What Are The Best Fats To Cook With?

I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation I over heard in the grocery store. Two people were talking about which fats were the best to use for cooking. I was shocked, to hear what they were saying. I am so immersed in this world of health and wellness that I am still surprised when I hear people saying that their “vegetable”  (shh…it’s not really made from vegetables) oil is the best.  I know someone with Chron’s who no longer has their colon who buys this stuff by the gallons to fry fish with. Honestly, it makes me sad and even a little mad that people have been duped by the industry which produces this stuff for so many years. 

It has been about 60 or so years that we have been told that low fat diets are the way to go and that using these so called healthy oils in your cooking, baking and salad dressings is the best thing for you. Eating low fat keeps you from being healthier due to deficiency of fatty acids. Low fat diets have really been promoted since the 50’s. Low fat, high carbohydrate (unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and grains) diets lead to things like mood disorders like depression, deficiencies in minerals, weight problems and fatigue. Studies done on low fat diets fail to show their benefits on your long term health. This is because you need fat from your diet for the health and well being of each and every cell in your body. Your body needs fat!

This is the plant that canola oil is made from. It is made from the seed called rapeseed. 

This is the plant that canola oil is made from. It is made from the seed called rapeseed. 

What the industry is not telling you is that the canola oil, corn oil and soybean oil among others are denatured, refined and really, really bad for your health. The way these fats are processed makes it so that our bodies cannot process them keeping your health and vitality from you. They sell you on their talk that dietary fat is going to kill you. That saturated fat will clog your arteries. What they don’t tell you is the obesity rates in this country started to rise when the “vegetable” oils were heavily promoted as healthy. 

Did you know that everyday your body makes cholesterol? When you eat cholesterol rich foods, your body doesn’t have to make as much on its own. How cool is that? My husband recently went to the doctor and the doctor had an app on his phone that allowed him to plug in some basic information to decide whether or not he should put my husband on a statin to keep his cholesterol low. There was nothing wrong with my husbands cholesterol. He makes some lifestyle choices that put him more at risk for heart attack than others but his cholesterol was fine. He declined the cholesterol lowering statin. 

I have talked a bit about fat on here before but will recap the benefits of fat for your health: 

  •     Fats keep you full and satisfied longer 
  •     Fats help your hormones work properly
  •     Fats help you absorb nutrients from your veggies (put some grass fed    butter on them)
  •     Fats keep your bile healthy so you can digest and breakdown fats 
  •     Fats keep your cells healthy
  •     Fats help your body produce anti inflammatory chemicals

There are several classifications for fats.

Saturated fat is very stable naturally and will not rancidify easily. It is solid at room temperature. Fats from animals are typically saturated as are coconut and palm oils. 

Monounsaturated fat is pretty stable and won’t rancidify easily. Olive oil is a good example of monounsaturated fat. Lard actually has more monounsaturated fat in it than saturated fat yet is classified as a saturated fat. 

Polyunsaturated fats in unstable always, is damaged by heat very easily, will turn rancid fast and needs refrigeration. This is where your Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids come from. Fish oil and flax seed oil are examples of polyunsaturated fat. Most seed oils are in this category as well. 

What most people maybe don’t know is that all fats are a combination of all three of these kinds of fats. They are classified by which category of fat is most prominent. 

The best, most stable and healthful fat for cooking at high temperatures is most animal fats and oils like coconut and palm oil.  These types of oils when from healthy animals and clean sources keep your veins and vessels healthy, they keep your immune system healthy, protect your liver from toxins, help your body absorb calcium in keep your cells working properly. 

The fats to avoid in cooking at all are those from seeds and nuts. They are very sensitive to heat and should only be consumed raw. They also should be consumed in small amounts (around one teaspoon is enough for most people). You also want to avoid the highly processed oils (the “vegetable” oils) like corn, soybean, cottonseed (we don’t eat cotton, why would we eat the oil?) and canola (which is a seed oil). The oils are extracted through a process of crushing them and heating them to temperatures around 230 degrees damaging their fatty acid molecules. They are then put under pressure to squeeze the oil out which generates even more heat. Then they are chemically processed with petroleum based solvent to get the very last bits of oil out. The solvent is boiled off but some remains in the oil (yum). Also, the pesticides used on the crops before harvest are concentrated in the oil due to the use of the solvent so you are getting a good dose of chemicals in your rancid oil. 

Avoiding hydrogenated oils like margarine and shortening is also a good idea. Hydrogenated oils are made from polyunsaturated fats (the really unstable ones that should never be heated). They are further processd after extraction by adding nickel oxide and then exposed to hydrogen gas at high temperatures and high pressure. The chemical structure of the fat is then changed from polyunsaturated to saturated or Trans Fats. Fillers and Thickeners are added and odors are removed through steam (more heat=even more damage) and finally bleached because it is a gray color (appetizing). 

How to know if the oil you are buying is damaged (processed with chemicals)

If the label reads: Refined, Hydrogenated, Partially-Hydrogenated or cold-processed AVOID it. 

If the label reads: Organic, First-cold pressed or Cold Pressed, Expeller-Pressed, Unrefined, Extra Virgin BUY it. 

The safest oils for cooking, frying, baking, broiling, grilling and roasting

  • Lard
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Tallow from beef or lamb
  • Chicken, Goose and Duck Fat
  • Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Red Palm Oil/Palm Kernel Oil

Tropical oils like coconut and palm oil can be refined and processed just like polyunsaturated fats so make sure to read the labels. You can order high quality fats online or buy them from your local food co op. 

Safe fats for stir frying, light sautéing, and slow and low cooking

  • Olive oil (unfiltered- should turn somewhat solid to solid when refrigerated)
  • Avocado oil- similar to olive oil, made from the meat, not the pit
  • Peanut oil (not a good choice for frying in fryers) using occasionally 
  • Sesame oil- use to sauté occasionally
  • Macadamia nut oil (80% monounsaturated fat), store in fridge. 

Make sure they are processed in the best way possible (expeller pressed is best). Read your labels.  You can actually cook up to a temperature of 400 degrees with olive oil. 

Do not use for cooking

this is a popular brand that is widely available. I have no affiliation with this brand. 

this is a popular brand that is widely available. I have no affiliation with this brand. 

  • Flax oil
  • Hemp oil
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil

Omega-3 rich oils like flaxseed oil can be used in small amounts for a portion of a salad dressing or added to a smoothie. They should be eating in moderation from good sources.

Do not use

  • Vegetable oils
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil

These are highly processed, usually genetically modified and have high levels of pesticides in them. Canola is high in Omega-3 fatty acids but are damaged to the point of no return during processing. Your body doesn’t know what to do with this oil when you consume it.  Cottonseed oil is one of the most genetically modified crops out there. It is not a food and should not be consumed. 

Butter must not be forgotten. It is best to consume butter from grass fed sources and raw when you can (not feasible for many people). Butter has a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega 6 fatty acids and your fat soluble vitamins A,D, E and K needed to help you absorb and use the nutrients in your food. It also helps with the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory processes in your body. 

Enjoy cooking with your fats and remember that consuming fat does not make you fat. Did you know I do Pantry Makeovers? I can help you figure out what foods you may need to get rid of on your journey to health. Send me a note and we can have a free 15 minute strategy session!

In health,

Stephanie