Sunday, October 16, 2011

Which Oils To Cook With??

Ever try and be healthy but you're not sure which oils are good, which are bad, and which ones aren't supposed to be heated up?
I know. It's confusing.

First they told us we shouldn't be eating fat. At all. They said "Eat Snackwell's cookies and rice cakes to your heart's content but  for goodness' sake don't let an egg yolk pass through your lips".  (Yeah, that didn't work out so great.)

Then, they said "No, No! Fat is okay, now. Just make sure its a GOOD fat like vegetable oils, not saturated fats like beef, butter, whole milk, or chicken skin. And for goodness' sake don't let an egg yolk pass through your lips."
So we all went out and bought LEAN ground beef and turkey bacon. (btw, I like turkey bacon. It tastes kinda like canadian bacon. Hey! maybe in Canadia, bacon comes from Turkeys. I don't know...I'm from Texas. Don't judge. But I digress.)

Then, they said "Forget what we said before. Don't eat HYDROGENATED OILS or saturated fats. Eat olive oil and you'll be okay. In fact, eat lots of olive oil and you'll live forever!! And don't forget the soy. Eat lots and lots of soy!" (Okay maybe that was a little bit of a stretch. Just a little)

So, which is it?? Whats a girl that plans to live to  be 130 years old to do?

Well, let me just clear it up a bit for you.

The first thing you need to know is that saturated fat is not the enemy. What is saturated fat anyway? Saturated fats come from animals mostly. Chemically, all the  carbon bonds are "saturated" with hydrogen atoms. This makes it highly stable and doesn't go rancid easily even when heated. Saturated fats play a very important role in our bodies. Our cells need them to perform properly. They also help our bones calcify. Contrary to the belief that it causes heart disease, saturated fats actually help PREVENT heart disease as well as protect the liver from toxins. In addition they help to enhance the immune system.

The second thing you need to know is that TRANSfats are the most dangerous. Transfats have been found to cause a whole slew of diseases, too numerous to mention in this post, in fact. Transfats are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Margarine and Crisco are examples of transfats. Manufacturers began using hydrogenated oils because they are cheap. Chemically, they are made to "look like" saturated fats by adding hydrogen atoms to cheap oils. In addition to that, they are mixed with tiny particles of metal. Then they were sold to us consumers as "HEART HEALTHY" when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Its VERY important to read labels and stay away from these fats. Anything that says partially hydrogenated in the ingredients list should be avoided like cancer, because, well, its linked to cancer!

We all know olive oil is good for us, right? I think we can all agree on that. Peanut oil has a similar make up to olive oil. What's important to know, however, is that it shouldn't be heated to high temperatures. Which is a real drag because I saw that the fast food places replaced their vegetable oils with peanut oil in an effort to eliminate transfats from their menus. Hence, I started using peanut oil to deep fry my stuff too. My bad.

 Vegetable oils, safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils should never be consumed. They are high in omega 6 fatty acids. Research continues to accumulate on the dangers of too many omega 6 fats in our diets. And never, ever consume them after they've been heated.

And then, finally, coconut oil. Coconut oil is super healthy. Its 92% saturated fat. What's really interesting is the high concentration of lauric acid which is also found in large quantities in mother's milk. Whether or not you would drink your mother's milk (too much? Did I just go a little too far, there? Yeah, I thought so) we can all agree its probably the healthiest thing a human can consume, right? Lauric acid is both anti-fungal and anti-microbial. Because of its high concetration of lauric acid, coconut oil helps prevent food spoilage in tropical climates. Its highly stable, can be heated to high temperatures, and even aids in weight loss. What's not to love???
The coconutty flavor in your fried goods? While the healthiest way to get coconut oil is raw extra virgin, I'm told that expellar pressed coconut oil is flavorless. As is clarified palm oil.  Palm kernel oil is also high in lauric acid and is similar to coconut oil.

So. Which oils to use?

Coconut oil can be used for anything oil related and its very healthy. You can fry with it, bake with it, and even add it to your tea or coffee. It adds a nice dimension to coffee with some cream. (BTW, don't use non dairy creamers in your coffee. They are loaded with hydrogenated oils, sugars, and chemicals. Cream is much healthier.)

Lard is  good for deep frying safely and very tastily, I might add. Who of us didn't grow up with our mom frying potatoes in bacon grease? I don't think there is anything better. I have to say, though, that I just read that duck and goose fat is prized in Europe for frying potatoes. They say once you use duck fat for your potatoes, you'll never use lard again. If I can get my hands on some, I'll try it and let you know.
If you use lard, it should be pastured pork lard. Chicken fat should be from free range chickens because chickens raised in industrial settings store antibiotics, chemicals, and poisons in their fat.

Ghee is a clarified butter. Its also highly stable in high heats. Its also very buttery...and  very tasty. Its almost buttery than butter if that makes any sense. Ghee is basically butter thats been  boiled until all the milk particles and water have been removed. You can use it for frying.

Butter can't be used for frying at high heats. I like to use it to sautee vegetables, but only at a medium heat. It can be added to baked goods as well. I use melted butter in recipes that call for vegetable oils.

While olive oil, sesame oil, and flax oils are extremely healthy, they are unstable at high temperatures and should not be used to cook with. You can use it at low temperatures but honestly when you have other options, why would you even want to chance it? They are very good for making salad dressings and marinades. You have to be very careful with these oils. Since they are heat sensitive they should be in opaque bottles. Flax oil should always be refrigerated. Even then, it turns rancid really quickly.

Canola oil is a little iffy. I hear conflicting reports that swing wildly on whether its safe to consume or not. So, I'm just not consuming it until I learn more. Again, there are so many other options I'm really not missing anything.

And then finally, I think by now, everyone knows to avoid margarine and shortening. Right? Don't let Aibileen Clark fool you. Crisco is NOT the best stuff on earth. Lard makes a wonderfully flaky pie crust.

I think that about sums it up. If you have any questions, leave a comment. And go getcha some coconut oil!

This post is linked to Monday Mania. If you want to read more healthy, real food articles, go check it out!!


  1. I used goose fat when I lived in Scotland. Leave it to the Brits to sell it by the jar! YUM!!

  2. I'm pretty sure it's Minnie that loves her some Crisco. Great post. I do use high oleic sunflower oil for my mayonnaise. It's is a little higher in omega-6's than I would like, but we aren't getting many omega-6's around here anyway. Do you have another suggestion for making mayonnaise?

  3. I don't make mayonnaise. Now that I'm thinking about it though, I should try it. But, I think I would try using olive or sesame oil in it. Thoughts?

  4. I use coconut oil in just about everything - I do use the expeller pressed mostly because not everything tastes good with coconut flavor!

  5. I've tried with evoo and it is way too strong.

  6. Hi and thanks for checking out FitFoodista :) This is a great post on a VERY confusing topic. I'm not a big lard-girl, but let me tell you - there was a celebration in my kitchen when I started reading about the false vilification of saturated fats...woo hoo!

  7. So, Chanelle do you have a good mayo recipe? I checked out your site to look but didn't find one.

    Thanks Michele!! I'm not a big lard girl either, but I think its because the lard I get at the grocery store is just gross! I do use it to make tamale masa though. Pastured pork lard is delicious though, especially for frying eggs and potatoes. I used to think saturated fat was the devil. I used to literally count every fat gram and limited my total fat intake to 10%. I worked out all the time and still couldn't shake 5#. I saw a nutritionist and he told me to eat more fat. I immediately lost the 5#!!!! :)

  8. Very informative. Nice post!

  9. Very interesting-I think I am breaking a few of the rules, without even realizing it! Thanks for the info!