Are cooking oils and their substitutes unhealthy, but necessary evils
that we must use in order to make a meal? Or like any foods are their
choices to be made that will add healthy benefits to your meals. We will
point out that there are indeed healthy choices along with some very
unhealthy ones. But even when you use the right ones, moderation is
always in order.
When choosing an oil for cooking, the most important thing to consider is
how stable is it when heated. Oils that are unstable when exposed to heat
and light are most prone to oxidation and free radical production. These
will be the most inflammatory inside our bodies, and this can be the
cause of many of our internal problems such as diabetes, heart disease
and many other degenerative diseases. The cooking oils we often use that
have the greatest instability with heat: polyunsaturated fats which are
prevalent in most vegetable oils.
It gets confusing because there are healthy foods that have
polyunsaturated fat, such as seeds and nuts, so why should we not also
avoid them? The difference is as long as they have not been exposed to
high heat, and therefore have avoided the oxidation process. In the case
of vegetable oils such as cottonseed, safflower, grapeseed and corn oils,
they have usually been refined during processing. As a result, they are
already inflammatory prior to cooking with them, and the cooling process
does even more damage.
So when we are looking for the cooking oil that is the healthiest for us,
we will look for those that have the most stability over heat. As the
least stable is the polyunsaturated, the most stable is the saturated,
with the monounsaturated in between. In creating our list, then, we will
look for those that are composed of natural saturated fats which are the
least reactive to heat and light and will be the least inflammatory in
our body when used in cooking. Our list will include:
1. Real butter. Julia Childs was right: cooking with butter is the way to
go. Use grass-fed butter if possible. And by all means, this does NOT
2. Tropical oils. Coconut and palm oils are excellent, as they have very
little polyunsaturated and are mostly natural saturated fats. Their main
benefit, though, is lauric acid, which helps us fight many harmful
bacteria and viruses.
3. Extra virgin olive oil. Because it is mostly monounsaturated, it is
considered moderately stable. But most dieticians would recommend using
it only for cooking with low temperatures. It has a distinct flavor and
has plenty of heart healthy ingredients, plus it has a long storage life.
Bear in mind that if you are watching you calories, all oils, even the
top-rated ones, are heavy in calories. Cooking with oil or technically
oil substitutes make food taste better, and if you choose wisely will not
be harmful to your health, but always use in moderation.