Cooking Oils 101: Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Oils

As it turns out, fats (oil is a type of fat) are an essential nutrient in our diets. For most of us, it is appropriate to get about 25% of your daily food energy from healthy fats and oils. However, we must distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats. With that said, it is important to understand that not all oils are created equal and also there is no such thing as the perfect oil, but some are better than others.

Did you know that some common cooking oils are harmful? If you didn’t know that, that’s okay because a lot of people don’t! Some of these harmful cooking oils are present in most processed foods and are sometimes used at restaurants.

Cooking Oils to Stay Away From

There are some cooking oils that you should avoid at all cost due to how they are processed, and their likelihood of being genetically modified.

Highly processed seed and vegetable oils are high in Omega 6, which causes our ratios to become unbalanced, but they are also prone to oxidization and rancidity. Which means they can have a toxic effect on our bodies. Here are some of the major offenders to stay away from:

  • Canola Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Grape Seed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Vegetable Oil

Most restaurants use harmful seed and vegetable oils and it is hard to find condiments made with healthy oils. Although I have seen Mayonnaise made with olive oil. Sometimes you just have to do a little searching and label reading. But hopefully this post will help keep you more informed and know what to look out for when reading those labels.

Healthy Cooking Oils

So, what oils should we be using? Healthy cooking oils that don’t contain as much Omega 6 are more stable and less processed. When buying refined oils look for expeller pressed or cold pressed. This just means that the oils are extracted without using heat and chemicals, which gives you an even healthier oil. Here are some healthier cooking oils to consider:

  • Almond Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Ghee
  • Hazelnut Oil
  • Macadamia Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

Before choosing cooking oils there are various things to consider including smoke points, taste and health. Every oil has a different smoke point or temperature at which it gives off smoke and starts to break down and oxidize, causing it to lose nutrients and develop toxic properties. This just simply means that some oils are better for cold use and others are better for hot use.

The temperature at which a type of oil begins to smoke and burn will play a huge factor in the dishes you should be using it in. Are you looking to cook your food hot and fast? If that’s the case you might want to avoid EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), which begins to smoke at 320 degrees, and instead opt for an oil with a higher smoke point, such as Avocado Oil, which smokes at a searing 520 degrees. Are you looking to make a stir fry? Then consider using almond oil, avocado oil, olive oil, or walnut oil. Is it a toasty flavor you are craving in your salad dressing? Perhaps Sesame Oil should be your oil of choice.

Eat Drink Paleo has a helpful comprehensive list of healthy cooking oils and their smoke points.

I personally do most of my cooking with Coconut Oil and Olive Oil (depends on what I am making), but I also keep other healthy oils in my kitchen for different cooking purposes.

Storing Oils

Refined oils high in monounsaturated fats can keep their flavor and consistency for up to a year if kept in the refrigerator. Oils high in polyunsaturated fat should last about 6 months under refrigeration. Your Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Virgin Oils can keep their freshness for about a year and do not need refrigeration. Nut oils can become rancid quickly and should be refrigerated after opening. For most other oils, store in a cool dark cupboard away from the stove. Now this next tip, even I am guilty of (but I will be quitting this habit effective immediately)! Do not re-use fats and oils. It is more healthful to just use them once and discard after use. And lastly, you should NEVER discard your cooking oils by pouring them down the kitchen sink. Oil can congeal and block pipes. The best way to discard your oils is to pour it into a leak proof container and discard it with the rest of your garbage.

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