As the conversations surrounding nutrition goes from ‘fat is evil’ to ‘what kinds of fats are evil’, we must also consider what we do to these fats (good or bad) before we consumer them. Just like any food, original nutritional value doesn’t matter if the path to get to your tastebuds is wrought with harmful techniques.
A big factor in choosing oils for cooking is how much heat that oil can withstand. The oils that don’t do well in a hot environment can turn rancid and form a lot of free-radicals, which damage our cells. When it comes to long-term health, free radicals are some of the worst things you can put in your body.
Since they’re so harmful, we want to take a second to discuss them. We’ve all probably heard the term at least once or twice, but what does it really mean?
Free radicals are atoms with an unpaired electron. Electrons like to be paired (in fact, this simple truth is responsible for much of the world you see), so a free radical can be highly reactive with normal molecules to create more free radicals, causing a big chain reaction. The dangers come from when they react with important cellular components such as DNA. This can lead to detrimental diseases and disorders like cancer. There’s even a free radical theory of aging that states the accumulation of free radicals is what causes the deterioration of the body.
In short, free radicals are bad, thus, it’s important to consider a cooking oil’s ‘smoking point,’ which is the point at which oils begin to smoke from the heat. At this point you are essentially generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Avoid this at all costs!
The Right Kind Of Oils For Your Kitchen
- Coconut Oil – More recently people are discovering the health benefits of coconut oil. Some claim it to be one of the best oils out there, and the best for cooking! The oil is pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree and is ideal for light fair and subtly flavored dishes.
- Avocado – Pressed from avocadoes, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated, making it a heart-nourishing choice. It also has a high smoking point and remains stable enough to withstand the heat!
- Ghee (clarified butter) – With a very high smoking point and its nearly exclusive saturated fat content (saturated fats are the most stable), ghee is unlikly to form dangerous free radicals when cooking. Ghee’s short chain of fatty acids are also metabolized very readily by the body.
- Lard – Animal fat is nearly all saturated fat, meaning it’s very stable and can withstand very high heat. To ensure that this fat works for you and not against you, make sure your animal fat is organic and grass-fed (if applicable)!
Medium Heat/Light Sauteing
- Sesame Seed Oil – This oil has a high antioxidant content and the unrefined version is great for sauces or dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat applications like frying and toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips.
- Hazelnut Nut Oil
- Pistachio Nut Oil
- Olive Oil – One of the healthiest oils, olive oil helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. However, it doesn’t stand up to heat too well, and using this oil to fry can result in harmful toxins. Instead of cooking with olive oil, try using it for salad dressing recipes to get its many health benefits.
- Sunflower Oil – This oil contains vitamin E, which makes them resistant to oxidation. It is recommended to seek out high-oleic sunflower oil to ensure you aren’t getting any GMOs.
- Macadamia Nut Oil – With a high smoking point, an amazing taste, and a low amount of omega-6 fatty acids, this oil is good for cooking and baking. It’s also very high in Vitamin E!
Oils to Stay Away From
Vegetable oil, margarine, corn oil, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, soybean oil and rice bran oil are some common oils which you should try to stay away from. Vegetable oils are basically leftover oils, are fragile, and easily go rancid. Saturated fat has a bad name, but it’s the hydrogenated fats (aka trans fat) that really cause cardiovascular problems. Food manufacturers use trans fats because they help food stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life, and have a less greasy feel. This is despite the fact that it raises bad cholesterol in the body more than any other type of fat!
Omega-3 versus omega-6 fatty acid content is also important. Omega-6 fatty acids can be detrimentally inflammatory, and omega-3’s work to counteract their effects. Therefore, the higher the 3:6 ratio in the body, the better. As you might have guessed, vegetable oils are quite high in omega-6 content.
Also, these oils are generally healthy for you, but just don’t do well with heat:
- Fish Oil
- Flax Seed Oil
- Cod Liver Oil
- Hemp Seed Oil
- Walnut oil
What About Canola Oil?
The jury is still deliberating on this one. One one hand, canola oil has a neutral flavor, a high smoke point, and is said to be a rich cooking-oil source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health. On the other hand, people say that the high amount of GMO, crossbreeding, and processing that goes into making canola oil makes it not worth it. Even more, proponents of the oil claim that a lot of these worries are based on misconception and that the making of canola oil has changed substantially over the last 25 years.
How WellnessFX Can Help
Our take? It’s better to be safe than sorry. In the mean time, here are some resources to help you come to your own conclusion:
- What Oils Should You Be Cooking With, And Which Should You Avoid?
- The Great Con-Ola
- Canola Oil and Rape Seed
Let us know if you disagree with any of our assessments, and what oils you find work best for a healthy kitchen!
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.