Cooking oils: How to pick healthy ones that won't ruin your diet
I get asked questions about cooking oils almost every day. So today I'm going to tell you my thoughts regarding the healthiest and unhealthiest cooking oil options. And many of these are totally not what you're thinking!
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First of all, forget about vegetable oil and canola oil. Neither of these are healthy choices. They are highly processed manufactured foods that didn't even exist until the 1900s. They are often made from genetically modified sources. Plus, they are filled with pesticides and other toxins.
Vegetable oil contains a high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids. While Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for good health, it's the balance that's important. And there is no balance in vegetable oil. If you need more of these fatty acids then you should eat some fish or find some other healthy means of obtaining these fats in a balanced way.
Another bad component of vegetable oil is polyunsaturated fats. These fats are highly unstable and can oxidize quickly. Mutated oxidized fat cells can cause a multitude of serious health issues including inflammation, cancer, and heart disease.
In short, I can't think of anything good to say about vegetable or canola oil. Other oils I think you should avoid include: Sunflower, corn, soybean, and margarine of any kind. Shortening is another big no-no. This is full of trans fat and has no place in your pantry.
So what oils do I recommend?
My personal favorites are coconut and olive oil.
Part of what determines a healthy oil is how you're going to use it. Some oils, such as virgin olive oil, are good when used in salad dressings. However, virgin olive oil does not heat well so should not be used in cooking foods on high temps. The higher the oil's smoke point, the safer it is to be used for cooking. Light olive oil can be used for cooking, but doesn't contain the same flavor as virgin olive oil.
Coconut oil has a high smoke level so can be used for cooking food at high temps.
Cold pressed oils are the best. They are not chemically processed like most oils. If you can't find them in your local grocery store, try a health food store. Luckily, even the big chain grocery stores are starting to stock higher quality, healthier options.
Is butter healthy? Obviously, this is something that should be used in small amounts. However, compared to butter substitutes, it is a healthier choice. It's a natural food as compared to a highly processed, manufactured food.
Always read labels. Even if you're not buying unhealthy cooking oils, you may be surprised to find how often they're used in salad dressings and other processed foods. If a food contains partially hydrogenated oil, toss it out! This is a source of trans fat and is found in many cookies and other commercially prepared baked goods. Avoid saturated fats, too.
The controversy around cooking oils will continue. The secret is to know which oils to use for what purpose and which to completely ban from your kitchen.
This article was originally published on February 3, 2014.
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