Cooking with Oils: What's Healthy, and What's Not
"There are a lot of great options in terms of cooking with healthy fats and oil."
In today’s episode, Dr. Nancy, PhD, is shining some light on cooking with healthy fats and oils. We are going to learn which are the “real” healthy fats and oils, and which are not. Plus, Dr. Nancy will share some fantastic ways to use these fats and oils in the kitchen and as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- 0:50: Things to consider when choosing healthy fats and oils
- 3:21: Most Popular Oils that People Use
- 5:00: What Makes Oil Good or Bad?
- 7:44: Oils that are not healthy for you
- 12:48: Oils that are good for you
- 13:01: Ghee
- 21:14: Olive Oil
- 25:04: Coconut Oil
- 27:27: Avocado Oil
- 29:20: Pesto Recipe
- 35:26: Flax seed or hemp oil
- 40:35: Grape Seed Oil
- 41:37: Sesame Oil
- 43:35: Walnut Oil
- 45:11: Wrapping Up
Things to consider when choosing healthy fats and oils
When choosing what healthy fats or oils to cook with, there are a few things to consider:
- Nutrition – This is especially important when it comes to heart health. Healthy oils all have one thing in common; they are loaded with mono and polyunsaturated fats which are good healthy fats for your body. Saturated fats, which are commonly found in butter, margarine and Lard, can contribute to serious health issues such as obesity, heart disease, cholesterol and inflammation.
- Smoke point – Smoke point is the point at which the fat or oil starts to burn. This is really important because cooking a fat or oil past its smoke point can cause it to lose its nutritional value, as well as its flavor. More importantly, it can start to release dangerous free radicals such as carcinogens and toxins, which are not good. Free radicals break down the cells in the body and can lead to things like heart disease, certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes. They also cause wrinkles since they impact the elasticity of your skin, and they contribute to inflammation throughout the body.
Most Popular Oils that People Use
The most popular oils that people gravitate towards may be popular because they’re passed down traditionally from generation to generation, or because they're available in abundance at traditional stores. Commonly used oils include:
- Vegetable Oil – These includes olive oil, canola corn, soy bean oil, palm oil, and sunflower oil. These all fall under the “vegetable oil” umbrella.
- Peanut oil
- Coconut oil
What Makes Oil Good or Bad?
How oils are processed really matters. Processing of oils can contribute to how healthy the oil is in multiple ways. Two of the primary ways that oil processing matter are:
Many processed oils are made from seeds or beans that are not very easy to extract the oil from. For this reason, manufacturers have to use industrial power and intense heat to extract the oil. This process often leads to oxidation of the oils which creates free radicals that have been proven time and time again to contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.
That’s why cold pressed oil is always preferable, because there is not that extra heat step to extract the oil from the fruit and beans, leading to oxidation.
Many industrial processors like use carcinogenic chemical solvents like hexane or bleach that can introduce a rancid toxic entity into the oil, which is what we don’t want. Companies use this hexane or bleach to cover up the rancid smell of the flavor of the oil after it has been extracted, especially if it has been heat treated.
Oils that are not healthy for you
- Canola oil — To create canola oil, you have to take crude oil that has been heat extracted from rapeseeds and refine, bleach, and deodorize it. Because canola oil is processed under super high heat, it goes rancid and then it creates the need for industrial carcinogenic bleaches and deodorizers like the hexane and bleach. This is sold to you probably as a healthy oil, but it’s actually really bad for your body.
- Soy bean oil or vegetable oil — Vegetable oil sounds nice and natural but 99% of the time that oil is actually just soybean oil. It’s high in phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors, which mean that it blocks the absorption of many other vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It also contains elements that can mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt normal hormone function which could possibly then lead to increased risk of cancer. About 94% of soybean oil is GMO, unless it says otherwise specifically on the label.
- Margarine of vegan butter substitutes — Butter substitutes like margarine, smart balance, or earth balance, like the vegan butter substitutes, are mostly a mix of canola oil and soybean oil. These are really high in omega-6 fatty acids, which lead to inflammation.
- Corn Oil — Eighty-eight percent of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. Corn oil contains about 60% omega-6 fatty acids which is very inflammatory.
Oils that are Good For You
Ghee is clarified butter, meaning the milk proteins have been removed. The most abundant one of these proteins is casein. This is not only found in butter but it’s also found in things like cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream. Many people are allergic to casein and it causes stomach issues including cramping, bloating and gas.
However, the good news is since casein has been removed in clarified butter, you might be able to enjoy butter again when you use ghee instead. Since ghee does not have milk proteins, it’s less reactive than butter and it’s really good to cook with. It’s a mainstay in Ayurvedic cooking and the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Ghee also has a very high smoke point. It’s got a really nice flavor and can be used in stir fries and on roasted vegetables. You can put it on anything where you would use butter or cooking oil. Most health food stores sell ghee and a lot of large grocery store chains have started to stock their shelves with ghee. You can find it in the refrigerated area or on the shelves.
It’s also super easy to make ghee from scratch on your own, and it’s cheaper. All you need is organic grass-fed unsalted butter. This must be unsalted, otherwise your ghee will be extremely salty. Take a pan and put it on to medium-high and then start melting your butter. Turn it down a little bit more to low medium. A frothy foam is going to begin to form on the surface. This is the milk solids coming out of the butter. Immediately reduce the butter to low and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Once done, pour that mixture into a glass or Mason jar. Remember the butter will go through different stages as it simmers. It’s going to foam, it’s going to bubble up, stop bubbling and then foam again. Once this happens, the ghee is done. You will notice some brown bits at the end of the pan. You need to get rid of those so just scoop it with a spatula and scrape it off.
Let the ghee cool for a few minutes before you pour it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth, then store in your mason jar in the refrigerator. In addition to stir fries and roasted vegetables, you can also substitute ghee to any recipe that calls for cooking oil.
This is one of the most popular, versatile, healthy and delicious oils. You can use it in salad dressings, marinades, sautéing, roasting, boiling, etc. It’s great for cooking foods at low to medium heat and it’s packed with antioxidants, which help fight disease.
You can also put it in your hair for a nice scalp remedy, or use it on your face, or any dry spots on your body. It also fights inflammation, as it contains oleocanthal which is nature’s anti-inflammatory. It’s also high in oleic acid and its main fatty acid is oleic acid. This also works to reduce the inflammation in your body. We are always trying to take inflammation out of the body.
There are so many wonderful brands of olive oil. Pick one that is cold pressed, organic, extra virgin. When cooking with olive oil, the most important thing that you want to be aware of is that you’re using the extra virgin oil, because it’s the least refined, meaning it’s minimally processed. This means that the oil has been extracted in a way that retains the maximum amount of nutrients.
Coconut oil is in fact high in saturated fats, but it is also considered a superfood — meaning it’s loaded with nutrients, and it’s excellent for your overall health and wellbeing. Most superfoods are plant-based and coconut oil is no exception. The healthy fatty acids contained in coconut oil are what got coconut on this list in the first place. Coconut oil can promote fat burning and can also reduce your appetite, so you don’t over eat.
Coconut oil can also help boost the brain function. It raises the good cholesterol and fights belly fat. It has a high smoke point, meaning unlike olive oil, it is good to use if you are cooking things like chicken, or tuna. It’s a great substitute for butter when baking, and with the substitution ratio of one to one, it’s easy to substitute.
This is also a fantastic option because it has a high smoke point. It’s unrefined and it does not have a very strong flavor, which gives it some points in versatility. Avocado oil is really high in monounsaturated fats, the highest out of most cooking oils. It takes between 15 and 20 avocados to make one eight-ounce bottle of avocado oil. If you know the health benefits of just one avocado then you can only imagine the benefits of using avocado oil. It’s fabulous for sautéing and baking but should not be used for high heat cooking. It’s great when making homemade mayo and smoothies or drizzled on soups and fish.
Less common healthy oils
There are also a few more healthy oils to consider, which aren’t quite as popular as ghee, olive, coconut or avocado oil:
Flaxseed or hemp oil
For flaxseed oil and hemp oil, they take the seeds and cold press them to yield oil. These are low heat cooking oils and you can use them for salad dressings, dips, and sauces. Both are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and they have lots of proteins. However, they are not good for high heat cooking; they’re called “no to low heat oils”. They are great in raw applications and can be used in baking but are not a good option to use when cooking over direct heat like sautéing vegetables or meats.
Flaxseed oil also contains alpha linolenic acid or ALA, particular omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease and inflammation. In fact one teaspoon of flaxseed oil contains a daily recommended dose of necessary ALA.
Hemp oil, made from hemp seeds, is also really great because it’s extremely low in saturated fats. It’s an oil with one of the highest concentrations of polyunsaturated fats, which means it promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails. It has the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids making it an ideal disease fighter.
Similar to flaxseed oil, hemp oil is a no-to-low heat oil. However there are still plenty of uses for it in your kitchen. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that we should have is 4:1. The average American has an average of 10:1, which is far too much, as omega-6 causes inflammation. This can be found in fried foods and processed foods, and similar foods. It is best to always raise the omega-3s as much as we can so that the ratio is closer to 4:1, to lower inflammation in our bodies.
Hemp oil is green in color, quite different from other oils. It has a nice nutty taste and it works best in non sweet recipes like vinaigrettes, salad dressing, pesto, and baking savory or salty foods. Avoid using it on anything sweet. It also needs to be refrigerated.
Grape seed oil
Grape seed oil has lots of polyunsaturated fats and is rich in vitamin E. It’s made from the seeds of grapes. It’s beautiful, light in color, and it’s another healthy oil that works. It is great at reducing inflammation in the body. It has a high smoke point, making it a great choice for sautéing and stir frying. It’s also very mild in flavor, so while grape seed oil wouldn’t be the best choice for dipping, it’s great to cook with since it has a very mild flavor and allows the flavor of whatever you’re cooking to really pop. You can easily substitute it for olive oil.
This is a little bit darker than grape seed oil, and has an amazing flavor. It’s made from sesame seeds and it’s great, especially when added to stir fries, marinades and even drizzled into bone broth. It’s another oil high in mono and polyunsaturated fats and keeps your heart working really well and your cholesterol in check. Just like hemp oil, it has a nice nutty flavor and it’s used more often in Asian cuisines. It has a high smoke point, so you can use it in your stir fries. It’s also commonly used in Kimchi and can be used in salad dressings, sauces and marinades, and even on veggies.
Bonus tip: Want a tasty and healthy sesame oil snack? Heat up a pan and add some garlic, and sesame oil. Once hot, add some kale and use tongs to stir around. You can also put in some ginger slices.
This kind of looks like a vegetable oil. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, magnesium phosphorus, zinc, vitamin E, niacin, and vitamins B1 and B2 as well as B3. It also has lots of antioxidants, especially elegiac acid which counters the effects of inflammation and cell damaging free radicals that accelerate aging, and contributes to cancer and other health concerns. It has a nutty flavor but it’s also mild. It can be used in salad dressing, drizzled on pasta, or drizzled on fruit before it’s grilled. In fact, it can be substituted in any recipe that usually calls for olive oil. You want to refrigerate it after opening.
To make pesto, you need a Swiss Pull Chop that comes with three components: a container, some knives, a lid, and a little pulley. You can use a food processor or a NutriBullet or a blender.
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts. These are high in omega 3 and vitamin B
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup basil
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- ½ lemon
Add the walnuts and garlic to the Swiss Pull Chop. Add the spinach and basil, then squeeze in some lemon. Slowly drizzle the olive till it yields about 1/3 cup, as you start blending the pesto into a nice consistent texture. To blend, hold the top of your pull, chop, and pull. The less oil you use, the thicker your pesto is going to be. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste.
There are a lot of great options in terms of cooking with healthy fats and oil. Fats like butter and lard are high in saturated fats that can lead to heart disease, obesity, and a whole host of other diseases and conditions like inflammation.
Replace those with healthy fats and oils like ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, hemp oil, and toasted sesame seed oil; these are all high mono and polyunsaturated fats. These are the good fats that actually help prevent things like heart disease, high cholesterol, and inflammation.
Make sure you know the smoke point of the oil that you’re choosing to cook with. The smoke point indicates how easily the fat or oil burns. Things like ghee, olive oil, and walnut oil have medium-to-high smoke points, which make them ideal for sautéing and baking. Flaxseed and hemp seed oil have very low smoke points, making them great for raw or low-heat cooking or baking, but you don’t want to use them to stir fry with.
Now that you know what healthy oils to cook with, what are you waiting for? Heat up your kitchen, start experimenting and having fun. Go out and get yourself a Swiss Pull Chop so that you can make fresh pesto that is so delectable.