The Simplest Health Tip Ever: Cook with the Right Oils

While on the path to cultivating a healthier, more vibrant life, it gets daunting to sort through the countless miracle cures and health trends. How to know which to choose from?  Finding a focus can seem near to impossible, so we are dialing-in on a few can’t miss, no-fail health tips that are beyond simple.

One of the key tenets to improving your health is to cook your meals at home. By making your own food, you have complete control over ingredients, portion size and methods of preparation. Not always true when eating out. But there is one hidden aspect of cooking at home that may be hindering all of your hard work: the oil you are cooking with.

Choosing the oil you cook with is actually far more important than just altering the flavor profile of your favorite dish. Oils are composed of a delicate structure that can easily be damaged by light, heat and oxygen exposure, causing them to become oxidized. When oils become oxidized, they become “rancid,” and in turn not only loose nutritional value can also be harmful to your body. By choosing the wrong oil to cook with, you could be turning a once healthy food choice into a detrimental one.

What do you mean by “rancid?” When oils become rancid, they create free radicals in the body, attacking our very cells down to the DNA. While antioxidants from foods such as pomegranates and cacao can offset this process, most often we do not consume enough of them to fully prevent this from occurring. As a result, free radical damage ensues, which is believed to be a major contributing factor in a host of diseases and conditions ranging from heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and of course, expedited aging. We know, it’s hard to believe that the simple choice of an oil can lead to so many health concerns!

So what can we do? We can choose the right oil when preparing food, making sure not to damage its delicate structure. Choose your oil based on its flavor profile, but also on the type of cooking method that you’re employing: use an oil or fat with the appropriate smoke point. A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to break down and starts to become rancid, and guess what? Each oil is different! Learn about a few of your favorite oils and your efforts will most certainly be worth the benefits.

One last thought: Now you’re cognizant of what oils to use for cooking, but also pay attention to how they are bottled and stored. Remember, oils can be damaged by light, so always purchase ones packaged in dark bottles (except for coconut oil – this is a more stable oil) and store them in a cool dark place.

The Oil Cooking Profile

No Direct Heat: Dressing or Finishing
(225°F or less)

Flax seed oil, unrefined sunflower oil, unrefined safflower oil, cold-pressed macadamia nut oil, borage oil, primrose oil, truffle oil, unrefined hazelnut oil, pistachio oil, pumpkin seed oil

Low Heat: Light Sauté or Low-heat Baking
(330 to 225°F)

Unrefined walnut oil, extra virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil

Medium Heat: Sauté, Stir-Fry or Wok
(350 to 280°F)

Unrefined sesame oil, unrefined virgin coconut oil, butter, unrefined peanut oil, unrefined toasted sesame oil

Medium High Heat Oil: Baking, Searing or Sauté
(425 to 350°F)

Ghee (clarified butter), extra light olive oil, refined walnut oil, unrefined high oleic safflower, coconut oil, canola oil

High Heat: Frying or Baking
(425 to 500°F)

Unrefined avocado oil, expeller pressed grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil, refined oils (sunflower, safflower, sesame, almond)

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  1. Thank you so much for this concise and helpful explanation of the dangers of rancid oils. This is an issue I have been following for quite some time but have never been able to find a really simple explanation to share with people. This is it! I am going to print your chart out and tape it up on the inside of my oil/spice cabinet door!

    Jessica Braider | 10.22.2013 | Reply
  2. Very helpful article to read, I have always gotten confused on which to use cold or not. Thank you.

    Leigh Fish | 10.22.2013 | Reply
  3. Aren’t oils high in polunsaturated fats extremely bad for you? I.e. Canola, Safflower, Peanut. And where are such fats such as lard, tallow? Very stable saturated fats.

    Annalisa | 04.06.2014 | Reply
  4. Very interesting! While I don’t use all those types of oils, it’s helpful to know which ones I should use for different purposes.

    Less Sugar Naturally | 04.06.2014 | Reply

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