What Oils Are The Safest To Cook With?

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What Oils Are The Safest To Cook With?

If you are like most people, you are thoroughly confused about what oils and fats are good for you, and which are not. And with good reason!

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is because for the past half century, the majority of health care officials and the media have been telling you saturated fats are bad for your health and lead to a host of negative consequences, including elevated cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Now, the medical and scientific communities are now fairly united in the opinion that hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils, also called trans-fats, should be strictly avoided. So what does this all mean?

1)The first step is to learn the essential differences between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids:

Saturated fatty acids pack together tightly, making oils that contain a large percentage of them extremely stable when exposed to heat and light.There are both animal and plant sources of saturated fatty acids. The most common plant sources are coconut and palm oil. These oils that have a high percentage of saturated fatty acids are your best choice for cooking.

Monounsaturated fatty acids do not pack together as tightly as saturated fatty acids do.  Olive oil is in this category. They are relatively stable when exposed to heat, so oils that contain a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids are a fair choice for cooking.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids do not pack together very well. They are unstable when extracted out of whole foods, so oils that have a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to produce significant amounts of free radicals when exposed to heat. These oils should never be used for cooking.

2) The second, much more important, step is to learn the differences between oils and fats in their natural state and oils and fats that have been hydrogenated and refined.

Hydrogenation manipulates unsaturated vegetable and seed oils, by adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, producing a rancid, thickened “artificially saturated” oil that acts as a toxin in the human body. Hydrogenation was developed as a method of creating “shelf life” for food, allowing the mass production and transportation of most of what we find in the grocery store today.

These are the same damaged trans fats that have been touted as “healthy” and “heart-friendly” for the last half century.

So in evaluating plant oils for cooking, it should be clear that oils that contain a high percentage of saturated fatty acids are more stable than those that contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids. When exposed to heat and light during processing, storage, and use, oils that contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to contain more free radicals than oils that contain mainly saturated and/or monounsaturated fatty acids.

To put this information to use, here’s a look at the fatty acid composition of fourteen oils that are commonly available at regular grocery and health food stores:

Coconut Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

91.9

6.2

1.9

Coconut oil is by far the healthiest cooking oil.

Palm Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

51.6

38.7

9.7

Of all commonly available plant oils, palm oil is second only to coconut oil in its ability to remain stable when exposed to heat. If you did not use palm oil when you were growing up, you might find its taste and odor to be objectionable.

Olive Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

13.8

75.9

10.3

Its high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids makes olive oil relatively stable when exposed to heat. For cooking, it is the next best choice after coconut and palm oil. If you have difficulty maintaining your ideal weight, use olive oil sparingly, as its monounsaturated fatty acids are quite long in structure, which makes them more prone to being stored as fat than short or medium chain fatty acids. Believe it or not, butter is less likely to cause weight gain than olive oil because it contains a high percentage of short and medium chain fatty acids.

Avocado Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

12.1

73.8

14.1

Like olive oil, it has a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids, which makes avocado oil relatively stable when exposed to heat. Avocado oil is best used for skin moisturizing purposes. Coconut oil is also an excellent skin moisturizer, and is less expensive per ounce than avocado oil.

Peanut Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

18.0

48.0

34.0

Because it has slightly more monounsaturated fatty acids than polyunsaturated fatty acids, peanut oil is relatively stable when exposed to heat. If you use peanut oil, I recommend that you limit use to just a few times per month.

Sesame Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

14.9

41.5

43.6

Sesame oil has almost equal percentages of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It shouldn’t be used for cooking on a regular basis, and should be used raw only on occasion.

Canola Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

7.4

61.6

31.0

Although it contains a high percentage of relatively stable monounsaturated fatty acids, canola oil goes rancid quite easily, and relative to olive oil, forms high concentrations of trans fatty acids. Canola oil consumption has also been linked to vitamin E deficiency and heart disease, especially when a person is not getting enough saturated fatty acids in his or her diet. I recommend staying away from canola oil whenever possible.

Corn, Sunflower, Safflower, and Cottonseed Oils:

 

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

Corn

13.6

29.0

57.4

Sunflower

10.8

20.4

68.7

Safflower

6.5

15.1

78.4

Cottonseed

27.1

18.6

54.3

I recommend staying away from these oils completely. All of them contain large percentages of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also have high concentrations of omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause a variety of health problems.

Hemp and Flaxseed Oil:

 

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

Hemp

10.0

12.5

77.5

Flaxseed

9.8

21.1

69.1

I don’t recommend cooking with these oils because of their high concentrations of unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids. If their manufacturers have minimized exposure to heat and light with their processing and bottling techniques, a small amount of these oils in their raw forms can be a part of a healthy diet. But it’s healthier to eat their seeds freshly ground.

Grape seed Oil:

% Saturated

% Monounsaturated

% Polyunsaturated

10.0

16.8

73.2

Grape seed oil should also be avoided when cooking. As with most other vegetable oils, it contains a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids which produce significant amounts of free radicals when exposed to heat.

Based on the information above, we recommend using coconut oil most of the time, especially when frying or sauteing at high temperatures, or olive oil for low-temperature cooking.

Sources: Mercola.com (The fatty acid percentages listed above were calculated using the nutrient profiles for each oil as listed under the USDA nutrient database.)

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