I definitely get this question from each of my clients and even more from instagram. I thought I’d write a post about what I personally do, noting that I am always researching and tweaking my stuff.
Healthy fats are necessary to a successful diet, you know this. You want a nice ratio of Omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3 fatty acids. You need both, but you want more of the Omega 3s because they are anti-inflammatory, whereas Omega 6 are pro-inflammatory.
What you might not know is that there are a lot of oils out there which can cause you the opposite effect you are looking for. Marketed as “healthy” they are not always hitting the mark. Sometimes they are easy to spot – ie an oil you are purchasing off the shelf, but some are already added to the batter of your favorite processed foods. Yep, even those “healthy” ones! Always look on the back label of the products you buy at the store – oftentimes you will see an oil or two added into the ingredients that you might not do if you had made the food yourself.
In the lists below, I am looking at which oils are going to be more nutritious for you, which tend to go rancid, etc. Keep in mind that there is a ton of information out there about this topic and my opinion might change as well. You’ll see an example of this in the avocado oil note below!
Let’s get into it!
Listed below are 5 oils I keep in our kitchen all the time. I also want to mention in general that Olive, avocado, coconut, flaxseed, walnut, and hemp seed oils are particularly rich in antioxidants and may offer anti-inflammatory properties.
Hemp oil: Cold-pressed from hemp seeds, contains vitamins and fatty acids. Great for finishing, not great for cooking, since it tends to be more sensitive to high heat and has a lower smoke point. Hemp oil has a strong nutty and rich flavor to it so it’s great to use as a finishing touch. I love making (chickpea) pasta and using this as a drizzle at the end to toss it all together. I would also use for salad dressings!
EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Obviously from olives. But a lot of EVOO is mislabeled or mixed with inferior oils. You want a product that is almost green, bright, earthy, peppery. If it TASTES good, it’s probably a good product. I’ve seen research and opinion going both ways on whether or not you can cook with this. I do cook with it but not often and usually just something that will quickly cook up. I mostly use it for finishing – to add flavor to something after cooking, or raw, or do create a salad dressing!
Argan Oil: Just recently discovered this one; it is used widely in Moroccan cooking. It has a nutty flavor to it but not overpowering. It comes from the pressing of lightly roasted argan kernels. This oil does best over a slow/low cook – so keep to low/medium heat. Also great for a finishing drizzle!
Coconut Oil: This oil is a lifesaver for hair, skin, and nails, but it’s also an oil you can cook with! As it is solid at room temperature, it can be used in baking recipes, for frying, for greasing baking pans and as a replacement for butter or vegetable oil in recipes. We like using coconut oil in our smoothies, melted over popcorn, or even when we’re baking (we definitely all have a sweet tooth in this household).
Avocado Oil: One of my FAVORITES but also sad news: I just found out that a bunch of avocado oils were tested and only 4 of them were 100% avocado oil (they are being cut with inferior oils). When it is 100% – this oil is high in good fats and is great for roasting, searing, vinaigrettes, and more. We use avocado oil all the time, but our favorite way to use it is when we’re making baked veggies or tofu. One brand that was tested as 100% avocado oil is by Chosen Foods, fyi.
There’s also a totally new oil to me called Perilla oil. Have you heard of it? It’s an anti-inflammatory oil used in Korean cooking with a higher smoke point of about 370°F.
I’m going to list below the oils that we try to avoid. The reason being – well, there are a few. One – they tend to be high in Omega-6 fatty acids and therefore pro-inflammatory in the body. Two and three- they are generally super processed, listed as “refined”, and likely are already going rancid during processing, and then they are sitting on the store shelf and then in your kitchen!
For your knowledge – most vegetable oils on the market are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils. In fact, many times you will see this blend listed in the ingredient list of a product – OR it will simply say “vegetable oils” so that the producer can swap out whichever is cheapest and in better supply. I don’t know. This really grosses me out.
In no particular order, I try to avoid:
Grapeseed oil (this is a new one! I used to use this exclusively for cooking, but can’t pinpoint for sure if it is good since it has pretty high levels of Omega 6)
Sunflower oil (sometimes. Sometimes it is good/less processed and sometimes I am not happy with the product)
To wrap up – for…
High heat cooking – I generally use avocado oil
For drizzling – I use EVOO or hemp oil
For baking – I typically use coconut oil
And I try to avoid oils in foods I did not make 🙂
If you use any of these oils I mentioned, do your research and find what’s best for you and your family, like I did!