cooking with oil

Cooking with Oil

When it comes to healthy eating and making the right choices, it can become complicated and overwhelming due to the abundance of information and choices. Oils are a huge deal, as eating bad oils can have detrimental impacts on your health. The good news is that cooking with oil can be very simple. You can have 3 fats/oils in your pantry to do everything you need to, and to stay healthy.

Types of Fats:

  1. Saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, and ghee have very high smoking points, so these are the best options when heat is involved. 
  2. Monounsaturated fats include avocado oil and olive oil. These fats support insulin sensitivity, and healthy energy levels. These fats have mid-range smoking points so can be used for low heat cooking. 
  3. Polyunsaturated fats include fish oil, flax, sunflower, safflower, sesame, or others nuts and seeds. These oils are very high in omegas, reducing inflammation, and support healthy hormone levels and cell membranes. These oils should never be heated and get rancid very quickly. 
  4. Trans fats – these are the worse types of fats and to be avoided like the plague. This fat is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn a healthy oil into a solid to prevent it from becoming rancid. On food labels, you will often find this labelled as “partially hydrogenated oil”.  This fat is typically found in crackers, cookies, frozen meals, vegetable shortening, margarine, etc. 

Another point to consider is to use cold-pressed oils, rather than refined oils. The refining process removes impurities from the oil, which increases the smoking point – but typically chemicals are used, so the more refined an oil, the less nutritious it is. As an example, unrefined or extra-virgin olive oil has a smoking point of approximately 370F, but a refined olive oil, approximately 460F… a pretty significant difference. 

Eventually, oils become rancid … so don’t use expired oils. If they start smelling or tasting off, get rid of them. Rancid oils contain harmful by-products that should not be consumed! Polyunsaturated fats become rancid super quickly – so purchase small quantities and store in the fridge to slow down how quick they will become rancid. 

Cooking with Oil DON’Ts:

  • Don’t use oils that have been heated past their smoking point: The by-products are super toxic. It’s important, when using cooking oils, that the oil never changes colour, and that you never go beyond its smoking point. 
  • Don’t heat oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats as they form a harmful compound when heated, no matter what their smoking point. Instead, add these oils to the top of your hot dish just before serving for some added flavour and nutrition. 
  • Do not reheat any oils. The longer and the more often an oil is heated, the more harmful compounds it will contain. Imagine when you eat restaurant food!

Cooking with Oils DO’s:

  • For high heat cooking, use stable saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, or ghee.
  • For medium-heat, use avocado oil and olive oil. 
  • For extra flavour, you can always top your dishes with extra oil after heating, including nutritious polyunsaturated oils. 
  • As for salads, stick to cold-pressed oils such as olive, or nut and seed oils, and add some garlic and lemon for extra flavour. Avoid the salad dressings that are sold in stores with refined oils, additives, and ingredients that you cannot even pronounce!

Craving something to try your new knowledge with? Try Catherine’s favourite homemade salad dressing recipe below:)

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Tamari
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP water
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • 1 grated clove garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

 Smoking points can be found here: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/50/Smoke-Points-of-Various-Fats

Cat Binette Registered Holistic Nutritionist RHN

Written by Catherine Binette, Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Catherine has a clinical focus in general wellness and women’s health including teens and moms. She currently lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Disclaimer – Everything shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel there needs to be further investigation, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.