Food For Thought
The skinny on fats and oils
By: Leanne Ely
Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, rice bran oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil . . . there are so many different types of oils staring back at you from the grocery store shelf that you almost need a degree in food science to figure out which one to choose. And then there’s bacon fat and butter. Ghee and margarine. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Which ones do you use? Which ones do you avoid? Which ones do you cook and which do you eat raw? I’m going to attempt to make all of this oil business a bit less confusing for you the next time you’re trying to decide which fats to buy.
Let’s talk about which fats to eat and which to avoid.
• Coconut oil
• Olive oil
• Avocado oil
• Fish oils
• Grass-fed meat fat
• Walnut oil
• Grain-fed butter
Fats to avoid
• Margarine and other artificial trans fats
• Vegetable oils
• Oils made from GMO grains
• Grape seed oil (it’s very high in Omega 6 fatty acids which we need to be consuming less of)
The only oils I personally use are olive oil and coconut oil for cooking, and extra virgin olive oil for salads. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) should never be heated up because doing so not only destroys the benefits of the olive oil, but it can also turn that healthy oil into a damaging trans fat that will actually harm your health.
For many of you this might be the first you’ve heard of there being a significant difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is what you get after the first press. The result is a rich, pungent oil, best for drizzling over salads or breads.
When the oil is pressed multiple times, you have a lighter oil that is best for cooking. The more it’s pressed, the lighter the oil.
Avocado and walnut oils are both recommended for cooking, but they’re so expensive that they aren’t reasonable options for most folks. Flax is excellent for you, but I don’t recommend buying it in a liquid oil form because of how unstable it is. It goes rancid very quickly. Purchase whole flax seeds and grind them into flax meal yourself to be added to baked goods or smoothies. (We’ll be doing a dedicated post in the near future about flax and all of its wonders, so stay tuned!)
Smoking points of oils
When oil starts to smoke it a) stinks b) makes your food taste bad and c) turns good fat into trans fat that will harm your health! Here are the smoking points for the cooking oils I recommend. Keep in mind, however, that a smoking point can depend on a variety of factors including the age of your oil, the quality of the oil and even the thickness of the cooking vessel.
• Unrefined olive oil smokes at 320 F
• Coconut oil smokes at 350 F
• Avocado oil has an extremely high smoking point of 520 F
So, there you have it. Any of this news to you? Does this clear up any questions you’ve had about fats and oils? If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please leave a comment and we’ll chat about it!