Take Healthy Fats Along on Your Global Cuisine Tour
Posted by , MS, RD, LD, FADA

As millennials clamor for unique flavors and the fusion of global cuisine into meal mainstays, the range of tastes, ingredients and spices appearing in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S. is quickly expanding. Innova data indicates a 20 percent annual growth in ethnic flavors from 2013–2017 allowing today’s consumer to experience a wide range of global cuisines from Hawaiian poke to Peruvian ceviche to Burmese fermented tea leaves. As these dishes are integrated into eating habits, dietitians are considering their nutritional value, including fat source and type. Today’s blog addresses fats and oils in 2018 trending global cuisines.

Middle Eastern Eats. Mintel data indicates that 66 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in having these foods offered at restaurants. In fact, Middle Eastern options offered on restaurant menus increased 32 percent from 2015 to 2017. Falafel and hummus are well incorporated into U.S. consumers’ eating habits, but consumers are ready to go deeper with options like lamb kofta, fattoush salad and grilled halloumi. Traditional dishes vary on the leanness of the meat used, and this culture offers many vegetarian meal options. Olive oil, primarily a source of monounsaturated fat, is a key ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, most often used as a drizzle or dressing, or add after cooking to enhance flavor.

Hawaiian Hits. While traditional Hawaiian eating habits are high in complex carbs and fiber and low in fat, healthy fats are a mainstay of traditional Hawaiian recipes given the islands’ easy access to fresh seafood. The poke bowl (pronounced po-kay) is definitely the bowl of the moment; it’s traditionally made with fresh, raw fish, sliced and marinated in sesame oil, soy or hot sauce, and served over a bowl of rice or greens. Lomi lomi salmon combines this raw fish with tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno and scallions into a dish often served at luaus. In these dishes, sesame oil imparts a unique flavor, but it tends to be higher in saturated fat than canola or olive oils. Consider using it sparingly as a drizzle or vinaigrette, and in Hawaiian recipes that use more fat, choose an oil like canola to maintain an overall healthier fat profile of the dish.

Peruvian Picks. Across it’s landscape, Peru offers a range of climates which leads to a diversity of produce from more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes to corn and the traditional ají and hundreds of other chili peppers. Spices, potatoes, rice, beans, fish and various grains are the staples of Peruvian diets, and many superfoods including quinoa, camu and pichuberries are indigenous to the country. Ceviche is a favorite dish in Peruvian cuisine and is a combination of fresh seafood steeped in onion, chilies and lemon or lime juice which gives it the perception of being cooked. Sacha inchi seeds, chica seeds and avocados are other sources of healthier fats in this cuisine. Vegetable oil vs. saturated fat sources is typically used in Peruvian dishes such as Ají de Gallina or Huancaína sauce which is often served over potatoes, steak or risotto or as a dip.

As global cuisines are introduced into U.S. eating habits, they offer many positives — mouth-watering flavors, intriguing new ingredients, and a focus on good nutrition, including healthier fat sources.