Your entire life you've been told that frying things in oil is bad. "Don't just pour oil all over your food", they say. But as you get older you learn that, like most things, when used in moderation oil isn't the true enemy... Or is it? Which oil is best to cook with?
First, let's keep in mind that oils are classified into three different types of fat: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Stay away from anything that says partially hydrogenated - those contain trans fat.
There are so many types of oils to use with foods, but which one should I use? What is the healthiest choice? I always thought olive oil was the go to. Those solid saturated fats are a big no-no, right? So you want to stay away from butter, ghee (clarified butter), and coconut oil? Think again! Via Born Fitness, Harvard University researchers "published a study that showed there is no evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease."
Don't get carried away with this statement. This does not mean you can eat all the saturated fat, or any type of fat for that matter, as you want. Yes, fat is not as bad as we thought it was once was, but be mindful. These fats will affect your lipid profile. Too much of anything is never a good thing!
Try to keep you fat ratio to 1/3 of each fat (mono, poly, and saturated) so that they are balanced. You do not need to perfectly follow this, as you should not perfectly follow any type of diet or lifestyle. We are human, we are not perfect. You need leeway to make it work, just as everything else going on in your life.
Okay, so what is the best oil to use?
Like most things, there is not one single answer. But don’t sweat it, I got you covered!
When choosing an oil to cook with, stick with the saturated fats (coconut oil, butter, ghee). These fats are solid at room temperature and can be used at high temperatures while cooking.
On the other hand, avoid cooking with unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Liquid unsaturated fats are unstable at high heat and prone to oxidation and free radical production. Free radicals have been implicated in increasing the aging process and may be a cause of cancer. Who wants that? Again, this does not mean you will get cancer or will dramatically age if you cook with this type of oil. Keep it logical and use your common sense.
When choosing an oil to pour over a salad, adding to your can of tuna, already cooked food, etc. try and stick with olive oil as much as possible. Olive oil has several health benefits that I'll point out at the end. Avoid the highly industrialized and processed oils such as canola, soybean, and corn (all found in vegetable oil).
Since I am talking about oils (forms of fats), avoid anything that says low-fat, reduced fat, etc. Companies will replace the fat in their product with salt, sugar, or some type of chemical that is processed and made in a lab. Stick with what Mother Nature has given us!
Below are some of the oils that I recommend using and not recommend using. You will find the nutrition facts, some things you should know about them, and how to store them for a quick reference.
Coconut oil is gaining popularity as an oil to cook with due to potential health benefits. Coconut oil is derived from no other than, you guessed it, coconuts.
- Very high in saturated fatty acids
- Stable and has a long shelf-life
- Can increase the rate of fat loss over time
- Skip the partially hydrogenated coconut oil products - they have unwanted and unhealthy trans fats.
- Contains lauric acid, which may raise HDL (Good Cholesterol), but may also raise LDL (Bad Cholesterol)
Taste: Virgin (or unrefined) coconut oil has a very light, sweet-nutty coconut flavor and aroma. It’s ideal for baking or medium-heat sautéing — up to about 350°F. If you don’t want a coconut taste in your cooking try the refined version of the product. The refined version has a bland, neutral taste.
Store: In a cool, dark area. Coconut oil will start melting at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just like coconut oil, olive oil is derived from olives.
- Olive oil comes in virgin, extra virgin, pure and light versions
- High in Monounsaturated fats
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Decreased risk of heart disease
- Cholesterol benefits increasing a decrease in total blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and LDL:HDL ratio
- Possible cognitive benefits
- Extra virgin olive oil has the strongest overall health benefits
Taste: A good olive oil should have a fruity, bitter, pungent taste. Olive oil should not have a fusty, musty, metallic, rancid, or winey-vinegary taste.
Store: In a cool, dark area.
Canola oil is made at a processing facility by slightly heating and then crushing the seed. Almost all commercial grade canola oil is then refined using hexane (used in the formulation of glues for shoes, leather products, and roofing). Finally, the crude oil is refined using water precipitation and organic acid, "bleaching" with clay, and deodorizing using steam distillation. Stay away!
- It depletes Vitamin E, which is needed for proper growth, fighting inflammation, and acceptable platelet count/size
- In animal studies, it increased cell rigidity, leading to accelerated aging
- The FDA has outlawed the use of canola oil in infant formula because it retards growth
- It contains toxic erucic acid (1.2%) and accumulation of erucic acid is toxic and damaging to the body and brain
- It contains a small amount of trans fat, due to highly processing this oil
Taste: Canola oil has a neutral, pleasant flavor
Store: In a cool, dark area.
Not all the information presented in this article is a consensus or a majority approval among researchers and health professionals surrounding the effects of certain fats on diet and health.