A Guide to Using Fats and Oils
This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”
Last week, we established that fat is good for you, and – despite conventional thinking – it’s not something to avoid.
One of the cornerstones of an anti-inflammatory diet is eating the right fats and using them properly. If you use your fats and oils incorrectly they can become damaged and oxidized, which, in turn, causes inflammation.
Here’s a guide on how to use your fats and oils for optimal benefit and health.
Ideal for High Heat
The more saturated the fat, the more stable it is, making it less likely to be damaged or oxidized when cooking. When cooking over high heat, your best choices are:
- Coconut oil
- Butter – Ideally, use butter made from organic and grass-fed sources; often called “pasture butter” on the label.
- Ghee (clarified butter) – Ghee is made from removing milk solids and water from butter. Many times, even those with a dairy sensitivity will be able to tolerate ghee.
- Tallow (beef fat), lard (pork fat), or duck fat
- Palm oil
- Cocoa butter
- Avocado oil *
* There are differing opinions about avocado oil. Some experts, like Dr. Frank Lipman, who we highly respect, say that it’s a good high-heat cooking oil (with a purported high smoke point (over 400F or 200C)). Others say that it’s moderately stable and should only be used for low-heat cooking.
Moderately Stable – Light Sauté
This is the tricky section. These oils are good for you, but you can make a good thing bad through incorrect use. Too much heat will damage and oxidize these oils, making them rancid and inflammatory. These oils are lovely cold (think about a drizzle on top of your food once already cooked), but if you use care, they can handle a light sauté:
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
Cold Use Only – No Cooking
These oils are healthy, but will not tolerate any amount of heat without oxidizing and becoming rancid and inflammatory. These should be used cold/raw only:
- Almond oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Flax seed oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Rice bran oil
- Walnut oil
Never. No. Nada.
Man-made saturated fats should be avoided. Period. Trans fats are man-made, and are also called partially hydrogenated oils. Even though they’ve been banned by the FDA, producers still have until 2018 to remove them from their products, so it’s up to you to read your labels to make sure you know what you’re eating.
(Speaking of labels, the FDA’s rules for labeling trans fat allows for some leeway. If a serving contains .5 grams or less, the food manufacturer can claim it has “0 trans fat per serving.” So it’s not difficult to consume several grams of trans fat – it’s easy to go on believing we’re consuming no trans fats at all. Sneaky.)
Man-made saturated fats include:
- “Buttery Spreads” like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or Earth Balance
- Margarine (which is one molecule away from being plastic!)
- Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
Industrial seed oils are inflammatory to your body and should not be consumed. These oils are highly processed (this processing is required to get the oils out of the seed), and the processing damages the oils, making them rancid by the time they reach the consumer. These oils are not recommended for consumption. Not heated, not raw, not at all.
- Canola oil
- Vegetable oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Vegetable shortening
- Soybean oil
An Aside on Canola Oil
Admittedly, the advice on canola oil is mixed. You will find some advising that canola oil is fine for use (even for cooking, as it has a high smoke point), and some that don’t recommend its use.
Personally, I have chosen to not use it. There are so many other fats that ARE proven to be healthy, so why bother with canola oil?
Here are the reasons why I’ve ditched it and put it on the “never” list:
- It’s predominately made from the seed of genetically modified (GMO) rape plants. I avoid GMOs in my diet. (I feel a future Health Hinge coming on…)
- The FDA has banned canola oil in baby formulas. If it’s not good for babies, why would it be good for anyone else?
- Even if we assume it’s not harmful, there are no nutritional benefits either.
Sources: Diane Sanfilippo and Andrea Nakayama