Many of us know which oils/fats are healthy, and which ones to avoid. For example: Canola oil = run away as fast as you can. Coconut oil = God's gift to mankind. For real. However, a lot of us (myself included) have not been as educated on which oil should be used for which purpose. I thought that as long as I stayed away from using olive oil at really high temperatures, I was fine. So I've been known to roast my veggies, make my salad dressings, and bake my cookies with butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil interchangeably, depending on what I feel like at the time and what I have on hand.
I've sort of conveniently ignored to some extent all the talk about the "smoke point" and what exactly that means (beyond the fact that it's the point where the oil starts smoking...rocket science, I know). What I've learned though is that it's far more important than I realized. The oil is not just smoking at that point, it's becoming dangerous - oxidized and carcinogenic. So, I may have a whole lot of great knowledge about healthy fats, but by using the wrong oils for the job, I'm still putting my family's health at risk.
Without going into a whole lot of detail, let's very briefly back up to mention which oils you will never find on my pantry shelves: (This list does not cover ALL the unhealthy oils, but just some of the most commonly used ones.)
- Canola Oil - Around 90% of all canola oil is genetically modified. It is made from rape seeds that have been refined, bleached and deodorized (bleaching and deodorizing are necessary because the high heat processing causes it to go rancid). It has been linked to many health problems.
- Vegetable/Soybean Oil - Most vegetable oil is really just soybean oil, and soy is something that I avoid entirely for many reasons. About 95% of it is genetically modified, it contains phytic acid that blocks the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and it contains phytoestrogens that disrupt normal hormone function. And, by the way, you will find some form of soy in almost all processed foods. Be sure to check labels!
- Corn oil - Again, about 90% of corn grown in the US is genetically modified. It's also too high in omega-6 fatty acids, and can lead to inflammation and health problems.
- Vegan Butter Substitutes - These are usually just a combination of the above oils, ruling them out, of course.
So now, what we all want to know...What are the oils that you SHOULD be using regularly, and what are the best ways to use them?: (This list does not cover ALL the healthy oils, but the ones that I use regularly.)
- Grassfed Butter: I might as well start with my favorite, because oh.my.goodness., how I do love me some butter. We go through Kerrygold butter like it's water in our house, and I'm not sorry one bit. Fortunately, more and more people are learning that butter is not the enemy! In fact, it is our friend. The link between saturated fats and cholesterol/heart health has been repeatedly disproven. High quality, grassfed butter is good for you (raw would be ideal, but hard to come by)! It's high in vitamins A, D, & K-2; the short and medium chain fatty acids in it protect our gut and deter tumor growth; it's high in good cholesterol to help our brains and nervous systems develop properly, and so much more. Plus, it just tastes so dang good.
- When to Use Butter: Butter has a relatively low smoke point of 325 - 375 degrees, so, it's great to use in lower temperature applications. Scrambled eggs cooked low and slow in butter can't be beat. It's also great for baking, or for slathering it all over your veggies after they have been steamed, or in a nice thick layer on your piece of sprouted toast, or a big glob of it frothed up in your morning coffee, or...you get the idea. #eatallthebutter
- Virgin Coconut Oil: We all know that coconut oil can solve most of the world's problems, right? Ha! There's not a whole lot it can't do. It can aid in weight loss, benefit your skin, provide key antioxidants to fight against free radicals, and on and on and on.
- When to use Coconut Oil: For a long time, I mistakenly thought that coconut oil could be used in high-heat applications. In reality, only refined coconut oil should be used at higher temps. Because I use virgin coconut oil, the smoke point is around 280-350 degrees. So, I should only use it in low-temp or cold applications - after food has been cooked, added to smoothies for the amazing health benefits, etc. I also like to use it in my homemade detox salad dressing, and, of course, it is also awesome for all kinds of skin and beauty applications, and for things like oil pulling.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial antioxidants and is good for your heart. (A side-note on olive oil: It is now known that olive oil is VERY commonly combined with cheap vegetable oils and then labeled as 100% pure olive oil. You have to know your source. I use this brand because I have trusted them with my apple cider vinegar for years and because they have stringent standards of quality and purity. There are others out there as well, but it's important to do your research.)
- When to use Olive Oil: I used to like to roast my veggies in olive oil, but no more. It has a relatively low smoke point of 320-350 degrees, which means that roasting with it is out. It's really best used in cold applications due to the fact that many of it's beneficial properties are damaged by any heat at all. It's great to use for salad dressings, drizzling on vegetables (after they've been cooked), etc.
- Avocado Oil: Avocado oil is high in vitamin E and heart healthy fats, and contains anti-inflammatory properties. I use this brand because they use a natural refining process that does not use chemicals or high heat, so the beneficial nutrients are maintained, but it is able to be used in high-heat applications.
- Avocado oil has a smoke point of 475-500 degrees, so this is the oil you want to use for roasting those vegetables, sautéing, stir-frying, searing, etc.
- Ghee: Ghee is simply clarified butter (meaning the milk solids have been removed), so it is a great replacement for butter for anyone who is extremely sensitive to dairy. It has wonderful health benefits, but I don't use it much simply because I just love regular butter so much more. (I may possibly have mentioned a time or two that I have a slight affinity for butter.)
- When to use Ghee: Because the milk solids have been removed, ghee can be used at much higher temperatures than butter. It has a smoke point of around 450 degrees, so you can roast with it, sauté with it, etc. or also use it in cold applications like you would use butter.
There are lots of great options and it's helpful to keep these staples on hand for various applications. Be sure to always include lots of healthy fats into your diet, but be sure to include them in the right way!