COOKING Oils and what you need to know
What happens to oil when it is heated?
If you are cooking at
a high heat, use oils that are stable and do not oxidize
or go rancid easily. When oils undergo oxidation,
they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful
compounds that you definitely don’t want to be
consuming. Possibly the most important factor in
determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and
rancidification, both at high and low heat, is the
relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in
it. Saturated fats have only single bonds in the
fatty acid molecules, monounsaturated fats have one double
bond and polyunsaturated fats have two or more. It
is these double bonds that are chemically reactive and
sensitive to heat. Saturated fats and
monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant to heating, but
oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be
avoided for cooking.
When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is your best choice. Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat. This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid, perect for a warm storage boat. Coconut oil also has powerful health benefits. It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens. The fats in coconut oil can also boost metabolism slightly and increase feelings of fullness compared to other fats.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
- Saturated: 92%.
- Monounsaturated: 6%.
- Polyunsaturated: 1.6%.
Butter was demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content, but as with a lot of other stuff, we are now told that it's good for you - this is where you must make up your own mind. Processed margarine is the bad stuff, and best stayed away from
Butter contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It is also rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate, both of which have powerful health benefits.
CLA may lower body fat percentage in humans and butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut health and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese, so no more fat rats on board.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
- Saturated: 68%.
- Monounsaturated: 28%.
- Polyunsaturated: 4%.
Remember when cooking with butter that it does contain tiny amounts of sugars and proteins and for this reason it tends to get burned during high heat cooking like frying.
If you want to avoid
that, you can make clarified butter, or ghee. That way,
you remove the lactose and proteins, leaving you with pure
Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Some studies show that olive oil can improve bio-markers of health.
It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
- Saturated: 14%.
- Monounsaturated: 75%.
- Polyunsaturated: 11%.
Studies on olive oil show that despite having fatty acids with double bonds, you can still use it for cooking as it is fairly resistant to the heat.
Make sure to choose
quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is packed with more
nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. Plus it
tastes much better. Keep your olive oil in a cool,
dry, dark place, to prevent it from going rancid.
Animal Fats – Lard, Bacon dripping
The fatty acid
content of animals tends to vary depending on what the
animals eat. If they eat a lot of grains, the fats
will contain quite a bit of polyunsaturated fats. If
the animals are pastured raised or grass-fed, there will
be more saturated and monounsaturated fats in them.
Therefore, animal fats from animals that are naturally
raised are excellent options for cooking. You can
buy ready-made lard from the supermarket, or you can save
the drippings from meat to use at a later time. Bacon
dripping is especially tasty.
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms. It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. This makes palm oil a good choice for cooking. Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is also rich in Vitamins E, Co-enzyme Q10 and other nutrients.
concerns have been raised about the sustainability of
harvesting palm oil, apparently growing these trees means
less environment available for Orangutans!
The composition of avocado oil is similar to olive oil. It is primarily monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in.
It can be used for
many of the same purposes as olive oil. You can cook with
it, or use it cold.
Fish oil is very rich in the animal form of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are DHA and EPA. A tablespoon of fish oil can satisfy your daily need for these very important fatty acids. The best fish oil is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in Vitamin D3, which a large part of the world is deficient in.
However, due to its
high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil
should never be used for cooking. It’s
best used as a supplement, one tablespoon per day. Keep in
a cool, dry and dark place.
OMEGA 3 - some
Omega-3 is short for omega-3 fatty
acid. This is a family of essential fatty acids that
play important roles in the human body. We can not
produce them on our own, so we must get them from the
diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated,
meaning that they have several double bonds in the
chemical structure. The three most important types
are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic
acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is
mainly found in plants, while DHA and EPA are mainly
found in animal foods and algae. Omega-3 fatty
acids are needed for optimal function of the human body,
and they may also provide numerous powerful health
benefits. Common foods that are high in omega-3 fatty
acids include fatty fish, fish oils, flax seeds, chia
seeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts, to name a few.
For people who do not eat much of these foods, an
omega-3 supplement (like fish oil) is often recommended.
Flax oil contains lots of the plant form of Omega-3, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). Many people use this oil to supplement with Omega-3 fats. However, unless you’re vegan, then I do recommend that you use fish oil instead. Evidence shows that the human body doesn’t efficiently convert ALA to the active forms, EPA and DHA, of which fish oil has plenty.
Due to the large
amount of polyunsaturated fats, flax seed oil should NOT
be used for cooking.
Canola oil is derived from rapeseeds, but the euric acid (a toxic, bitter substance) has been removed from it. The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is actually fairly good, with most of the fatty acids monounsaturated, then containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 in a 2:1 ratio, which is perfect. However, canola oil needs to go through very harsh processing methods before it is turned into the final product. Canola oil has had a bed press due to the way it is produced, so it's up to you if you use it. (see below)
Nut Oils and Peanut Oil
There are many nut oils available and some of them taste awesome. However, they are very rich in polyunsaturated fats, which make them a poor choice for cooking. They can be used as parts of recipes, but do not fry or do any high heat cooking with them. The same applies to peanut oil. Peanuts technically aren’t nuts (they’re legumes) but the composition of the oil is similar.
There is one
exception, however, and that is macadamia nut oil, which
is mostly monounsaturated (like olive oil). It is however
Seed- and Vegetable Oils
Industrial seed and vegetable oils are highly processed, refined products that are way too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. Not only should you not cook with them, you should probably avoid them altogether. These oils have been wrongly considered “heart-healthy” by the media and many nutrition professionals in the past few decades.
However, new data links these oils with many serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Avoid all of them:
- Soybean Oil
- Corn Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Canola Oil
- Rapeseed Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Grape seed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
How to Take Care of Your Cooking Oils
To make sure that your fats and oils don’t go rancid, it is important to keep a few things in mind.