With so many different oils to choose from it can be a little testing knowing which to use for cooking, which is most beneficial to our health and which are best to steer clear of. Not to mention the confusion between omega 3, 6 & 9’s. (But that’s a whole other blog post).
To briefly explain…
Omegas 3 and 6 are very important in the diet but the more important factor is getting the right balance between them. Back in say, the Paleolithic era we ate far more omega 3 than we do today, from sources such as fatty fish and seafood.
These days, with the abundance of seed oils in most packages goods; cartoned dairy free milks and boxed cereal to name but a few, we are over loaded with Omega 6’s.
Although Omega 6 is still an essential fat (it cannot be produced naturally by the body) too much of it, without enough Omega 3 to balance it out, can be inflammatory to the system. Omega 3 has a natural anti-inflammatory affect. Don’t you just love nature?
Below are some useful points to take into consideration when picking oils.
THE GOOD OILS…
Virgin Olive oil:
If it’s cold pressed and organic even better. The term Virgin means it has not been chemically treated. Cold pressed means it has been ground into a paste rather than being heated in any way, therefore keeping all key nutrients intact. This is great to use for salads rather than cooking as olive oil does not have a high smoke point.
Macadamia Nut Oil:
This oil has a lovely nutty/buttery flavor.
It is highly shelf-stable and resistant to heat-induced oxidation.
It can be expensive in health food stores, which tends to be it’s only downfall. However, you can easily find it relatively cheap online.
This is by far the best oil to cook with in my opinion. It is highly stable and can be heated at a high temperature without oxidation.
As there is a wide selection of coconut oils around, always try to go with an organic virgin coconut oil, to ensure the highest quality and maximum health benefits.
Not only is this oil a gem for cooking with. It can also be used topically as a body and face moisturiser.
Although it is high in saturated fat, which can give it bad press, more and more research is being done on the health benefits of coconut oil. For example:
- Protects against damage to the liver (from toxins, alcohol etc.)
- Is associated with improved blood sugar and insulin control
- Has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
- Acts as the perfect moisturizer
- Contains MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride)
NB MCT is a very healthy fat, which bypasses the normal process of digestion and fat break down. Instead it gets absorbed directly into your liver where it is metabolized and acts more like a carbohydrate, providing instant and sustained energy for your body.
If your diet is short on good fats such as Avocados then this is a nice little alternative. Buy a good quality avocado oil. It’s best bought in the darker bottles as it minimizes oxidation. This oil has a similar fatty acid profile to Olive oil but has a higher smoke point and therefore a decent choice for cooking with (perhaps just cook at medium heat).
OILS TO TRY AND AVOID…
Sunflower Seed Oil:
Although this oil is found everywhere, and marketed as being a “healthy” choice, they are extremely high in Polyunsaturated fats with very little Omega 3’s to balance them out.
This makes them an undesirable choice for cooking or salad dressings.
They are very commonly used as they are a cheap option for restaurants etc. The least you can do is remove them from your home and of course, try to cook at home more often!
**Research link on heating oils http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02873539
This one gets a lot of press for its “heart benefits” and being a good source of Omega 3’s…
However, If Canola oil was to be eaten raw i.e. virgin cold pressed, it would be extremely bitter and rather toxic as it is derived from the rapeseed (an inedible and bitter seed). So it has to be processed and stripped of the eruic acid found in rapeseed.
During processing it can be heated up to 500 degrees which means a large amount of the Omega-3’s could end up rancid on the shelf.
In fact all vegetable oils such as Sunflower, Safflower, Corn, Soybean, Grapeseed are not only highly processed but are higher in omega 6’s which causes an imbalance of omega6/omega 3 fatty acids, and can lead to inflammation and heart disease. The very thing these oils are advertised to protect you against.
TIPS FOR STORING OILS
Always try to keep oils in a cool dark place.
In the summer I keep my oils in the fridge but as long as they’re not going to get warm in a cupboard there’s no need to do that.
Many people keep their cooking oils near the stove or in a cupboard above an oven or hob. This is not advisable as you are heating and therefore damaging your oils every time you use the oven/stove for cooking.
Hope that provides some insight into which oils to choose when cooking at home.