olive oil with refined olive oil. Avocado oil, meanwhile, preserves its nutritional value and is recommended for both seasoning and frying.

Some experts say canola oil is the best oil for frying because it resists oxygenation. It’s best to use canola oil with vitamin E.

Sage oil, pumpkin-seed oil, nut oil, wheat-germ oil and flax oil all have strong flavors and are best for seasoning, not frying. The most harmful oils for frying are soya oil, which tends to oxygenize, sunflower oil and corn oil, which especially isn’t recommended for deep frying.

The bottom line is that you should shun deep-oil frying and refined oil used by the food industry. Also, prefer cold-pressed oils that preserve their nutritional values, and use oils that resist oxygenation. And don’t use the same oil twice.

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