With so many choices on grocery store shelves and new health claims emerging all the time, it can be difficult to know what’s really best for our bodies. What oils are the best for us, what should we be cooking with? Is there a difference in which oils we should be using to fry our organic pancakes in versus which oils we should drizzle loving over our oven-roasted farm-fresh root vegetables?
As a rule of thumb, substituting saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is more supportive of heart health (American Heart Association, 2017). However, research continues to debate the risks surrounding saturated fats. As in many cases, not all saturated fat is bad, but in general, consuming more mono and polyunsaturated fats is better. The American Heart Association considers the following cooking oils to contain higher levels of “good fat” than “bad fat:”
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Soybean oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
Perhaps more important to consider than fat composition alone is what oils are best to use for which types of cooking. The process of heating oils can change their chemical structure and composition drastically. This then changes how our bodies recognize, absorb and use the oils.
For instance, extra virgin olive oil contains healthy fats that can benefit the body when we eat it at room temperature as salad dressing, but heating it above its smoke point, can cause those fats and compounds to chemically transform into toxins. This not a healthy option and frankly not a tasty one either.
Virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point while “pure” olive oil can be safely heated to levels just above 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Therefore, using extra virgin olive oil for light sautéing and dressings, and use pure olive oil for deep-frying.
Even healthier choices for cooking, especially high-heat cooking and deep-frying are palm oil and coconut oil:
- Palm oil: taken from palm fruit, this oil is high in both saturated and monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats. Despite it containing saturated fat, the mono and saturated fats allow this oil to withstand higher levels of heat than olive oil, making it a good choice for cooking (in careful moderation of course). As a bonus, unrefined red palm oil is particularly rich in Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10, known to benefit heart health. PLEASE always source certified sustainable palm oil, if you would like to know more this website is wonderful SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL.
- Coconut oil: This is by far the best choice for high-heat cooking. Since coconut oil is high in saturated fat, its “smoke point” is high and it’s a good choice for deep-frying. In addition, it will store for months without going rancid. As a bonus, according to Healthline, the lauric acid in coconut oil has been found by research to actually balance cholesterol and act as a disinfectant. This effect may work to counter the potential negative impacts of its high content of saturated fats (Gunars, 2013).
Other delicious oils to consider include:
- Macadamia nut oil: this delicious and seemingly exotic oil is high in monounsaturated fat, making it a healthy option to cook with and also a delectable addition to dressings.
- Peanut oil: A tasty addition to Thai-themed food dishes, this oil is high in polyunsaturated fats that have difficulty withstanding heat, and should not be used in high-heat cooking.
- Fish flax oils: These delicate oils are high in omega fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats and are great taken as supplements, but shouldn’t be used for cooking. If you like the taste they are great on salads.
- Avocado oil: Avocado oil is delicious and chemically similar to olive oil. It can withstand light cooking.
Choosing the right oil for the right job can make all the difference in helping our foods to taste great and be nourishing to our bodies if you can purchase oils that are certified sustainable and preferably organic when you can you are not only making a healthy choice but a sustainable one as well.