When it comes to choosing the right edible oils, there are so many misleading information out there. Some say butter is good for you, some say stay clear of butter. Some say Olive oil is okay for cooking, some say it is dangerous to cook with olive oil. Corn oil is claiming to be a heart healthy oil and even better than olive oil. It seems like we are in coconut oil craze decade right now; and there are all sorts of Coconut oils, some with no taste or smell, available. So how do you know what kind of Oil to use. We know fats are essential in our diet and we should not avoid them, but how can we choose the healthiest ones???
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. You need to choose your oil based on your needs. However, there are some guidelines that can help you. Below is a summary of what you need to know to choose the right kind of oils:
- Choose “cold-pressed” and/or “expeller-pressed” when possible.
When choosing oils, like choosing any other foods, the less processed the better. Cold pressed or Expeller pressed, refer to the way the oil was processed. Cold-pressed oils are pressed at low temperatures, which means they retain all the flavors, aromas, and nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by heat. Expeller-pressing is another clean way of producing oil: It means that the oil was extracted mechanically, by squeezing, instead of chemically.
- Pay attention to smoke point.
Smoke point is the temperature at which oils start to break down, lose nutrients, and develop off flavors. In other word, when oil starts to smoke. Some oils have higher smoke points, so they’re better for high-heat cooking like deep frying. Other oils have low smoke points, and should probably be reserved for applications like dressing. The smoke point of each oil is usually listed on the bottle.
- Pick MUFAs (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids) for cooking.
When you expose the oils to heat and oxygen, they go through a process called oxidation. Apply enough heat, and oil forms byproducts called “cooking oil polar compounds.” These compounds may be harmful to human health—preliminary research shows they could raise blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease risk—but there are still very few human studies. MUFA, due to their chemical structure, are less sensitive to heat and oxidation. In order to lower your exposure to these compounds, cook with oils that are composed mainly of MUFAs rather than PUFAs. Examples of MUFA oil are olive, avocado, canola, sunflower, sesame and soybean.
- Strive for balanced omegas. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two different types of PUFAs. Why are they important? At the onset of the industrial revolution, there was a marked shift in the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of Omega 6 fats increased at the expense of Omega 3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed). So there is an imbalance between our Omega-6 and omega-3 consumption. Ideally, we want to keep this ratio 2:1. While whole fish and fish oils are arguably the best sources of omega-3s, you can also find them in some cooking oils, like walnut, canola, and flaxseed. So what is the big deal about Omega 6 and Omega 3? Here is the deal, very briefly, the more omega-3 fat you eat, the less omega-6 will be available to the tissues to produce inflammation. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 is neutral. A diet with a lot of omega-6 and not much omega-3 will increase inflammation. A diet of a lot of omega-3 and not much omega-6 will reduce inflammation, and we do not want inflammation. Don’t get me wrong, Omega-6 is still an essential fatty acid and we need it in our body, but in the right amount. The problem with our diet is that we consume too much of Omega-6 fatty acids and not enough Omega 3s. How about Omega 9s? Omega-9, or monounsaturated oleic and stearic acid, is a non essential fatty acid produced naturally by the body whenever there is enough of either Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. However, if you do not have enough omega 3 and omega 6, then you must get omega 9 from your diet. This fatty acid plays a role in promoting heart health by supporting healthy, balanced cholesterol levels and improving immune function. Omega 9s are found in Avocado oil, Almond oil, hazelnut oil, and Olive oil.
A couple of points to keep in mind:
- The information provided here, are guidelines to help you choose the best oils based on your needs and budget. When trying to eat healthy, you are the one who should decide what is best for you based on the information that is available to you. Here is a personal example, in my family, we do not like the taste of Coconut oil in our food, so despite all its health benefits, I use Avocado oil or grass fed butter for my cooking needs.
- Also, it will be hard to use only one kind of oil for all purposes, you probably need a different kind of oil for your salad dressing, one for cooking and one for baking. In our household, I use Extra virgin olive oil mainly for dressing, Avocado oil and grass fed butter for cooking, and Coconut Oil and Grass Fed Butter for baking. Again, this does not mean that you should use these oils only.
There you have it, I hope this article helps you to choose the right oil based on your needs. In order to help you with your quest to find a healthier oils, I have created a worksheet which shows all of these criteria for different kinds of oils in the market with Pros and cons of each oil. Make sure to get your PDF Download below.