Weekly Wellness: Cooking with Healthy Oils
COLUMBIA - As a health coach, I’m asked by clients “what is the healthiest oil to cook with?” The answer to this question isn’t as easy as you might think. There’s not just one answer. There are a number of factors to consider. Some oils aren’t meant to be used with high heat because they break down and lose their nutritional value. Some are better for sautéing and some are better for baking. And since oils are fats, we also need to consider how much fat we are consuming. Here are five common cooking oils and the best way to use them:
1. Olive Oil: I'm sure we've all heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Persons who are from Mediterranean countries (such as Spain, Italy, Greece, and Morocco, to name a few) tend to have longer life expectancies and lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, compared with North Americans and Northern Europeans. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are considered a healthy dietary fat, as opposed to saturated and trans fats.
Because heat greater than 200 degrees can break down olive oil, if you choose to cook with it, choose a low-cost, unrefined olive oil for cooking. Use a more flavorful (more expensive) olive oil, as salad dressing, for roasting vegetables and for dipping yummy bread.
2. Avocado Oil: Avocado oil contains about 70% heart-healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It’s also around 12% saturated fat and about 13% polyunsaturated fat. Avocado oil has been linked to everything from decreasing gum disease to helping reduce arthritis symptoms.
Use avocado oil in place of anything you’d normally use olive oil (salads, dipping, etc.). Since its smoke point is almost 400 degrees, it’s a much better choice than olive oil for high-heat cooking.
3. Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is like any other fat, don’t overindulged in it. Most fats have benefits, but, like all things in a health-focused diet, they should be consumed in moderation.
If you’re looking for a fat substitute to update a recipe that calls for shortening, coconut oil is a great choice. Use it as a straight substitute for the hydro-processed trans-fat in baking.
4. Canola Oil: All vegetable oils contain a mix of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Canola oil consists mostly of monounsaturated fats (61%, almost as much as olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (32%). Of all vegetable oils, canola oil is lowest in saturated fats (7%). When choosing your canola oil, it’s important to choose organic to avoid GMO plants and cold- and expeller-pressed oils, which don’t use chemicals in processing.
Canola oil has a high smoke point, making it a good choice for sautéing and achieving a caramel flavor. It’s also flavorless and generally less expensive than many other cooking oils.
5. Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of the winemaking process. It’s a polyunsaturated fat, which scientists consider the healthiest of all fats because they contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, increase “good” HDL cholesterol and may decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Grapeseed oil has a high smoke point, making it an ideal choice for stir-fries and searing meats.