There are a lot of misconceptions about cooking oils these days. So, if you’ve found yourself lost in the oil aisle, I’m here to help guide you to the best ones for your health and cooking needs.
Some oils are considered healthy while others are not, but to be honest what determines the health profile of the oil is what you’re using them for. Using unheated oil on salads or pasta will maintain the integrity of the oil, but if you’re using heat, it can drastically change the health benefits. Heating oil too hot changes the chemical makeup from being heart healthy to disease-provoking.
The most commonly used oils are vegetable (canola), olive oil, avocado, coconut, corn, soybean, and peanut. How oils are processed, stored, and heated determines if they are healthy or unhealthy. Oils are delicate and when exposed to high heat, light, and air, they change from an anti-inflammatory to a pro-inflammatory state.
So, how do you know which oil to use?
For starters, let’s just take canola and other vegetable oils off the options list since vegetable oils, when heated, are not good for your health.
The FDA reports that canola oil may reduce heart disease risk since it’s high in unsaturated fat if you’re using it in place of saturated fats. However, when you learn how canola oil is made, you will likely change your mind.
Canola Oil is high in omega 3’s, but also Omega 6 fatty acids, which increase inflammation and contribute to weight gain, heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Canola is also known to deplete your levels of Vitamin E, increasing free radical activity and causing lesions inside blood vessels.
Canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant, but the process used to extract the oil is what makes it unhealthy. Chemicals like Hexane, are known to be hazardous to humans. To make the oil edible, it’s then bleached and deodorized until a “safe” level is reached. Once you heat canola oil, it causes omega-3 fatty acids to turn into trans fat. Trans fat is notorious for causing chronic disease in humans and has been banned for use in the food industry since 2018.
The other issue is that over 90% of canola oil is made from genetically modified crops (GMO), contributing to food allergies and immunosuppression. Canola oil is used widely in prepackaged foods as it’s cheap to use.
But instead of pointing out all the bad ones, because we would be here to long, it’s easier to just point you in the right direction and that’s all based on something called smoke point.
Each oil has a determined level of the smoke point where it’s still healthy below a certain temperature, but once it’s heated higher than the smoke point it changes the game completely.
High heat can cause oils to go rancid releasing chemicals that are harmful to your body. Ingesting rancid oil leads to more inflammation in the body and more plaque build-up in arteries. Rancid oil depletes your levels of Vitamin B & E leading to an increased risk of:
- Weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Stroke & more!
What’s the WORST Cooking Oil?
Yes, there is something way worse than using canola oil: reheated oil! Repeatedly Heated Cooking Oil (RHCO) is by far the worst oil for your health. Unfortunately, reheating vegetable oils is a common practice in many fast food restaurants. It’s obvious that frying isn’t good for your health as it increases the risk for heart disease, but RHCO is really what’s contributing to chronic disease even more.
Reheating cooking oil, like in a deep fryer, causes higher peroxide levels and lipid oxidation, which means when consumed, it causes significantly more internal damage. Blood tests show that consumption of RHCO compared to cooking oils that have been only heated once reveals increased blood glucose levels, creatine, and higher cholesterol levels. RHCO also reduces protein and albumin levels, which are essential for tissue repair. All of this causes damage throughout the gut contributing to tumor growth and cancer development.
Damage to the gut lining leads to alterations in normal glucose absorption, leading to elevated glucose levels, increased blood pressure, and kidney strain.
What’s the Best Oil?
The best oil really depends on the smoke point and what you’re using it for. If you’re just sauteing veggies on low to medium heat you can use any of these oils, but if you’re using high heat like a stirfry, you’ll want to use a high smoke point oil like avocado oil. These are my favorite oils to cook with:
- Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Unrefined Olive Oil- single source
- Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Unrefined Avocado Oil
- Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Unrefined Coconut Oil
You can also use animal fats like Ghee, Tallow, Lard, and Duck fat as these are natural fats. Contrary to popular belief, these fats will not make you fat. Also, when used in moderation with a healthy lifestyle, they don’t contribute to heart disease as we once thought.
Lard and Tallow are naturally occurring saturated fats that are high in Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids. They have no trans fats and offer more flavor to your dish. Animal fats are better for high-heat dishes. Yes, they may slightly raise LDL cholesterol levels, but it’s won’t clog your arteries.
Originally aminal fat was preferred, but this changed when Crisco and the Low Fat Diet emerged and everyone ran to oil. However, many are using the wrong oil, turning a healthy meal into a chronic disease state.
The modernization of cooking oils has directly contributed to the drastic rise in inflammatory diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.
How to Store Your Oils
Cooking oils exposed to heat, humidity, and light break down faster and cause the oil to go bad, or rancid. This significantly lowers the health benefits the oil previously had. Any oils that go rancid should not be used, as many of them cause chronic inflammation and disease.
So rather than having your cooking oils displayed on your countertops, it’s best to store them away from heat and light. Oils should be stored in a cool and dark place away from the stove.
The biggest takeaway from cooking oils is to avoid ones that are made with chemicals. If the process of making the oil involves a solvent for chemical extraction and high heat, it’s not healthy for you. Instead, it’s best to shop for Cold-pressed, Extra-virgin, unrefined oils.
Next, consider what you’re using the oil for. If you’re not heating it, you can use pretty much any type, like olive, coconut, or avocado oil. If you’re heating the oil, consider the smoke point of the oil or fat, and be sure you’re not going above that temperature.
For higher heat meals like stir-frys, it’s better to use an oil with a high smoke point like avocado oil since this has the highest smoke point of all plant-based oils. If you’re using high heat to pan-sear meat, use a natural animal fat like Tallow or Ghee. For animal fats, look for grass-fed/pasture-raised.
Many avocado oils on the market aren’t 100% pure so be sure you find one that is!
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.