We have had a love-hate relationship with a certain kind of food since the 1970s. We know this food makes many dishes taste better, but we also know it can be bad for our health. This is because of fat. Some fats are bad for our health, even though they make us feel full and give us energy.
In fact, many of us eat too many fats made by people that are bad for us and not enough fats that are good for us. It is hard to get the energy we need from a low-fat diet. Essential fats, like fish oils, are important for our brains, and not getting enough of them can cause health, mental, and social problems. Also, vitamins A, D, E, and K that can only be taken in with fat can’t be taken in without fat.
But it’s hard to know which fat to choose. Some fats are good for our bodies, while others are bad. Also, the use of chemicals to make some fats is bad for our health and the environment.
Doctors have been telling us since the 1950s that vegetable oil is good for our hearts. Even though it looks clear and clean in the bottle on our shelves, we have been tricked. Polyunsaturated oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, and cottonseed are very likely to oxidize because they have more than one double bond, which is easy to break when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen. This makes it more likely that they will become oxidized, which leads to inflammation. One of the main causes of heart disease is inflammation, which can also damage blood vessels.
Oxidation can happen while these oils are being processed, and heat, which they are exposed to if they are not cold processed, can speed it up. The smell of the oils is then taken away, so it’s impossible to tell when they’ve gone bad. When oil goes bad, it makes free radicals, which are made when the oil is processed and are one of the main causes of oxidized cholesterol. This type of oxidized cholesterol is linked to heart disease, not LDL cholesterol in general. This is why unsaturated fats can be very bad for you. People would be able to make better decisions if every package had a warning label, but this could hurt profits.
Also, oxidized oils can damage cells and cause inflammation. Because of the inflammation, insulin may not work as well in the body, which can lead to weight gain. When you gain weight, your body makes more inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This makes your insulin resistance worse and makes you gain more weight. This makes it so that you always gain weight, which is frustrating.
You can get a lot of rancid oil from processed vegetable oils in foods like margarine, cookies, chips, French fries, fried foods, powdered or liquid coffee creamer, nonfat dried milk, crackers, many salad dressings and different other processed and ready-to-eat foods.
To help you choose the healthiest fats and oils, we made a shopping guide with the best ones and the ones you should avoid. The guide also tells you the smoke point of the recommended oils. This is the temperature at which the fat starts to break down, smoke, and smell, which speeds up the oxidation process of these oils.
Choose organic virgin coconut oil made the old-fashioned way, without harmful chemicals or high temperatures. This kind of oil is less likely to go rancid because it doesn’t have the double bonds that make polyunsaturated oils so easy to go rancid. It also lasts longer—about two years—and doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge. It has been used for hundreds of years as the main cooking oil in tropical areas. When solid, it is white, and when liquid, it is creamy.
A lot of commercial coconut oils are made from copra, which is the dried kernel or meat of the coconut. But if regular copra is used, the oil that is taken from it must be refined before it can be used by people. Most copra is dried out in the open air, where bugs and mold can grow and it isn’t kept clean. Even though some brands may use organic coconuts and call their oil “organic,” the final product is often refined, bleached, and deodorized with high heat and chemical solvents.
If you choose virgin coconut oil that is made the old-fashioned way, by hand, you will immediately notice a difference in taste, smell, and texture compared to oil made with standard copra. This kind of oil is called “virgin coconut oil,” and in every way, it is much better. Even if it costs more money, it’s money well spent.
The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil may help people lose weight, according to studies. The body is more likely to burn these than store them, unlike the long-chain fatty acids found in other oils. Also, coconut oil can raise your body temperature, which has a thermogenic effect that can give you more energy, speed up your metabolism, and help you lose weight. Also, research at a university has shown that coconut oil is an effective way to kill yeast, including Candida albicans. With a smoke point of 350 degrees, it is great for cooking over medium heat, and it does not contain cholesterol, despite what some people say. Last but not least, coconut oil makes popcorn taste great.
Extra-virgin olive oil has 11 grams of monounsaturated fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat per tablespoon. In the Bible times, this oil was used for both cooking and healing. People like it because it stays fresher than polyunsaturated oils. For the best taste, health benefits, and environmental friendliness, choose cold-pressed or expeller-pressed extra-virgin organic olive oils that are free of chemicals like hexane and high heat. Good olive oil is also an antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals.
Olive oil is great for salad dressings, cold foods, and cooking with low heat, like light sautéing. Extra-virgin olive oil can be burned between 305 and 320 degrees. But if you need to cook at a higher temperature, you could use avocado oil or almond oil instead.
Avoid the cheaper olive pomace oil that was made with chemicals. This is the oil that is left over after olive oil is pressed. It is made by extracting the oil with petroleum solvents like hexane.
Almond oil is made from almonds and is a monounsaturated oil. It tastes very much like nuts. It is often used in salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, and sweets. Because it is not concentrated enough, it doesn’t have a strong almond flavor like almond extract does. Almond oil can be used for cooking and baking at high temperatures because it has a high smoke point of 420 degrees. Since pesticides and herbicides are used on almond trees, it is best to choose cold-pressed or expeller-pressed almond oil made from organic almonds.
Instead of the seed, the oil is pressed out of the avocado’s flesh. People often compare this oil to olive oil because of how it is made. But avocado oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees, which makes it great for high-temperature cooking and baking. Avocado oil that is of good quality is green because it has chlorophyll in it. It also tastes like avocado and has a different taste depending on how the oil was made and how good the avocados were. Avocado oil doesn’t change much over time and is pretty stable. Chemically processed avocado oil is not as good as oil that has been cold-pressed or expeller-pressed.
Rice bran oil
The germ and husk of rice are used to make rice bran oil. It is mostly monounsaturated fat, which is good for your health in a number of ways. It has 7 grams of monounsaturated fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat in just one tablespoon. This mix of fats is good for you. Also, rice bran oil has good phytochemicals like beta-sitosterol, which makes it harder for the body to absorb cholesterol, and alpha-linoleic acid, which makes the body make more essential fatty acids.
Rice bran oil is healthy and has a mild flavor. It also works well for cooking at high temperatures, like stir-frying. With a smoke point of 490 degrees, it is a common ingredient in Asian cooking and is often used as the secret to making perfect tempura. Also, some of the vitamin E in rice bran oil is good for your health and keeps the oil from going bad.
For the best oil, look for rice bran oil that is organic, cold-pressed, or expeller-pressed.
Peanut oil (unrefined)
Unrefined peanut oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees, which means it can only be used for low-heat cooking. Even though refined peanut oil has a higher smoke point, it shouldn’t be used because it has been changed. There are 18% of saturated fat and 34% of polyunsaturated fat in peanut oil. This makes it stable and able to be used for stir-frying, just like olive oil. But the fact that it has a lot of omega-6 fatty acids could be a problem, since the average American diet already has too much omega-6 fat and not enough omega-3 fat. It’s best not to use peanut oil at all or as little as possible. Since peanuts grow underground and tend to absorb toxins from the soil, it’s best to choose only organic, cold-pressed, or expeller-pressed oil.
Sesame oil has been used in Asia for a very long time. It has 15% saturated fat, 42% monounsaturated fat, and 43% polyunsaturated fat. It is made of the same things as peanut oil. But because it has a lot of omega-6 fats, it should only be eaten occasionally and in small amounts. Hexane is often used to get oil out of the seeds, so it’s best to choose cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil and keep it in the fridge. Even though nonorganic sesame seeds and oils aren’t as good as organic ones, they still have small amounts of pesticides.
Macadamia nut oil
The meat of the macadamia nut, which comes from an Australian tree, is used to make macadamia nut oil. This oil has about 60% monounsaturated fat, 20% saturated fat, and 20% polyunsaturated fat. Some have the right amount of omega-6s and omega-3s. It stays fresh for a long time because it has few polyunsaturated fats. Since the smoke point is 410 degrees, it can be used for cooking at high temperatures. Since they don’t use many pesticides, macadamia nuts don’t need organic oil. But it’s best to choose only cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil because a study of 41 samples of vegetable, fruit, and nut oils found that macadamia nut oil had the most hexane residue.
Choose organic butter from grass-fed cows because it has more cancer-fighting CLA, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids than butter from factory farms or cows that don’t get much access to pasture. In fact, a study done in 2006 found that cows that ate fresh grass made butter that was softer. Also, butterfat from cows that only eat grass is the softest of all.
Because it is mostly made of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, butter is healthier than margarine and most other vegetable spreads, with the exception of coconut oil and olive oil spreads. There are also a lot of vitamins A, E, K, and D in butter. It also has a lot of butyric acid, which gives the colon energy, and lauric acid, which kills bacteria and fungi very well because it is a medium-chain fatty acid. CLA is also found in butter from cows that eat grass. CLA protects against cancer and helps people lose weight.
When dairy cows graze on fresh pasture, they get more vitamins E, A, and beta-carotene than when they eat stored hay or a standard diet. This means that there are more of these important nutrients in the butter they make. Since grass-fed butter is naturally golden, it is better for you than other kinds.
Butter is great for cooking over medium heat because its smoke point is 350 degrees. Clarified butter, also called ghee, has a higher smoke point, between 375 and 485 degrees, so it can be used to cook with medium to high heat.