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Top 3 Healthy Oils For Cooking And Ways To Use Them

Top 3 Healthy Oils For Cooking And Ways To Use Them

Olive oil, coconut or avocado oil make good cooking oil options with their myriad health benefits. What may be less obvious is that some very healthy oils aren't good options for cooking with - like flaxseed oil, fish oil. Even seemingly harmless vegetable oils can be bad if they’re high on omega-6s. What’s more, reusing good oils too, can make them go bad!

Olive oil isn’t just for dipping bread into and coconut oil doesn’t need to be reserved only for exotic tropical cooking. With concerns around the negative effects of having vegetable oils and animal fats, it may be time to consider some healthier alternatives. And oils like avocado, olive, and coconut are coming into their own. Mainstream cookbooks, celebrity chefs, and a growing number of regular folk are making the switch. Here’s a look at the best options for your health.

1. Extra Virgin Or Virgin Coconut Oil

Extra virgin coconut oil can make you feel like you’re on some exotic getaway all year round. Except you don’t have to travel to make the most of its health benefits! The oil can help rev up metabolism that’s slow or sluggish. If you’re someone who’s at risk of developing metabolic syndrome or have hypothyroidism, this makes the oil an especially good choice.1 Lauric acid, the major fatty acid in the oil is antimicrobial and can kill harmful viruses, fungi and bacteria that make their way into your food.2 It can even fight oxidative stress in your body, especially that sustained as a result of heavy drinking, as some researchers found.3 Just remember hydrogenated cococnut oil is not healthy due to the high heat and pressure it is subjected to during processing.

2. Olive Oil

The American Heart Association recommends you cut down on saturated fat intake, including in the cooking oils you consume, to cut risk of heart disease and stroke. Which is why they suggest olive oil among the healthy alternatives you should switch to.4 Of the most common cooking oils, extra virgin olive oil(EVOO) has the lowest oxidation rate which means it doesn’t result in the kind of free radical damage that other vegetable oils do. EVOO can also help cut inflammation in your body due to its Omega 3 fatty acid content. This helps act a shield for your system against inflammatory conditions like hypertension, coronary artery disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.5 What’s even better is that it also contains a lot of antioxidants. You’ll be able to get a good amount of vitamins A, D, E, and even K, through olive oil. And these can benefit everything from your eyes, hair, and skin, to your blood.

3. Avocado Oil

Avocadoes as fruit have come recommended for years by health experts for the heart-healthy fats they contain. What not everyone knows is that its oil contains the goodness of monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid, much like olive oil. And like olive oil, it cuts inflammatory response in the body lowering risk of metabolic syndrome. Animal studies have found that it it positively alters cardiovascular risk profile markers.6 It also contains lutein7, a caretenoid that can improve eye health and reduce risks of age-related macular degeneration8 and cataract.9

Using Them Right

Even if you have the healthy oils stocked up, if you use them wrong you could be missing out on the benefits from them.

Be sure to store your oils carefully without exposing them to direct sunlight or bright lights as this can cause them to oxidize, developing free radicals that are potentially harmful. A cold dry place like a cupboard is best, especially if you intend using them slowly over a long period of time.

Sometimes, you may need to swap what oils you use for each kind of cooking. Here’s how:

  • Pick oils that have a high smoking point if you need to fry your food. That means EVOO is a bad idea, because it has a very low smoking point but olive oil is fine.
  • For roasting, steaming, baking, or using in cold food, EVOO and the other healthy oils work like a charm.
  • Avocado oil is also great for sauteing vegetables because of its distinctive flavor that enhances the taste of the meal.
  • If you’re grilling or roasting food at a high temperature, avocado oil is better than olive oil because it has a higher smoking point.
  • Coconut oil too has a low smoking point is best used for low temperature sauteing or baking.

A common concern is whether or not to reuse oil after you’ve cooked with it once. This is typical when you use a whole lot of oil for deep frying and think twice about tossing it all out after just one use. Unfortunately, heating the oil to such high temperatures even once destabilizes it, causing it to break down. The more you reuse it, the worse it gets. One thumb rule to check if oil has decomposed during cooking, is to look at color, consistency, smell, and clarity. Has it turned darker? Has it become thicker and almost gummy in consistency? Does it have foam on top? Is it cloudy? Does it have an acrid smell? If you answered yes to any of these, it is time to toss it out. 10 Besides this, if you have heated your oil to over 375°F, it may accumulate HNE( 4-hydroxy-2-trans-nonenal), a toxic substance that can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, stroke, liver disease, and Parkinson’s.11

Oils To Avoid Cooking With

When it comes to cooking oils, avoid those that are high in trans fats, have saturated fat content of more than 4 gm per tablespoon, and/or are partially hydrogenated oils.12

  • Vegetable oils like soybean and canola oils have trans fats in them and therefore better avoided.13 Plus, the Omega 6 fatty acids in them can also increase inflammation in the body.14 Consuming them could put you at greater risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Margarine and vegetable shortening are highly processed hydrogenated fats. Their saturated fat content makes them nearly as bad as eating animal fats.15
  • Animal fats like lard are rich in saturated fats and not recommended by the American Heart Council as healthy cooking options.16

Besides the obviously less healthy oils, there are some that are actually great for health but don’t make a good choice when it comes to cooking. These may be better consumed as supplements.

  • Fish oil offers a world of goodness but may seem challenging to use in your cooking, even as a seafood lover. So how do you use this oil that’s packed with the goodness of Omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamins A and D? In a word – don’t. The oil contains far too much polyunsaturated fat to make it a good choice.17 You shouldn’t consume more than a spoonful a day and with cooking you’re likely to need far more.
  • Another oil that’s great for you but better taken in small doses is flaxseed oil. It could help lower blood pressure, improve heart health, cut heart disease risk, and treat constipation, but has some pitfalls. It can interfere with other medication rendering them less effective, and may also not be properly absorbed by diabetics.18 It is also a very delicate oil and does not hold up well to heating and is easily oxidized when exposed to heat.

References   [ + ]

1. Nagao, Koji, and Teruyoshi Yanagita. “Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome.” Pharmacological Research 61, no. 3 (2010): 208-212.
2. Kabara, Jon J., Dennis M. Swieczkowski, Anthony J. Conley, and Joseph P. Truant. “Fatty acids and derivatives as antimicrobial agents.” Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy 2, no. 1 (1972): 23-28.
3. Dosumu, O. O., F. I. O. Duru, A. A. Osinubi, A. A. Oremosu, and C. C. Noronha. “Influence of virgin coconut oil (VCNO) on oxidative stress, serum testosterone and gonadotropic hormones (FSH, LH) in chronic ethanol ingestion.” Agriculture and Biology Journal of North America 6 (2010): 1126-1132.
4, 12. Healthy Cooking Oils. American Heart Association.
5. Wardhana, Eko E. Surachmanto, and E. A. Datau. “The role of omega-3 fatty acids contained in olive oil on chronic inflammation.” inflammation 11 (2011): 12.
6. Carvajal-Zarrabal, Octavio, Cirilo Nolasco-Hipolito, M. Guadalupe Aguilar-Uscanga, Guadalupe Melo-Santiesteban, Patricia M. Hayward-Jones, and Dulce M. Barradas-Dermitz. “Avocado oil supplementation modifies cardiovascular risk profile markers in a rat model of sucrose-induced metabolic changes.” Disease markers 2014 (2014).
7. Ashton, Ofelia BO, Marie Wong, Tony K. McGhie, Rosheila Vather, Yan Wang, Cecilia Requejo-Jackman, Padmaja Ramankutty, and Allan B. Woolf. “Pigments in avocado tissue and oil.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54, no. 26 (2006): 10151-10158.
8. Lim, Laurence S., Paul Mitchell, Johanna M. Seddon, Frank G. Holz, and Tien Y. Wong. “Age-related macular degeneration.” The Lancet 379, no. 9827 (2012): 1728-1738.
9. Vu, Hien TV, Luba Robman, Allison Hodge, Catherine A. McCarty, and Hugh R. Taylor. “Lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of cataract: the Melbourne visual impairment project.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 47, no. 9 (2006): 3783-3786.
10. Is it safe to re-use oil used for frying? Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.
11. Is reusing cooking oil safe? Columbia University in the City of New York.
14. Omega 6 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center.
15. Ronzio, Robert A. The encyclopedia of nutrition and good health. Infobase Publishing, 2003.
16. Healthy Cooking Oils.American Heart Association.
17. Fish oil, cod liver. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
18. Flaxseed Oil. University of Maryland Medical Center.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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