These days healthy cooking oil selection is so confusing. Supermarket shelves are so crowded with abundant options. The landscape of cooking oils has changed a lot over the past decade.
We are used to categorizing oils depending on the type of fatty acid they carry such as unsaturated, Saturated. Unsaturated has two divisions, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated by the type of bond in the hydrocarbon chain. When there is a double bond with carbon and no bond with hydrogen, it is unsaturated.
Saturated fats are solids both at room temperature and when chilled
Monounsaturated fats are liquids at room temp and solids when chilled.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquids both at room temperature and when chilled.
We all know that research shows unsaturated fats are better than saturated for health. My selection is based more on processing techniques as well, rather than just the type of fatty acids.
Refined Oil – Oil that is extracted and treated with heat or chemicals in order to remove flaws. This process can also destroy the beneficial properties of oils. Refined oils are generally more stable than unrefined oils. So they are better choices for most high-heat cooking and baking. ‘Light’ oils are examples of refined oils.
Unrefined oils – Oil that is made from cold-pressed ingredient, and is never treated with chemicals or heat. These oils retain all of the minerals, enzymes, vitamins, and phytonutrients of the source ingredient. Virgin and Extra virgin oils fall under this category.
Extra virgin oil – These are unrefined and cold pressed and generally from the first pressing of the source ingredient. These are fragile oils, so should be reserved for dressing, drizzling, and dipping. Note that olive oils must meet the specific requirement for acidity in order to be labeled as ‘extra virgin’.
Virgin – These are unrefined and cold pressed and generally from the second pressing of the source ingredient. These are fragile oils, so should be reserved for dressing, drizzling and dipping. Note that olive oils must pass standards for taste and quality in order to be labeled as ‘ virgin’, but standards are not as rigid as extra virgin.
Cold-pressed – Extracted from their source using pressure only, no chemicals or heat is used during extraction. This helps oils retain nutrients of the source ingredient.
Pure oil – can be refined or unrefined. They come from the first pressing. They may be treated with chemicals or heat before bottling.
Some oils are suited for cooking over high heat and some are suited for low heat or no heat.
The smoke point of a fat or oil is the temperature at which the oil will burn and becomes damaged. Smoke points for a fat or oil can vary depending on the quality and variety of the source ingredients, and on whether the fat or oil has been refined. It’s important to not exceed a fat or oil’s smoke point when cooking.
See below for the spreadsheet for preferred cooking oils
You must be wondering where are other oils are on the list. All these oils have a high smoke point, seem safe for cooking, but they undergo heavy processing. These processing methods counteract any potential benefits. These fats and oils are also high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which contribute to chronic inflammation in the body. Because of this, regularly consuming oils from this list is not recommended. If you do consume be sure to choose the brands that are certified organic and made from non-GMO crops.
Coconut oil – In fact, is very high in Saturated fat. Saturated fats retain their structure when heated to high temperatures.
Kalpa vruksha (Tree of Life), bad rap, most people are familiar with only one type of classification of fat, which is saturated and unsaturated. another classification based on the length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid – short chain, medium-chain, and long chain. Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids which makes it so special; majority of oils are long-chain. MCT oils go directly to your liver and are broken down by the liver into ketones. Even though it has saturated fatty acid, it contains medium chains which absorb easily and in fact protect you from heart disease.
The only other oil that has medium-chain fatty acids is palm kernel oil. Recent research showed that it even helps with your memory. This, in fact, is the best natural moisturizer. This is my oil of choice for oil pulling because it is antibacterial oil. The antibacterial effect and even against candida is attributed to Lauric acid which is the main fatty acid in coconut oil. You can make healthy homemade Mayonnaise. It increases good cholesterol.
Do not deep fry anything. If at all you want to deep fry, use the oils with a high smoke point like safflower or sunflower oils. It is not recommended to use it more than twice. The first time filter all burnt food particles with the strainer, close it tight, and store it in the refrigerator till you use it second time, and discard after that.
If you need oil to use without boiling like for dressings use nut oils, cold pressed, extra virgin oils.
For cooking over high temperatures, I prefer coconut oil, I know you are going to say fat. But this does not convert into polymerized fatty acids when heated up, which is a problem with other oils.
Avoid oils that contain hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or trans fats. You get them from cookies, crackers, donuts, pastries, chips
Flax seed oil is only for supplemental use, not cooking oil.
Tips for buying and storing oils:
What damages oils: Fats and oils can become damaged by Air, heat, light, and plastic.
Purchase oils in dark bottles and glass bottles that should have tight-fitting seals. Don’t store oils close to the stove or other heat sources. Store them in a dark place.
Measure the oil before you pour it into the pan rather than eyeballing it.
If you buy EVOO, buy in small amounts and use it quickly, it gets oxidized quickly because it has chlorophyll which accelerates the oxidation of unsaturated fat.
Canola oil(rapeseed oil), Or you can buy canola oil from a health food store, which says nonGMO. It is quite expensive.
Bottomline- Avoid when it says light or refined. Buy extra-virgin, cold pressed and organic. Through the oil out once it starts to smoke and start over. When in doubt, cook low and slow.