5 Healthy Oils and how to use them.
When it comes to cooking oils, people have strong opinions about what is best. The one fact is that regardless of what kind of oil you use, oil is classified nutritionally as a fat. However, they are not equal when you are measuring their effects on our health.
Heart healthy fats are derived primarily from plant oils, so making them part of a healthy lifestyle is important, but with so many choices out there and the ever-changing list of what is good and what is not can be confusing.
Don’t shy away from these healthy fats, used in moderation they help us to remain strong physically and mentally.
I put this list together based on the all over nutrient offering of each oil and their sustainability of studies done on the health benefits that each offers. I also included how each of the 5 healthy oils should be used in your kitchen.
Just because the oil in the bottle is considered healthy doesn’t mean you should use it to sear your steak.
Why? When certain fats get heated past their smoke point, the point where fat starts to break down, they begin releasing free radicals and a substance called acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma.
Not something you want to use to cook your food or put in your body, kind of defeats the whole healthy eating idea. So you need to know the smoke point of your oils, or at least have a general idea of how to cook with them so that you reap their benefits and you don’t end up with a pantry full of different oil bottles, that you probably will never use.
The five healthy oils on my list are all that I use on a regular basis, and use with different foods and cooking methods.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Olive oil is extremely rich in monounsaturated fats and a great source of phytochemicals, which might help prevent some types of cancer. Compared to other fats, research suggests extra virgin olive oil was more likely to increase a person’s feeling of fullness.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream.
- Olive Oil has a lower smoke point so I use it sparingly with cooking, but toss it on my salads, veggies and as a topping to many finished dishes.
- Smoke point: 325°-375° F | 165°-190°C
- Use for: sautéing vegetables or dressing salads and steamed vegetables
- I am fairly new to using Avocado Oil, but I love this stuff. Buttery in flavor with the power to improve cholesterol numbers. The composition of avocado oil is very similar to olive oil. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in.
- It can be used the same as olive oil, but has a much higher smoke point and can be used in cooking.
- Smoke point: Virgin 375°-400°F | 190°-204°C, Refined 520°F | 271°C
- Use for: grilling, roasting, dressing salads, steamed veggies and topping for breads and soups
Clarified Butter or Ghee
- (I know it’s not an oil, but it is a healthy fat)– If you have never had clarified butter, you are missing out. Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat.
- Ghee (clarified butter) is easy to digest, because it is alkaline forming in the body helping to calm inflammation that is fed by an acidic diet. Since the milk solids are removed in the cooking process ghee (clarified butter) is lactose free; good news for individuals who cannot digest dairy products.
- Ghee is good for your brain. Medicinally ghee is highly touted for its benefits to the nerve tissue and the brain. Improving memory function is only one benefit as it is also prescribed in cases of depression, anxiety, dementia, and epilepsy.
- My favorite for cooking my beloved eggs and topping my steamed veggies.
- Smoke point: 425-475°F | 220°-245°C
- Use for: grilling, searing meat, stir fry, scrambled eggs, sautéed veggies, baking
- Walnut Oil has a wonderful nutty flavor; however it does NOT stand up to heat. The reason you may want a bottle of this delicious oil in your pantry is because it is high in antioxidants and phytonutrients and comparatively low in saturated fat. Just a tablespoon of walnut oil has as much omega fats as a salmon filet, but has heart healthy omega-3’s and and vitamin K.
- Smoke point: 0° not suitable for cooking
- Use for: topping greens, bread, soups, fruit
- I use this oil most in my cooking that needs a high heat point. Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat. This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid.
- Coconut oil also has powerful health benefits. It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens (2, 3, 4).
- The fats in coconut oil can also boost metabolism slightly and increase feelings of fullness compared to other fats
- Depending on if your Coconut oil is Virgin (unrefined) or Refined will affect its smoke point.
- Smoke point: Virgin 350°F | 175°C, Refined 400°F | 204°C
- Use for: stir fry, scrambled eggs, sautéed veggies, baking
Remember to enjoy your health fats in moderation with a diet full of clean veggies and lean meats.