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What cooking oils are healthy and when should we use them?
There is a lot of controversy and confusion about what oils are healthy and when we should use them.
According to the research cited in this article, the Australian guidelines for fat and oils are outdated and largely borrowed from the American guidelines. In these, they warn us to steer clear of saturated fats like butter and coconut oil and switch to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which include refined vegetable oils. Now, as a result, we are consuming significantly more linoleic acid, which is an inflammatory omega-6 fat.
It's not that omega 6 fats are bad, but they can be harmful in excess. When balanced with omega 3 fatty acids, they can work to prevent heart attacks and death.
The problem with this recommendation is that it has encouraged people to eat excess omega 6s, which increase inflammatory pathways, reduce the availability of omega 3 — an anti-inflammatory fatty acid — and reduce their ability to work as well.
In a more recent review of the literature, researchers found, in the studies where participants consumed a mixture of omega-3s and 6s, there was a 27% reduction in heart attacks and death. The ones where only omega 6s were increased, their risk of heart attacks increased by 13%, and those who reduced omega 3s and added omega 6s had an increased risk of death.
Surprisingly, current recommendations are based on these very studies, but without the above analysis on the omega 3s to omega 6s ratios. Still, it’s not just these studies, there are many more that show how excess omega 6 fats negatively affect our health — such as increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, IBS, bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune disorders, psychiatric disorders, asthma, cancer and more!
So what fats and oils should you avoid?
Highly refined and processed vegetable oils, which include:
Always buy cold pressed, unrefined oils. Better if they’re organic and non-GMO.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Is highly anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, and great for digestion, cognition and bone health.
Oils with a low smoke point oxidise and go rancid when heated which takes away the benefit of the oil and creates toxic compounds that can make you sick. As a result, though you should avoid using extra virgin olive oil for high heat cooking, it can be used on a low heat and raw.
Contains 50% lauric acid which gives it high antibacterial and antiviral properties. It’s medium chain fatty acids also make it easily usable for energy rather than fat storage.
Coconut oil has been criticised because it is higher in saturated fat and does increase LDL cholesterol, but it actually improves the quality of cholesterol, while alsoincreasing HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and it’s these ratios that are important. This ratio is a better predictor of heart attacks than LDL alone. Having low HDL is a larger cause for concern, and coconut oil improves HDL levels significantly, which is why it’s associated with lower risk of heart disease.
It also has a high smoke point so is ideal for all types of cooking.
A purified butter that doesn’t contain lactose or casein, and is high in vitamin D, vitamin A, omega 3 fats, and butyric acid which fights inflammation. Ghee can be used at higher temperatures without losing its benefits.
Has a high smoke point, so is great for sauteing vegetables. It is also high in monounsaturated oleic acids, which improve the absorption of nutrients, as well as improve heart health and lower blood pressure, and contain great polyphenols for gut health.
Another pro tip is to keep your oils in dark bottles and in a cool dark place away from light because both heat and light increase oxidation and the rate of rancidity.
Now we’d love to hear from you. What are your favourite oils to use and why? Let us know in the comments below. And if you liked this post please share it with your friends.