I grew up in an Italian family where the only oil ever used was olive oil. We drizzled it on salad, added it to tomato sauce and sautéed it with garlic. Even into much of my adult life, I never questioned this and used olive oil for all of my cooking. In fact, I didn’t even realize there was other oils until I started researching and it was then that I discovered a whole new world of options.
Depending on what you are looking for in terms of nutrition, heating capacity and flavor, there are so many oils to choose from. However, there is one thing to remember. Anytime you cook with oil, there is a possibility that you can heat it too much which causes oxidative damage, forming free radicals that makes the oil rancid and carcinogenic in the body.
While some oils can handle heat well, others don’t hold up and lose their original taste and nutritional content in the cooking process. So if you are cooking with oil and it changes color, it is an indication that it has been chemically degraded and should not be consumed. This is why it is important to choose a cooking oil with a high smoke point.
That being said, what are the best oils to cook with?
While the list is long, here are my favorites:
Coconut Oil Extra Virgin:
- * Has a medium smoke point which makes it great for sautéing
- * Also delicious in soups, stews, curries, and very light heat stir fries
- * Wonderful for baking cookies, cakes, pies and chocolate
- * TIP: Make sure you buy organic unrefined coconut oil as many commercial coconut oils are refined, bleached, deodorized and contain chemicals
- * Benefits: TONS including reducing cholesterol, increasing energy levels and promoting a healthy digestive tract
Unrefined Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
- * Has a low to medium smoke point so use for salad dressings and drizzling over greens, steamed veggies and grains
- * This should NOT be used for high temperature cooking (This feels like blasphemy but it’s true)
- * TIP: Store in a dark colored glass container because it protects the oil from sunlight which can diminish the nutrients
- * Benefits: Great source of healthy monounsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants, lowers cholesterol levels and reduces inflammation
- * Has a high smoke point so it’s great for high heat cooking and baking
- * It has a sweet, natural, delicate and nutty flavor perfect for using in baking recipes
- * Tip: Almond oil can also be used as an incredible skin moisturizer
- * Benefits: Contains monounsaturated fats that helps lower cholesterol, boosts immunity and aids in digestion
- * Has the highest smoke point of any plant-based oil
- * Can be used for any high heat cooking, such as grilling and pan roasting
- * It is also amazing as a garnish for soups and drizzled on homemade pizza
- * TIP: When this oil isn’t cooked, it has an incredible flavor so try as a salad dressing
- * Benefit: Lowers cholesterol, improves eye health and enhances the absorption of fat soluble vitamins
- * This is not really an oil but it can be used in cooking to act like one
- * It is a purified form of clarified butter that can be used at higher temperature and is much more resistant to becoming rancid
- * Great in soups, stews, curries and very light heat stir fries
- * It will not break down into free radicals like many other oils
- * Benefits: Stimulates the digestive system, suitable for dairy intolerance, rich in vitamins
- * Sesame oil is considered one of the oldest condiments on earth
- * The smoke point ranges from medium to high
- * Perfect for stir frying and salad dressing, best used for light sautéing and low-heat baking
- * Tip: Sesame oil is great for the massaging the skin
- * Benefit: Lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease, combats inflammation
And although the next two are not used for cooking, they are worth mentioning!
Flax seed Oil:
- * Never cook with flax seed oil
- * It has a very low smoke point
- * You can use as a salad dressing or stir into dishes after heating
- * Tip: Try adding it to your superfood smoothie as a healthy fat source
- * Benefit: Contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which improves brain function, promotes heart health and radiant skin
- * Never cook with hemp seed oil.
- * Too delicate to be heated so like flax oil, use as a salad dressing or drizzled over already cooked foods
- * Tip: Try stirring into oatmeal for a heart healthy boost
- * Benefit: Many! High in essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals
This is an important topic to cover because if you are living a clean, green and conscious life but cooking with oils that become dangerous when heated, it’s time to make the switch. Don’t miss out on all the health benefits these healthy oils provide. Experiment, have fun and see what you like best. Be mindful to not overdue it though as oil are high in calories and fat (albeit the good, heart healthy kind!).
Cheers to your great health!