Imagine walking down the oil aisle in the grocery store. You see an entire sea of options for cooking oils available to you. Some are in dark glass bottles while others are in clear plastic containers. Some are quite expensive for a tiny bottle, while others are cheap for a large bottle. All of these oils come in different colors, aromas and flavors – no wonder you feel overwhelmed when having to make a choice! Choosing an oil isn’t only overwhelming, it’s incredibly important for your health.
Many individuals often opt for the less expensive industrial seed oils as we’ve been informed they’re “heart healthy.” And who doesn’t want to protect their heart? Contrary to what we’ve been told, industrial seed oils such as soybean, canola, cottonseed, safflower, and corn oils are not “heart healthy” or otherwise beneficial for our bodies and brains; in fact, plenty of research indicates that these oils are making us sick.
These industrial seed oils are highly processed in a series of steps akin to oil refinement to create gasoline. They’re also often high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, yet lacking in heart-healthy omega-3s. Many are also often derived from genetically-modified crops that can be harmful to your health. Because of their extensive processing, they may be more susceptible to oxidation and breakdown, which could lead to the build-up of disease-causing free radicals.
Some of the downstream dis-eases that can be linked to industrial seed oils:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Impairment in Mental Health (Anxiety, Depression, Poor Memory, Impaired Learning Ability)
- Heart Disease
- IBS and IBD
- Macular Degeneration
In addition to industrial seed oils, steer clear of products that use hydrogenated fats such as margarine or vegetable shortening. These ingredients are high in trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), which can increase the risk of damage to your cell membranes, heart disease and other health issues. It truly is essential to create the habit of reading labels, especially on processed foods.
So what should you be consuming?
It depends on what you’re cooking and at what temperature you’re cooking the food at. Smoke point when cooking is important to keep into consideration. Oils heated past their smoke point, oxidize leading to the formation of harmful and disease causing free radicals. Let’s break this down for you:
- Avocado Oil:
- Smoke Point: 520 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Due to it’s high smoke point and mild flavor, it can be used in cooking or baking in just about any recipe. Plus, it can also be drizzled over salads, smoothies, dips and spreads to bump up the content of heart-healthy fats and antioxidants.
- Coconut Oil:
- Smoke Point: 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Sauté recipes on the skillet, drizzle over popcorn, or add to your coffee. The Medium Chain Triglycerides in coconut oil are metabolized differently than other types of fat and are sent directly to the liver where they can be used as fuel. They have been shown to enhance metabolism, decrease food intake and even boost brain function. It also has anti-viral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
- Smoke Point: 405 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Use olive oil in its raw form, drizzled over already prepared meals such as cooked vegetables, grain dishes or salads. EVOO is high in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats helping the body reduce inflammation and support heart health.
- Smoke Point: 485 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Ghee is a lactose free butter replacement that is a staple in Indian cuisine. Use it when sautéing dishes in the skillet or replace any recipe that calls for butter with ghee.
- Grapeseed Oil:
- Smoke Point: 420 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Grapeseed oil should not be used in high-heat cooking because it’s high in polyunsaturated fats, which can react with oxygen (oxidation) to form harmful free radicals. Use it to create salad dressings, dips or baked goods to maximize the health benefits.
- Pastured Lard:
- Smoke Point: 370 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Lard can be used for cooking vegetables and as a substitute for butter. It’s mostly composed of monounsaturated fat and contains 500 to 1000 IU of vitamin D per serving, depending on what the pasture raised pigs ate and whether they were exposed to sunlight.
- Pastured Tallow:
- Smoke Point: 420 -480 degrees Fahrenheit
- Best Way to Use: Tallow is fat from beef or bison and provides saturated and monounsaturated fat (heart healthy fat). Tallow can be used in roasting, frying or baking due to it’s high smoke point.
Another method for cuing in on the quality of the oil is using the power of your nose. The flavor and smell alone can inform a person how healthful they are. If anyone has smelled fresh olive oil vs. canola oil, you know what I mean. Fresh olive oil has a light, fresh, and fruity smell – it invites you to savor every bite right there in the olive orchard. Whereas, Canola oil has a rancid, chemical, burn your nose hairs, type of smell. Our senses are one of our indicators for safe and sound or stranger danger. It’s like when you smell the milk to see if it’s gone bad – if it smells rancid you throw it out. This same concept applies to oils.
If you were going to change anything about your diet, let it be oils and fats. Despite the marketing push behind these oils, most are damaging to your body and have extensive effects on your health.