Deep-fried foods are linked to weight gain–no surprise there. Deep frying adds a lot of calories and fat to food, particularly if the food is battered first, then fried. You already know this.
But healthy fats are vital to our healthy bodies. Saturated fats used to be considered unhealthy, but new studies show that there is NO link with saturated fats and heart disease.
So don’t be afraid of saturated fat! In fact, don’t be afraid of any kind of fat (well, except trans fat…very bad).
But with the right healthy cooking oils, deep frying or sauteing doesn’t have to be a forbidden food. Yay!
A few general tips for selecting cooking oils:
- Choose organic. Only “100% certified organic” foods are Non-GMO.
- Choose unrefined and unprocessed, as much as possible for the best taste and health benefits. (The more an oil is refined, the higher the heat it can withstand, however, just so you know.)
- Choose glass or metal containers.
- Choose Non-GMO (genetically modified organism). Look for the “Non GMO Project” label.
- Store cooking oils in a cool, dark place, preferably in the refrigerator. Some oils will become cloudy or solid in the fridge. Bringing them to room temperature will restore their color and texture.
- Consider the “smoke point” of the oil you choose. Heated past its smoke point, the fat in the oil starts to break down, releasing free radicals and a substance called acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma.
Healthy Cooking Oils
Winner, Winner, Chicken dinner is Coconut oil for the healthiest choice!
Even after 8 hours of continuous deep frying at 350°F, its quality does not break down.
Coconut oil is almost completely saturated fat, but don’t let that scare you.
That’s because the tropical saturated fat in coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which have been shown to actually reduce cholesterol, kill harmful bacteria and reduce obesity.
Sidebar: Exciting research is underway testing the use of Coconut oil for Alzheimer’s patients. When I read about this, I decided to start eating a tablespoon of coconut oil every day. I put a big ole spoonful in my mouth on an empty stomach. Okay, that was nasty and stupid. LOL. I found smarter, less nauseating ways to use it in cooking.
Not everyone likes the taste of coconut oil and frankly, some brands taste more coconut-y than others. Personally, I live for coconut.
Another good choice for high-heat cooking. It’s smoke point is 375ºF.
Avocado oil has a slightly nutty taste.
It is primarily monounsaturated with some saturated and polyunsaturated fats. It is high in Vitamin E.
The properties of Almond oil are very similar to Avocado oil. Almond oil is one of the best dietary sources of Vitamin E.
Be sure to get food grade almond oil. It is a little pricey, however.
Keep the temperature under 400ºF with almond oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats on earth. It is high in monounsaturated fats and Omega-9 essential fatty acids.
Contrary to popular opinion, it works well as a cooking oil up to about 325ºF. But it is also awesome in salads and other cold food.
Extra-virgin olive oil goes through less processing – it is simply pressed and does not go under any heat or chemical treatment. The more processed the olive oil is, the higher the heat it can withstand, but don’t go there because the processing also severely reduces the health benefits and the great taste.
You may have read the buzz about ongoing olive oil fraud. Much of the extra-virgin olive oil bought in the United States is adulterated with other oils like soybean or rapeseed. What a shame. Here’s a good source for EVOO brands that are authentic (at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Costco).
Red Palm Oil
Red Palm Oil (not to be confused with palm oil or palm kernel oil) is good for cooking up to about 300ºF, so using it in a high heat wok or stir-fry is not a good idea.
It has a buttery flavor so it is an excellent choice for popcorn. (BTW, all popcorn is Non-GMO. Cool fact).
Red Palm Oil is mostly saturated and monunsaturated fats. It is higher in Vitamin A and Vitamin E than many other cooking oils.
Extra Virgin Sesame Oil
Unrefined sesame oil (extra virgin) is best used for low-heat sauteing and works great when used sparingly as a condiment because it has a strong flavor.
The smoke point for sesame oil is about 350ºF.
You will know when your cooking oil has gone rancid if it changes color, smells different or tastes different. My sesame oil has done that twice in my pantry.
Hemp oil contains more essential fatty acids than any other nut or seed oil, with the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a good ratio, 3:1.
This oil is rather delicate and should be used within 3 months and stored in the refrigerator. It is best for cold foods like salad dressings, smoothies, dips and drizzling.
Hemp oil has a smoke point of around 330ºF.
Pastured grass-fed butter is an excellent source of fat soluble vitamins, healthy saturated fat and other nutrients. Butter has a relatively low smoke point of 350ºF. To keep it from burning, add another cooking oil. Clarified butter and ghee are better to cook with.
Never Reuse Cooking Oil
- Reusing cooking oil lowers the smoke point of that oil.
- Oils that are high in polyunsaturates release a compound called HNE (4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal) when they are heated. This chemical compound has been linked to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, liver problems and cancer.
Most restaurants not only fry foods in polyunsaturated oils, but reuse the oil over and over again. Not good.
Although the list above is the healthiest cooking oils, deep frying still adds up. So don’t do it often. But with the right oils, you can enjoy the occasional fried food without the guilt.
For more information about cooking oils to avoid and how long they last, check out my post “Get Rid of these Cooking Oils“.
Here’s your simple change for the day: Select the healthiest cooking oils for your journey toward wellness.
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