The Facts About Fats

With so many options on the market, its very difficult to be sure your making the best choice when purchasing oils to cook with and ultimately put inside your body.  So lets talk a little bit about the different varieties available, where they come from, and if they are on the naughty list or the nice list..

First question:  What will the oil be used for?  One of the biggest deciding factors in oil selection is whether or not you will need to use it for high heat cooking.  Each oil has a different smoke point.  Once oil is heated past its smoke point, it almost certainly will be releasing cancer causing free radicals.  No matter how healthy your oil may be, its not recommended to consume if it has been overheated.

Second question:  How is it made?  Many of the oils placed on the naughty list are there simply because they could not even exist without high heat processing (which we now know is not good) chemical additives, solvents and genetically engineered ingredients.  This is very important to keep in mind.  For instance: Olive oil is known for its mile long list of health benefits, but if it is overly processed (refined), been on the shelf too long (more than two years) or turned rancid, it certainly should not end up in your food…

And finally, remember to use moderation.  Even the healthiest of fat sources need to be utilized in proper portions.  In the same token remember that it is equally unhealthy to attempt to cut out fat from your diet completely.  Good fats supply us with vital omega 3 fatty acids as well as aid in keeping our metabolism running strong.  A small portion of these proper fat sources added to every meal help us feel satiated longer by slowing Gi emptying.  So add some avocado to that salad to keep you feeling fuller, longer.

The Good:

Olive oil – High in MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids), with a pleasant taste.  Olive oil has been known to reduce inflammation within the body and keep your heart healthy.  This oil is not recommended for high heat cooking as it has a low smoke point at 325 degrees Fahrenheit .

Organic Butter – Butter is made from the fat of cows milk.  As long as we are reaching for a certified organic butter option it is ok to be used in moderation.  This is because it is minimally processed and rich in omega 3’s.  It is also known to be non inflammatory within the body, unlike refined vegetable oils.  One draw back to remember is that it has the lowest smoke point of any form of fat at 265 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coconut Oil – The current darling of the health industry.  Coconut oil is highly regarded due to its sparkling resume.  Its known to contain a lot of medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are metabolized very well by the body and can have therapeutic effects.  Coconut oil also contains a unique combination of fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties.  Another fantastic feature is that it has a higher smoke point (375 degrees Fahrenheit) , making it safer for cooking with.

Avocado Oil – This oil is very similar to olive oil and also high in MUFA’s .  The cold pressing of avocados  produces very high-quality oil with very low levels of acidity and oxidation products whilst retaining the vitamin E content.  It also has a relatively high smoke point at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

** Smoke points listed are representative of virgin, unrefined oils.. Additional processing raises the smoke point of all of these oils, but unfortunately through the refinement process we sacrifice vital nutrients and risk chemical additives.

The Bad:

Canola Oil – This oil is a genetically engineered version of the rapeseed.  The reason canola oil is genetically modified is because rapeseed in its natural state is very high in eurecic acid,  which is linked to a condition that causes lesions on the heart.  The Canadians started modifying this oil in the 1970’s and it burst on to the market as a healthy cooking oil (this is because it is high in monounsaturated fat).  Since rapeseed oil was not an attractive name for marketing, the Canadian manufacturers combined the words Canada and Oil to create Canola oil.  Unfortunately, Canola Oil is highly refined, genetically modified, un-natural and manmade.

Soybean and corn oil – These two are a definite no no – They are very cheaply made, highly refined, typically genetically modified and consist of transfats.  Always avoid these fats when possible, especially when listed as hydrogenated.

Safflower oil – There are two types of safflower that produce different kinds of oil: one high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) and the other high in polyunsaturated  fatty acid (linoleic acid). Currently the predominant edible oil market is for the former, which is lower in saturates than olive oil.  The problem with safflower oil is that it one of those oils that exists on the market highly refined and processed, making it an unnatural fuel for your body.

And finally the undecided.  Peanut Oil – this oil is high in MUFA’s which is great!  But, it is used a lot in high temperature cooking (McDonalds has boasted its switch to frying with peanut oil).  No oil is going to have a very high smoke point unless it is heavily refined.  Often times solvents are used in the refinement of peanut oil.  When this process occurs it reduces all of peanut oils fantastic qualities leaving it in an un-natural, nutrient lacking state.. organic, unrefined peanut oil is a great option.  Its actually very easy to draw off the oil from peanuts at home, later we will explore making our own cooking oils.

Let me know your thoughts and what you have discovered about the different oil options available.. We would love to hear from you!





** Married mommy of two beautiful girls , residing in San Diego. Practice manager/Veterinary nurse working in the field for 11 years.

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