Angela: There is a minefield of conflicting information about cooking oils out there and which are the best ones to use. It’s an important one to get right because oils are in EVERYTHING from dips to crackers. Do your own research as it will be time well spent on your health.
I think this guide from “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo is awesome and covers what you need to know well. Here it is: Guide to Cooking Fats.
For those of you not interested in the technical stuff skip to the conclusion. 🙂
The 5 things you need to take into account:
- Smoke Point– Not all oils can be used for all types of cooking. They all have a smoke point, which they should not be used past. This is when the oil starts burning and releases smoke. When this happens it means that the molecule has broken down and has become damaged. The smoke point is a secondary factor depending on the fatty acid profile.
- What types of fatty acids are there?– Saturated which are very stable like Coconut oil, Monounsaturated which are moderately stable like olive oil, Polyunsaturated which are very unstable like soy bean oil. Oils and fat have different ratios of the different types of fats. Saturated fats are very stable as they have no free bonds and are solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats have 1 free bond that can react with oxygen making them moderately unstable. Lastly there are polyunsaturated fats, which are very unstable as they have many free bonds that can react with oxygen. Even at room temperature the polyunsaturated fats can be problematic.
- Omega 3/Omega 6 Balance– Omega 3 and Omega 6 are polyunsaturated fats. The body needs a balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats equally. Currently we are eating 20 more times omega 6 fats as omega 3 fats. Omega 6 fats are dominant because about ALL processed foods are made using omega 6 oils. This imbalance causes inflammation in our bodies. Increased inflammation can lead to many chronic health conditions. To get the balance right think about all the packaged and take-away foods you buy that might contain oils: salad dressings, dips, crackers, cooked whole chickens, crisps, chips, baked goods. Most manufactures and restaurants will use the cheapest oils, which are the polyunsaturated high in Omega 6 oils. Omega 6 is high in corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed oil and omega 3 is high in salmon, halibut, sardines, albacore, walnuts, flaxseeds. To get the balance right reduce your packaged foods and make more things at home using good quality oils and eat more fish. I won’t recommend cooking with omega 3 oils, as they can also turn unstable when cooking.
- The way in which they are manufactured – I would avoid all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. We talked about hydrogenation in our butter post here. They are canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and rice bran oil.
- The commercial grade of the oil – We posted a useful image on Facebook recently on how to choose your coconut oil. It explains that there is no difference between Extra Virgin and Virgin Coconut oil; it’s just a marketing term and the different commercial grades available. There are also different grades of Olive Oils too for example. Extra Virgin and Virgin don’t undergo any chemical refining the oil is extracted and bottled. Refined Olive Oil production involves solvents and high temperatures. Most people’s concerns about using Virgin or Extra Virgin oils for cooking is that they are too unstable but I don’t agree. The smoke point of Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive oil is approximately 190 °C /375 °F. So I have no problem baking up to 170°C or light frying with Extra Virgin or Virgin Olive oil. However I would never use them for high frying temperatures or wok-frying as they are a monounsaturated fat and are moderately unstable. Remember always look at the smoke point and at their fatty acid profile.
WE USE… Virgin Coconut Oil
- High in stable saturated fats
- Helps you loose weight – high in medium chain fatty acids, which are used for energy not stored as fat
- It’s anti-viral and anti-fungal
- It’s anti-inflammatory
- Smoke point of 177 °C – can be used for pan frying/baking/adding to homemade protein balls. Try our yummy recipe click here (great one to curb cravings)
At home I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for baking and adding to salads and dips, Virgin Coconut Oil for stir-fries, pan-frying and in my protein balls. Love adding butter for flavour if I’m pan-frying a steak or mushrooms – Yummy! I never deep fry but if I was to I would use refined coconut oil.