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
- 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!
- 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.
– 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)
- 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 Acids||High in Omega-6 Fatty Acids|
|green leafy vegetables||corn oil|
|flax seed oil||canola oil|
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!