Healthiest Oils for Cooking
Contrary to popular belief, fats are essential for maintaining a healthy heart, skin, brain function and weight. However, not all fats are created equal. While navigating which oil to use for cooking, it is important to consider the smoke point of the oil i.e. the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke. This degrades the nutrients and flavour of the oil and produces toxic components and free radicals which are harmful for the body. In this article, I will talk about the healthiest oils to cook with for high heat frying, low heat sauteing and those to be consumed raw.
High Heat Cooking
With a smoke point of 271°C, Avocado Oil is ideal for frying or baking. I love using this Avocado oil for veggie chips and fritters – it works great in the airfryer too. Avocado oil consists of 70% heart healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). A meta analysis of studies showed that when calorie intake remained the same, diets high in MUFAs led to weight loss.
With a smoke point of 250°C, ghee is great for cooking at high temperatures. Ghee is used extensively in Ayurveda to relieve any kind of swelling. It is an excellent lubricant and soothes and repairs your digestive lining, leading to improved digestion. It has a delicious nutty flavor and because it is milk-free, it is stable at room temperature and can be used at high temperatures. It is absolutely wonderful for sautéing, baking and more.
It is important to consider that there are two varieties of sesame oils on the market. Unrefined sesame oil is suitable for low to medium-heat cooking and its refined counterpart is great for high heat cooking. Sesame oil tastes amazing in Asian cuisine. I love adding a drizzle of this to my sauteed broccoli and greens for a boost of some heart healthy fats and a rich, earthy flavour.
Low Heat Sautéing
Unrefined, pressed virgin coconut oil (the healthier type) has a smoke point of 177°C, making it ideal for low heat sauteing of vegetables and baking. Despite its high saturated fat content, a tablespoon of Coconut oil works wonders for reducing inflammation, supporting cognitive and heart health, and boosting energy levels.
Unrefined peanut oil is ideal for low to medium-heat cooking but refined peanut oil stands well to higher heat cooking and frying. Additionally, Peanut Oil is a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage, reducing the risk of heart disease and reduces the harmful effects of UV damage on your skin.
Raw Oils (not to cook with)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There is a common misconception that Olive Oil is good to cook with, but the extra virgin kind (EVOO) has a smoke point of 160°C i.e. heat and EVOO do not go together! Regular olive oil is stripped of important nutrients and antioxidants while EVOO retains all the nutrients and antioxidants from the olive fruit. It is rich in phenolic compounds, which are powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals.
Hemp is a powerhouse of omega 3 fats. This makes Hemp important for vegans as these brain healthy fats are normally found in high fish diets. A recent study found hemp oil can protect the brain against inflammation and contains polyphenols, which may play a role in protecting the brain. I love boosting my workout smoothies with a teaspoon of hemp oil.
Unrefined Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed Oil is a powerhouse of nutrition but is super susceptible to heat. I love drizzling flax oil on my salads or adding a tablespoon to my soups. For vegans, flaxseed is one of the few sources of alpha linolenic fatty acid. Studies show that eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid can reduce the risk of hypertension by about 33%.