Healthiest and Most Recommended Cooking Oils
Healthiest and Most Recommended Cooking Oils, (and some to avoid)
Most cook use cooking oils regularly. We need them to prepare all sorts of dishes, including meat, eggs, vegetables, sauces, breads and cakes, and other grain dishes.
People often focus on how to choose a healthy oil. However, the healthiness of an oil when it comes off of the grocery shelf is only part of the story.
It’s also important to consider whether the oil is still healthy to consume after you’ve heated it during cooking.
This is because cooking oils have a range of smoke points, or temperatures at which they’re no longer stable. You should not use cooking oils to cook at temperatures above their smoke point. If you have burnt some food or burnt the oil you’ll remember next time, to keep closer watch on time and temperature. Work with a lower light and longer time.
Even if you are doing stir fry technique you’ll keep the food moving and generally the wok is emptied onto a plate soon after you begin. But the covered frying pan left to simmer can get hot and hotter and HOTTER until you have smoke and then you know you’ve overdone it.
We’ll consider 5 healthiest cooking oils that tolerate high heat cooking, as well as discusses a few oils that you should avoid altogether for cooking. We’re talking about vegetable oils for the most part. Generally animal fats are NOT healty for cooking. Butter, pork fat/"Lard”, “shortening,” and margarine are unhealthy.
What’s the difference? I’ll explain. What is shortening?
The term “shortening” technically refers to any type of fat that is solid at room temperature, including butter, margarine, and lard.
Shortening can be made from either animal fat or vegetable oil, but most shortening available today is made from vegetable oils like soybean, cottonseed, or palm oil.
Because these vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature, they must go through a unique manufacturing process called “hydrogenation” to become solid at room temperature.
Until recently, shortening contained partially hydrogenated oil — a type of trans fat.
However, the Food and Drug Administration completely banned trans fats in the United States as of January 2020 because they can disrupt cell membrane function, leading to an increased risk of cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and nervous system dysfunction.
Shortening is still made using hydrogenation, but the oils are fully hydrogenated rather than partially hydrogenated, so there are no trans fats present. This makes them somewhat less harmful, but certainly does not move them to the “healthy” list.
This hydrogenation process fully saturates the vegetable oil molecules with hydrogen ions until they have the characteristic firmness of saturated fats (like butter, lard, and coconut oil) at room temperature.
Butter and margarine, are approximately 80% fat, with the remainder being water, shortening is 100% fat. It’s ,mostly calories and contains neither carbohydrates nor protein. It also contains very few vitamins and minerals. It’s really not useful to create energy for body function. It’s a medium for the cooking process but does nothing helpful for your body.
For example, a tablespoon (12 grams) of Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening contains
Total fat: 12 grams
Unsaturated fat: 3.5 grams
Saturated fat: 2.5 grams
Protein: 0 grams
Carbs: 0 grams
You see they named it Crisco “All Vegetable” Shortening to give the impression that it’s healthy. This is a trick to make you have a background emotional reaction to accept and believe it’s healthy. Similarly, there was a television advertisment that began with Native American sounding tribal music with the beat of a drum and voices singing “Canola.” “Canola” and the advertisement never SAID it was natural and healthy but that was the impression they wanted to create. To this moment, Canola oil is still a debatable product and I personally won’t touch it. I see it as I see “margarine.” Both of them are “plastic food.” They are mostly laboratory creations and I consider them unhealthy. If you have any in the fridge or closet use it to grease the bicycle chain. Don’t eat it! It might work well for a sqeeky door hinge, or perhaps you could use it on a wooden planting pot or old pic-nic table to protect it from rain. Don’t eat it.
Unlike some other types of fat, shortening is 100% fat. It’s very high in calories and has almost no vitamins and minerals. Nutritionists have been talking about “empty calories” for years, and this is it! When we see people (and their pets) who are hugely overweight the basic cause is that they’re consuming refined carbohydrates like white sugar and white flour, and empty calories in the form of Lard and shortening.
Worse, it’s been hydrogenated and that hydrogen ion is a free radical. It is not attached to anything and will damage any cell it touches, attaching itself to a carbon atom damaging the cell. The cell takes this punishment constantly, as if it got shot with many bullet holes, and its life is finally shortened. Your body is constantly trying to restore the damage done by all of the free radical consumption.
Butter and margarine are debatable too. The science says margarine is healthier, but sometimes someone is paid to say that because the manufacturer wants to sell the product and doesn’t care if it makes consumers sick. I think that’s the case with margarine. The biochemical makeup of butter makes it a bit more digestible and useful, but neither are truly good for us. If you want a hard product like butter to spread on pancakes or bread use cold peanut or coconut oil, or simply pour warm oil over the pancakes. You could have a little cup of coconut oil or olive oil served so the one dining can dip his bread into the oil as he would into a sauce. That would be much better.
Essentially overweight people are unhealthy people. They are those who have been eating bakery products and other “sweets” and when you see them so big you wonder at it, you can be sure it is unlikely that they will live long in that condition.
French cooking uses sugars. Chinese cooking sometimes uses sugars, but it’s for a flavoring, not to be eaten in indulgent quantities.
Why good cooking oils matter
When cooking oils are heated, particularly at high heat, they eventually reach their smoke point. This is the temperature at which the oil is no longer stable and begins to break down. It’s on it’s way to “flash point” and then you have a kitchen fire -- which is the cause of most house fires. If that ever happens you can dump a lot of salt over it, or cover it to starve it of oxygen and of course immediately turn the heat off.
DO NOT try to carry it out of the house! There’s a chance you’ll get burned and then shutter and spill the hot oil onto the floor, If it’s still very hot it might light again. Then you would have a fire on the floor. Never do that. Never pour water onto it! I’ll provide another article about this issue.
When oil breaks down, it begins to oxidize and release free radicals. These compounds can have negative health consequences, potentially causing cellular damage that may lead to disease development.
Furthermore, oils that reach their smoke point release a substance called acrolein, which can create an unpleasant burnt flavor. What’s more, airborne acrolein may be dangerous to your lungs.
It’s also important to consider the amount of processing a cooking oil has undergone, as this can affect its quality.
Highly refined oils have a uniform appearance and tend to be less expensive, whereas oils that have undergone minimal processing may contain sediment particles, have a cloudier appearance, and maintain more of their natural flavor and color.
Unrefined oils may contain more nutrients, but they’re also more sensitive to heat and may go rancid more quickly than highly processed cooking oils. Refined oils tend to have higher smoke points than unrefined oils. You can keep unrefined oils like cloudy coconut oil in the refrigerator. It will harden so pour it into a covered container, then when you need some dig it out, let it soften and use it for cooking.
Some refined oils are extracted using chemical solvents, while other oils are extracted by pressing plants or seeds. Many health-conscious consumers avoid chemically extracted oils and prefer those made by pressing, such as cold pressed olive oil. The first pressing is “Extra Virgin” olive oil , and it’s the healthiest.
The second pressing is “Virgin” olive oil also done by mechanical means. The rest is from water, steam or chemical solvents.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest grade and purest quality olive oil available. It’s excellent for salads, and pizza bread. Virgin Olive Oil is unrefined oil usually with slight defects of aroma or flavor, lower chemical standards and higher free fatty acid levels than extra-virgin olive oil.
Olives are pressed to extract as much oil as possible, producing different tiers of quality. So, the first batch of oil that's produced is “extra virgin” — after that, the olives are further pressed and processed to extract more oil, but the flavor and quality decreases from there.
Keep in mind that oils from different sources can vary significantly in their nutritional composition, including the proportion and types of fatty acids they contain. This can significantly influence their health effects.
There are pros and cons to using refined and unrefined oils, as well as oils of varying smoke points.
You may want to avoid vegetable oils high in omega-6
Some plant oils are better for us than others. The best of them are, coconut oil and olive oil.
Some nutrition scientists are concerned about Omega-6
Too much omega 6 can raise your blood pressure, lead to blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke, and cause your body to retain water.
We don't eat nearly enough omega-3, which can reduce our risk for heart disease and cancer.
Oils can be a good source of ALA omega-3s, too, including:
Cod liver oil.
Consider avoiding the following plant oils due to their high omega-6 contents:
rice bran oil
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that you need some of them in your diet because your body can’t produce them.
Below are five healthier oils that can handle high heat cooking.
Cooking oils have their pros and cons. It’s helpful to choose cooking oils based on their smoke point and degree of processing. Use a variety of them. Sometimes a little peanut oil, sometimes olive, sometimes, coconut, or palm, or soy. If you want just two I’d suggest coconut as the primiary and when I cook I use a little bit of palm oil on a non-stick pan. I prefer Palm from farms in Malaysia, rather than from jungles.
No non-stick pan is 100% non-stick but I have a German made ceramic pan that I treat as if it were Teflon coated, and it’s 98% non-stick. (Sometimes egg might stick a little but I think that’s a function of temperature setting.) On that pan I use a little palm oil when frying eggs. If anything sticks to it I let it cool and then add water with dish detergent and leave it to soak for a few minutes. The food then slips right off when I wash it.