3 Things You Need to Know About Buying Oil

Fats and oils are a huge part of a healthy diet and should be included at every meal. Optimizing your choice of oils is essential in preserving cognitive function, reducing inflammation, and creating hormones. Unfortunately, understanding what types of fats to eat and avoid has been a huge source of confusion, and as more options become available, I feel the confusion has only increased. This article will serve as your shopping guide on what to use and when to use them.

3 things everyone should know about buying oils

  1. Understand essential fats. Most have heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are types of fats the body cannot create and relies on adequate amount from food. The problem is the Standard American Diet (SAD) is too high in omega-6 and too low in omega-3 fatty acids. While the ideal ratio of omega-6 : omega-3 intake is 4:1, the SAD is in the 10:1 to 20:1 range. As omega-6 are pro-inflammatory and 0-3 are anti-inflammatory, this imbalance can create low-grade chronic inflammation, increasing the incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, irritable bowel disease and cancer. So what oils contain which type of fatty acid?

    Action point: Refer to the chart below. Try to avoid/limit processed foods with omega-6 oils in them. If you can’t find a healthier alternative, try making the food on your own!
  2. Know the smoke point. It is important to be aware of a fats tolerance for temperature to prevent it from burning and going rancid. When this happens, the nutritional value of the oil declines and oxidized compounds created can damage healthy cells in your body. And more importantly, it affects the taste of your food! Therefore, for high temperature cooking,  you will want to use an oil with a high smoke point. Oils with a moderate smoke point, like coconut oil and butter, can be used at mid-temperatures (if the oil is crackling in the pan it’s too hot). Oils with a lower smoke point, including extra virgin olive oil, should be added raw to foods after cooking.

    Action points:
    – Use oils with a high smoke point for cooking at high temps: avocado oil (520 def F) , ghee (clarified butter – 485 deg F)
    – Oils to cook with at moderate temps: butter, coconut oil, unrefined sesame oil (350 deg)
    – Drizzle on after cooking: extra virgin olive oil, unrefined flaxseed oil (225-320 deg F)
  3. Understand the food label: Refined oils refer to oil that has been extracted using some type of chemical or high heat process. This process can damage the delicate oils, causing them to loose nutritional value. Refined oils are also often bleached and deodorized. This process extends the shelf life and decreased the price of the oil, making them hot commodities for “big food” companies.

    Cold pressed is the gold standard method of oil extraction, as oils are extracted very slowly through pressing and grinding. This process results in the least amount of heat, and therefore, the least amount of oxidation, so the oils retain their aroma, flavor, and nutritional value. Have you ever smelled light olive oil versus extra virgin olive oil? The difference is very noticeable as extra virgin olive oil refers to oil that was extracted from the first pressing. Due to the delicacy of these oils, they should be stored in dark amber glass out of direct light and heat — leave it to an Italian to know all the deets about olive oil 😉

    Action point: When possible use organic, unrefined, cold-pressed oils. These will be the least processed and have the highest nutritional value.
High in Omega-3 Fatty AcidsHigh in Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Salmonsafflower oil
Tunasunflower oil
herringsoybean oil
green leafy vegetablescorn oil
flax seed oilcanola oil
     *Notice that the oils high in o-6 are most commonly found in packaged products (i.e. chips, breads, crackers, etc)

Takeaway

Optimizing the types of oils you consume will have a huge effect on overall health. They can help reduce inflammation or be a cause of it. They can provide essential nutritional value or be a source of toxicity to our bodies.

Want to learn more about the health benefits of fats? Check out my post Fat: Friend or Foe? for more information!

What types of oils do you usually use when cooking? Share below!

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Fat: Friend or Foe?

It is no secret that over the past several decades fat has developed quite a bad reputation. Nowadays, you can find just about low-fat anything in the store, and if a food is naturally low fat or fat free, you bet it will be advertised across the label.

The initial demonization of fat primarily stemmed from one study – the Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keys. This study examined the association between diet and heart disease. It concluded that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, it was later discovered that only the countries that supported this theory were included in the study.

Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, fat is not only an important, but an essential component of our diet. It is needed for normal growth and development, hormone production, fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K), energy, healthy skin and nails, and proper cell function. With that being said, some fats are more healthy than others, while some aren’t healthy at all.

Saturated Fat

Found in foods such as animal meats, butter, ghee and coconut. This group of fats tends to be the most demonized from low-fat supporters. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are best for cooking at high temperatures as they are the most chemically stable and will not oxidize or become rancid. This is because all of the bonds in this fat molecule are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds so there is no room for free radicals to enter and oxidize the fat.

Trans Fats

This group deserves every bit of heat it has been getting! Trans fats are the worst types of fats. They have been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Avoid foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. These oils are frequently found in peanut butter, baked goods, fast food, margarine, shortening, non-dairy creamers, and crackers.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, but not quite as stable as saturated fats. In this type of fat molecule, “mono” indicates there is one space for a free radical to enter. This group is found in various oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax, macadamia, walnut, and hemp. These oils should be unrefined, expeller-pressed or cold-pressed to avoid high heat and chemical processing that will damage the oils. With that being said, these oils should not be used for cooking. Instead, use them in cold salads, condiments, etc.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These types of fats have the multiple binding sites exposed, making them the least stable type of fat. However, this does not mean that this type of fat can not still be healthy. In fact, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs that are essential for our health. Our body is unable to make them so it is essential we obtain them though our diet. However, since they are the least stable, it is important to avoid ones that have been heavily processed or exposed to high heat. Oils that have been oxidized can cause inflammation in the body. Highly processed oils to avoid include vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil.

FATS AND OILS SAFE
FOR COOKING

FATS AND OILS SAFE FOR
COLD USE

Butter
Ghee or clarified butter
Lard (pork fat)
Duck fat
Lamb fat
Goat fat
Coconut oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Avocado Oil
Nut Oils (Macadamia, Walnut)
Seed Oils (Sesame, Flax, Hemp)

*High quality extra virgin olive oil may also be used for cooking or roasting at lower temperatures.

FATS AND OILS TO AVOID

HEALTHY FOOD SOURCES OF FAT

Margarine
Vegetable Oil
Canola Oil
Sunflower Oil
Soybean Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Corn Oil
Cottonseed Oil
Vegetable Shortening

Olives
Grass-fed meats
Fatty fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
Avocado
Egg yolks from pastured eggs
Nuts (raw is best)



What the Heck Should I Eat?!

The contradicting information spread throughout society and the media has only further confused an already muddled understanding on what is or is not “healthy”. Do I eat eggs or avoid them? Should I use butter or margarine? Are sweeteners better than sugar? These are but a few questions I am approached with on a near daily basis. The low fat and fat free craze of the late 1900s that continues on today demonizes fat, and therefore, promotes a greater intake of carbohydrates as not only fruit and vegetables, but in the forms of highly processed breads, pastas, and cereals, to name a few.

Tell me more!