What oils are healthy? What oils should I avoid? What oils should I cook with? I encounter questions about oils time and time again and like many things that warrant a blog post, there’s many factors that need to be considered when deciding on what oil is best for what occasion. What are you using the oil for? How much of what fats are in the oil? What about taste?
All oils are made of a combination of different fats. The different fats, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, all have different properties and different oils contain different quantities of each. Let’s start off with some advice for cooking.
High Heat Cooking – For example Stir Fry’s and or skillet cooking. For this you want an oil high in saturated fat. The reason is that saturated fats are more stable at high heats and are not as prone to oxidisation as poly unsaturated fats. Examples of oils which stand up well to high heat cooking include Coconut Oil, lard and bacon fat. For dishes that are cooked under high heat that have strong flavours, i.e. a stir fry with chili, garlic, soy, herbs, I find coconut oil a good choice though for plainer dishes, such as a steak, I find the coconut flavour a little invasive and prefer to use bacon fat in that situation purely from a taste perspective.
The oxidisation of oils causes the production of harmful free radicals which are a cause of oxidative stress and contribute to degenerative diseases and aging. Choosing your cooking oils wisely will help you to avoid unnecessary exposure to these nasties.
What about Olive Oil – The most consumed oil in Australia and mainstay of the mediterranean diet. It is estimated that Australian consumption of Olive Oil was approximately 40000 tonnes in the last decade. It is of the few oils where there seems to be consensus among nutritionists, Paleo enthusists, doctors and the mainstream meadia that this oil is good for you. A high quality cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil will stand up to low /moderate heat cooking contrary to the common belief it shouldn’t be heated. I believe it is best used as a dressing for salads or a splash on a dish just prior to serving. Like olive oil, avacado oil is also high in monounsatured fat (a good fat) and makes for a good dressing choice and a good change up for flavour.
Avoid vegetable oils completely due to their high Omega 6 fatty acid (a of polyunsaturated fat) content which promotes systemic inflammation.
Nut and seed oils are generally also high in Polyunsaturated Omega 6 Fatty acids and should therefor be used sparingly. These can be very tasty and can add some really distinctive flavours to dishes so they are best used in small amounts occasionally to add an interesting flavour to a meal.
Please post any questions you may have to comments?