19 Jun Your No-Nonsense Guide to Cooking Oils
Imagine you’re in the grocery store and you made a mental note to pick up some cooking oil.
You walk into the aisle and you notice rows and rows of bright, yellow-looking oil in plastic bottles staring back at you.
How do you choose your oil?
Which ones are the best for stir-fry?
Which ones are the best for salad?
When I was an undergrad, I was super confused about oil/fat.
I thought anything containing fat was a no-no.
Remember in the low-fat 80s, there were bad press about saturated fats?
All the bad science has been reversed.
It’s time to start looking closely at what’s on those shelves and what you’re putting into your body.
Let’s find out what we’re currently doing! (only then we know where and what to fix)
In today’s context, we’re eating too much polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and trans fat.
We all know that and it’s hardly a surprise anymore, right?
So, eat healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocados, fatty fish eg wild salmon
Maybe you’re still thinking, too much fat is still unhealthy.
Now, ONE super important reason to have fats in our food, if you only take away one learning out of this.
More than 60% of the brain is FAT.
Our brain is the fat-richest organ in our body.
So, fat is important because your body needs it for just about…everything!
Your shiny skin, hair and nails? That’s fatty acid doing their job. Regulating sex hormones in the body? Produced naturally from cholesterol. Proper functioning of your nervous system? Myelin sheaths are composed of lipids. Reducing inflammation? Provided you’re eating the right ratio of 1:1 of omega-3 and omega-6.
I think we go wrong by trying to be more “healthy”.
“Healthy” referring to filling a plate of lettuce and placing a tiny dollop of dressing. You get what I mean? Because you’re trying to avoid “fat”.
Here’s the check- Essential vitamins from your food such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body.
Ok, so what now?
Let’s talk about different types fats out there.
The good and the bad.
Also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.
Occur naturally in meat and dairy products but mostly man-made. Liquid vegetable oil are processed to become solid fat by hydrogenation.
Trans fat helps processed food stay solid at room temperature and increases shelf life.
As the saying goes- the longer the shelf-life, the shorter your life.
I know it’s difficult, but try to avoid as much as you can. Why?
Because there’s zero health benefits! It increases “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and decreases “good” HDL cholesterol.
Found in cookies, cakes, crackers, margarines, pastries, snacks.
Whenever we’re cooking, saturated fat is our preferred oil. It’s good for stir fry, baking because these fats are stable at high temperature.
If you remember high school science (I’m getting nerdy here, you don’t mind, do you?), the stability has to do with carbon atoms being saturated with hydrogen atoms and they do not contain double bonds between carbon atoms.
Found in coconut oil, butter, ghee ( grass-fed, organic).
A great example is extra-virgin olive oil (lauded as the premium cooking oil). But what most of us are doing is cooking it at high heat that turns healing fat to harmful fat because it has been denatured.
We change the chemistry of oil molecules when we fry oils into smoke.
We can cook with it using low temperature but preferably used as finishing oil. Instead adding oil during cooking, add it after cooking.
These are the ones you find in the grocery stores. Corn, canola, sunflower, safflower oil (high in omega-6 fatty acid, pro-inflammatory. Remember, it’s not that omega-6 Is ‘bad’. The problem is we’re consuming too much omega-6, while consuming too little omega-3)
You don’t want to be cooking with these oil.
Because unsaturated oil are highly unstable at high heat becoming denatured fats. This leads to the generation of free radicals and eventually causes rancidity.
Too much of polyunsaturated fat contributes to chronic inflammation that we’re seeing today.
Bottom line is use the right oil at the right temperature.
And to keep it simple, here’s a cheatsheet on how to choose the best cooking oils!
P.S. Choose glass bottles whenever you purchase oil. Because you want to avoid toxic chemicals leaching from plastics into oil. If you’ve ever bought essential oils, you’ll never see it filled in plastic bottles. Same goes with cooking oil!