Picture this for a moment:
You’ve had a crazy day at work, you are on your way home from work, you are exhausted. You have to pick kids up from school and daycare, and go to the grocery store to pick up some items for dinner. One of your shopping items is cooking oil. You have been cooking with vegetable oil for years but you keep hearing that it is bad for your family. Because I know you don’t have time for nonsense (I’m a mom too), I will tell you why vegetable oils are the worse choice for your family and also show you exactly which oils you should use for cooking, baking, frying, salads and homemade dressings.
Fat and oil is a controversial topic these days
On the one hand, the media is blasting us with fat-free and 0% fat foods, but on the other, we hear health experts claiming that fat is important and should be consumed on a regular basis.
Here is the truth about fats
Consuming fat is crucial and has some important functions in the human body. It is a very important nutrient for the brain – 60% of your brain is made out of fat!
Fat also helps to make your skin supple and beautiful, lubricates your joints, strengths your cell membranes against oxidative damage, and helps to protect and insulate your nervous system. Therefore, fat should be a fundamental component of your family’s daily diet. In order to get enough fat naturally from food, you need to eat avocados, seeds and nuts, fish, butter, coconut oil and other fatty foods.
Fats are grouped into three parts:
Saturated fats – found in meat and dairy products, as well as some plant sources like coconut oil
Unsaturated fats – often referred to as “heart-healthy fats”, these are found in plant sources, like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oils as well as in fish.
Trans-fatty acids – unsaturated fats that have been altered through the process of hydrogenation. Considered the worst kind of fat, trans fat have been associated with heart disease and other health issues. These types of fats are extremely harmful to our health and should be avoided in all quantities!
All of us use oils in our homes
We either cook with it, bake with it, fry with it or even spread it on our breads. We choose oils because they taste and smell good, also because they give us a good cooking result, or based on price. But there are more important things that you must consider prior to choosing your oils, things like their nutritional value, what the oil can be used for, its smoking point and oxidative stability.
Steps in the production of cooking oils
One of the most over-looked but most important questions to ask when selecting an oil is how it’s extracted and whether is was refined or not? Let’s examine these steps closer to help us decide which methods are the least detrimental to oil quality.
Step 1 – Extraction – can be done by mechanical pressing or crushing of the original food.
* in the image above you can see how in the old days people used to extract olive oil from olives. They used a huge rock to crush the olives and a donkey would walk in circles until the oil came out of the olives.
Step 2 – Refinement – some undesired components may remain in the oil that can affect its taste, odour, smoke point and appearance. So oils go through a refining process that can be done chemically or using fine mesh strainers and filters.
Step 3 – Bleaching, Deacidification and Deodorization – some oils are then bleached (given a lighter colour), then deacidified (removal of acidity) and deodorized (natural smell is being altered by chemicals to give the oil a nicer smell).
Step 4 – Full or Partial Hydrogenation – some oils are then hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated, creating the dreaded trans-fats.
Such a tedious process!
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that have at least one unpaired electron and become unstable and highly reactive. They are created as a result of the process of oxidation (when a substance combines with oxygen due to a wide variety of internal and environmental stresses, such as exposure to pollution, chemicals and radiation. Free radicals are believed to cause tissue damage at the cellular level – harming our DNA and cell membranes, and accelerating the aging process.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals by working to stabilize them. Examples of antioxidants are vitamin A, C and E which are all found in plant foods and are abundant in cooking oils as well.
3 things you need to know before choosing your cooking oils:
1) Look for dark glass bottles and make sure the label says: cold-pressed, unrefined, and extra virgin.
2) Stay away from cooking oils and fats that are high in Omega 6 (linoleic acid) but low on Omega 3 (alpha-linoleic acid)!
You have probably heard that Omega 6 is good for you (and it is) however because our food chain contains much more Omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids, we become unbalanced and this unbalance leads to inflammation in the body and promotes autoimmune diseases. So heart diseases, cancer, problems with our hormonal system, and weak immune system become more prevalent.
So, which cooking oils are high in omega 6 and you should avoid?
Soybean oil, Sunflower seed oil, Corn oil and especially the dreaded Canola oil! This oil is very unstable when heated, It is made by the process of refinement, which means it was made by heating it up to very high temperatures, so it has a tendency to oxidize. While it has a little bit of Omega 3 fatty acids, it has 50% more Omega 6 fatty acids.
Stay away from Canola Oil!
And basically any other oil that comes in a transparent plastic bottle (I know, that’s almost all the cooking oils at the grocery store!).
Now, what about grape-seed oil?
I have been using this oil for a long time, until I found out that grape-seed oil has almost no nutritional value, as the most nutrition is found in the grapes’ skin and not the seeds of the grapes (the oil is made from the seeds, hence the name). This is however a pretty stable oil in high temperatures but because it is very high in Omega 6 fatty acids use it in moderation!
3) Which cooking oils are good for you?
Which cooking oils you should use but no in heated form? Which cooking oils are safe to use in medium and high temperatures?
I’ve prepared a list of bad cooking oils and good cooking oils (PDF) you should replace them with. Download this printout and keep it in your kitchen. It is a guide for best cooking oils to use in high heat, medium heat, salads and dressings and which cooking oils you should ditch completely as they are harmful for your kids and family!
Another important note regarding cooking oils
Unfortunately it is very rare to find a good quality oil (other than olive oil) at the local grocery stores. What’s on the shelves is dictated by supply and demand, and currently there is a demand for olive oils and vegetable oils, it is mostly due to ignorance. People just don’t know better. But now that you know the truth, please get these cooking oils only at your local health food store, where the quality of oils is much better and where you can easily find cooking oils stored in dark glass bottles.
I want to hear from you!
Did you like this post? Did you find it beneficial? Do you have other tips on cooking oils? Which oils do you use at home? Please comment below 🙂