Oils, Fats and Cooking…

I was listening to a radio show this week where they had a couple of renowned chefs coaching a couple of local celebrities in a cooking contest.

During the event, one of the chefs said that a fatal mistake was made by one of the local celebrities in choosing olive oil to cook the main course.

This came as a complete surprise to me since I always felt that you couldn’t go wrong with olive oil, no matter what. The chef went on to say that the type of oil to use depends on the heat of what you are going to cook.

My inquisitive mind, as always, led me to research this very topic!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…

When I started to read about oils and how to best use them, it became obviously clear that is it a lot more complicated than what I originally thought. There are many, many kinds of oils, some good, some not so good and some downright no good!

It is not just about the heat that the oil is going to be used for. It is also about the types of fat each oil contains.

Every type of oil can contain more than one of the following fat compositions:

Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, Saturated and Trans fats.

Not all fats are bad and not all fats are good. The body needs fat in order to properly function as well as insulate your inner organs from overheating.

Traditionally, the mono and polyunsaturated fats are considered Good fats. They are lower in calories than saturated fats, and lack of these fats leads to fatigue, obesity and heart problems.

Not to get too technical here, but the only difference between these two fats are in their chemical bond structure. Monounsaturated fats contain one double bond in their structure while polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds in their structure.

Some examples of monounsaturated fats are:

Olive, canola and peanut oils, avocado oil, and certain nut oils…

Polyunsaturated fats contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Both good for you in the right ratio. You will read different literature recommending the proper ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 be anywhere from 2.5:1 to 5:1. Western diets are closer to 14:1 through 16:1 depending on the literature you read.

So to make things easier, as long as you strive towards the 5:1 ratio you are a lot better off than sitting in double digit ratio.

Some examples of polyunsaturated fats are:

High in Omega 6 – Safflower, sesame, sunflower and corn oils, non-hydrogenated margarines…

High in Omega 3 – soybean oils, flax seed oil, walnut oil…

Tran’s fats are considered bad fats while you will see differences of opinion with Saturated fats which I will get to in a little bit.

Tran’s fats are usually found in foods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and many snack foods, fast foods and ready-prepared foods. So read the labels!

Saturated fats for years have been considered to fall into the ‘bad’ category but new science is showing that not all saturated fats are created equal.

Saturated fats come in hydrogenated oils, as well as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.

As you can see from the list above, you can identify some things that you always knew was bad for you such as lard but then you also see coconut oil which is now being touted as being good. The Paleo diet is now also considered a healthy diet yet it includes meat. So which is it?

The key is the source of the saturated fat. Saturated fats occur either naturally or created through a process known as hydrogenation.

So natural food sources that contain saturated fats are now considered good such as coconut oil and meats.

The process of hydrogenation changes the chemical composition of vegetable and seed oils by adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, which produces an oil that really only benefits processed food shelf life. It’s the same old story of food corporations, strip food of its fiber content, add sugar and make it with hydrogenated vegetable oils and you can have inventory sit longer before it is finally sold.

So, saturated fats from this process, hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils are bad saturated fats but should not be confused with natural occurring saturated fats.

Some examples of saturated fats are:

Foods made with hydrogenated oils, meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.

Again, coconut, palm, cocoa and grass fed made butter should not be considered bad fats although they are saturated fats.

So what to cook with?

In researching what is the best oils to cook with and for what purpose I started scouring the internet. I ran into a site and rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to just copy and paste this great chart plus you can visit the site here:

Smoking Points of Fats and Oils:

Based on the above classification, the ideal cooking oil should contain higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, with a minimal or no saturated fats and trans fats. Different fats and oils have different uses. Each performs best within a certain range of temperature. Some are made for high heat cooking, while others have intense flavors that are best enjoyed by drizzling directly on food.

The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it gives off smoke. The smoke point of oil depends to a very large extent on its purity and age at the time of measurement. A simple rule of thumb is that the lighter the color of the oil, the higher its smoke point. When frying, it is important to choose an oil with a very high smoking point. Most foods are fried between the temperatures of 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit so it is best to choose an oil with a smoking point above 400 degrees.

Fats or Oils Description Cooking Uses Type of Fat Smoke Point °F Smoke Point °C
Almond Oil Has a subtle toasted almond aroma and flavor. Used in sauté and stir fry of Oriental foods. Monounsaturated 420°F 216°C
Avocado Oil Vibrant green in color with a has a soft nutty taste and a mild avocado aroma. This is a very healthy oil with a profile similar to olive oil. This oil can be used for very high temperature applications. Stir frying, searing Monounsaturated 520°F 271°C
Butter Whole butter is a mix of fats, milk solids, and moisture derived by churning cream until the oil droplets stick together and can be separated out. Baking, cooking Saturated 350°F 177°C
Butter (Ghee), clarified Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter since clarification eliminates the milk solids (which burn at lower temps). Frying, sautéing Saturated 375-485°F (depending on purity) 190-250°C (depending on purity),
Canola Oil (Rapeseed oil) A light, golden-colored oil. Good all-purpose oil. Used in salads and cooking. Monounsaturated 400°F 204°C
Coconut Oil A heavy nearly colorless oil extracted from fresh coconuts. coatings, confectionary, shortening Saturated 350°F 177°C
Corn Oil A mild, medium-yellow color refined oil. Made from the germ of the corn kernel. Frying, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Cottonseed Oil Pale-yellow oil that is extracted from the seed of the cotton plant. Margarine, salad dressings, shortening. Also used for frying. Polyunsaturated 420°F 216°C
Grapeseed Oil Light, medium-yellow oil that is a by-product of wine making. Excellent choice of cooking oil for sautéing or frying. Also used in salad dressings. Polyunsaturated 392°F 200°C
Hazelnut Oil The nuts are ground and roasted and then pressed in a hydraulic press to extract the delicate oil. Salad dressings, marinades and baked goods. Monounsaturated  430°F 221°C
Lard The white solid or semi-solid rendered fat of a hog. This was once the most popular cooking and baking fat, but has been replaced by vegetable shortenings. Baking and frying Saturated 370°F 182 °C
Macadamia Nut Oil This oil is cold pressed from the decadent macadamia nut, extracting a light oil similar in quality to the finest extra virgin olive oil. Sauté, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil, baking. Monounsaturated  390°F 199 °C
Olive Oil Oils vary in weight and may be pale yellow to deep green depending on fruit used and processing. cooking, salad dressings, sauté, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil, baking Monounsaturated Extra Virgin – 320°F Virgin – 420°F Pomace – 460°F Extra Light – 468°F 160°C 216°C 238°C 242°C
Palm Oil A yellowish-orange fatty oil obtained especially from the crushed nuts of an African palm. Cooking, flavoring Saturated 446°F 230°C
Peanut Oil Pale yellow refined oil with a very subtle scent and flavor. Made from pressed steam-cooked peanuts. Used primarily in Asian cooking. Frying, cooking, salad dressings Monounsaturated 450°F 232°C
Rice Bran Oil Rice bran oil is produced from the rice bran, which is removed from the grain of rice as it is processed. Frying, sauté, salad dressings, baking, dipping oils Monounsaturated 490°F 254°C
Safflower Oil A golden color with a light texture. Made from the seeds of safflowers. Margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Sesame Oil Comes in two types – a light, very mild Middle Eastern type and a darker Asian type pressed from toasted sesame seeds. Cooking, salad dressings Polyunsaturated 410°F 232°C
Shortening, Vegetable Blended oil solidified using various processes, including whipping in air and hydrogenation. May have real or artificial butter flavor added. Baking, frying Saturated 360°F 182 °C
Soybean Oil A fairly heavy oil with a pronounced flavor and aroma. Margarine, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Sunflower Oil A light odorless and nearly flavorless oil pressed from sunflower seeds. Pale yellow. Cooking, margarine, salad dressings, shortening Polyunsaturated 450°F 232°C
Vegetable Oil Made by blending several different refined oils. Designed to have a mild flavor and a high smoke point. Cooking, salad dressings Polyunsaturated
Walnut Oil Medium-yellow oil with a nutty flavor and aroma. More perishable than most other oils. Sauté, pan fry, sear, deep fry, stir fry, grill, broil  Monounsaturated 400°F 204°C

Note how they all fall into the Mono, Poly or naturally occurring Saturated fat categories.

So choose your fat wisely to be…Fit Forlife!

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