What Are the Best Oils for You and How Should You Eat Them…
I have had a few people ask me why it is important to be discerning when it comes to choosing oils for cooking with and eating in salads, etc.
Oils can be broken into cooking and room temperature eating oils, due to their flash-point. If an oil has a high flash point, it can be heated to higher temperatures, without smoking and changing composition.
From here, oils can be chosen based on quality. I recently posted grape seed oil as a good alternative to canola oil, because it has a higher flash point, but after consulting with a very educated colleague (an accomplished Strength & Conditioning I worked with at the Royal Military College), I realized that neither is high on the quality scale, here is why:
- Grapeseed oil is extremely high on the Omega 6 : 3 ratio, which can cause inflammation in your body and competes with the healthy Omega 3’s.
- Canola oil has been linked to health issues, as it’s been heated at extreme temperature and “bleached” in order to give you the final product.
So, let’s cut to the chase, considering quality, what are the best oils for cooking & eating… and what is the best way to cook with them/eat them?
Best Oils for Cooking:
- Red Palm Oil: not refined (which makes regular Palm oil a very unhealthy oil) and very high in beta-carotene (reportedly 76 times more than tomatoes), vitamin E (great for the skin) and tocotrienols. It remains stable when used for cooking and it is not hydrogenated, nor processed with solvents, or contain any trans-fatty acids. Keep in mind, it has a smoke point of 400° F and had a bit of a reputation as a “trendy product”, but so far most of the literature is pro red palm oil.
- Coconut Oil: The benefits of coconut oil (another trendy oil these days) seem to be very lengthy. I will list a few: cardio-protective, anti-fungal, fat-burning/weight management (because of the way it is absorbed) and detox reactions in the body. I cook with this quite frequently. It is solid at room temperature (but ruuuny on a hot day!), so it ideal for sautéing with, but hard to bake with, if a recipe requires a liquid oil.
- Macadamia Oil: If you like cooking with live Oil (and are disappointed to learn it is not ideal to do so), you may really enjoy replacing it with macadamia nut oil, because of it’s nutty flavor. It is said to be one of the most heart healthy oils available, is great for the skin and (like I said) is good for cooking with, because of it’s high flash/smoke point (425° F)
- Ghee (clarified butter): Ghee is often used in Indian cooking and is considered far superior product to butter. It has a high flash/smoke point (upwards of 500° F), compared to regular butter (325-375° F°). The following site is great for explaining the difference between butter, clarified butter & ghee, as well as listing cooking recommendations and references http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=newtip&dbid=9. Ghee is a good alternative to butter, but if you don’t use ghee try to at least reach for organic.
* keep in mind, advice on use of these oils are for conventional cooking (frying pan, boiling, or baking), not microwaving. That’s not to say don’t microwave with them, but some studies suggest microwaving can alter oils, and other foods)
Best Oils for Eating (at room temperature):
- Fish Oil: Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to your health. Fish oil helps keep up your metabolism for weight loss, improves memory and concentration and can lower your cholesterol levels. It typically comes lemon, or orange flavoured (to offset the fish flavour and it really does!), so pick your preferred flavour and add it to a smoothy, or mix it with plain Greek or regular organic yogurt & a couple drops of stevia (good quality fish oil = Carlson @ Granary & Natural Food Pantry, or Ascenta @ Independent)
- High quality flax oil: Another oil high in awesome Omega 3’s! The natural form can have a nutty flavour (or you can buy flavoured), so use like Fish Oil, or Extra Virgin Olive oil (see points 1 & 3)… I do not normally buy it (I love Fish & Extra Virgin Olive Oil), so I do not know the best qualities, but the staff at the Granary will know!!!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: drizzle on vegetables, mix 3:1 with balsamic vinegar & a dash of mustard for salad dressing, or dip fresh bread OR tomato slices into it and vinegar.
There are some others that are decent (from a health controversy stand point), such as avocado oil and certain nut oils, but that’s pretty much the top quality oils for your body.
… all these “caution signs” on foods and other household products are frustrating, I know. Everything seems to be controversial these days, which is why at the end of the day, we need to just try to make informed decisions and then relax and enjoy life)
For sure, skip these ones:
- Plam Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Vegetable Oil
When in doubt… go organic and hopefully you will avoid eating foods laced with pesticides and/or highly genetically modified (GMO).