As a naturopath there are topics that I am asked about regularly and one of those is what oils to use when cooking. Well this can be quite confusing because a number of factors have to be taken into account:
- The smoke point of an oil – once an oil starts to smoke it is a sign that the oil is starting to break down and from this point on will lose both flavour and nutritional value. If an oil has reached its smoke point it is a good idea to clean out the pan and start again at a lower temperature.
- The fatty acid composition of the oil. Saturated fats are more stable (less likely to oxidise and create free radicals) than both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils and therefore are better to cook with at higher temperatures. Coconut oil is an example of an oil that contains healthy plant saturated fats. It is great to use for higher temperature cooking. Also good are animal fats from grass fed organic sources. Organic butter, ghee and animal fats such as Lard and duck fat are also suitable for cooking but smoke points vary.
- For low temperature cooking and baking oils such as Olive oil, Macadamia oil, organic Peanut and Hazelnut are suitable as they are high in monounsaturated which are relatively stable and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids which oxidise very easily. Monounsaturated fats are also heart healthy (think Mediterranean Diet).
- Oils such as Rice bran and Canola have been left off this list as they are high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated oils which are easily oxidised and of which we already get too much of in our diet. This excess throws the balance of our omega 3 to omega 6 ratio and ultimately has a pro-inflammatory effect in our body.
- For cold/room temperature dressings freely use the following oils: Olive, Sesame, Walnut, Pecan, Macadamia, Avocado and Flaxseed. These oils are rich in monounsaturates and/or Omega 3.
- Partially hydrogenated oils such as those found in spreads, processed foods and margarines are best avoided. Make your own spread using a 50:50 mix of organic butter and olive oil. It’s healthy and home-made. Or use avocado (rich in lots of other goodies apart from the good fats), hummus, tahini paste, nut butters or just plain old organic butter.
- When oils are refined, they undergo a variety of chemical processes, including deodorizing, bleaching, and anti-foaming. Therefore it is best to chose unrefined oils and organic where you can.
Click on the image below to take you to Balanced Bites for an easy printout of what to use and what to avoid: