Our Nutritional Science series has explored the benefits of fat adaptation and ketosis which if you are applying to your life, you’ll no doubt be reaping the benefits. When it comes to cooking with fats and oils, it is important that you’re able to recognise healthy oils from those that are not so healthy and to know which oils are best for which types of cooking applications- especially if the oils are to be heated. Here are some useful tips:
Banish vegetable oil
Whilst the name may contain our favourite word ‘vegetable’ and many of us may have grown up believing vegetable oils such as canola were the ‘healthier’ alternative, sunflower, rice brand, soy, cottonseed, corn and safflower oils are the most unhealthy, toxic oils to have in your pantry. They are cheap, but this is due to them being heavily processed with chemical solvents which were originally manufactured for industrial use.
These oils can trigger damaging inflammation in the body- especially when heated. Heat causes the oil to degrade which releases toxic compounds including a group of volatile composites called aldehyde’s which are linked to cancer, brain and gastric disease as well as increased risk for heart disease.
Vegetable oils are often packaged as ‘heart healthy’ or labelled as ‘trans fat free’- these designations are deceptive and misleading so avoid at all costs. Unfortunately most restaurants cook with vegetable oils and include them in their salad dressings so order your grilled food as a ‘dry grilled’ or ‘baste free’ option and rather order your salads without the dressing and request olive oil and some fresh lemon to use as a replacement dressing.
So what oils are good for you?
Oils from fruit and nuts are health supportive oils as these are pressed to extract the oils rather than being pulverised with heavy duty solvents. These include:
- Olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Where possible and if your budget allows, look for organic, unrefined and cold pressed oils which means they have not been exposed to high heat or chemical solvents.
If you prefer cooking with animal fats, source these from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals and remember, the cleaner the source, the better and more nutritious this will be for your body.
Oils for heat cooking
Oils have different ‘smoke points’ which refers to the highest temperature it can reach before the oil starts to smoke- an indication that it is producing damaging by-products. Here are the most common ‘good-for-you oils’ and fats to cook with and how they handle under heat.
Don’t be afraid to cook with olive oil
Many people shy away from cooking with olive oil due to its relatively low smoke point. Whilst its important to be mindful of the smoke point, olive oil has a high concentration of polyphenols (nutrients and antioxidants) that help ensure heat stability making it safe for cooking, frying and sautéing. And the cherry on the top- consuming veggies cooked/ topped with olive oil helps add the all-important phenol compounds which makes the veggies that much more nutritious than if they were raw!
Storing your oils
Oils don’t last forever and so should be stored, used and handled with care. Store them away from direct sunlight, in dark bottles and away from the heat of stove tops to maximise the longevity and avoid in-storage degradation. You can even wrap your bottles in tin foil to add an extra layer of light-protection.
Try to buy smaller amounts (only in glass bottles– never plastic) and make sure you use within 3 months of opening.