myFM: Fats and oils to cook with

by Lianne Phillipson March 03, 2021

myFM: Fats and oils to cook with

Damn the “FAT-FREE" 80’s that led to our demise of this once revered staple being an essential part of our diet.

Every cell in our bodies contains fat. And while you might feel like you’ve got too much padding or fat on your body, please don’t think that eating fat makes you fat. It doesn’t work that way. Well, not exactly. 

When it comes to fats and oils to cook with, the smoke point is the important factor here. Oils that are heated have different smoke points (when it becomes an unhealthy fat; as in carcinogenic, so avoid at all costs). 

Fats to consume WITHOUT cooking

Polyunsaturated fats that are used by the brain should generally not be heated. Those are fats like flax, hemp, and your omega-3 fish oils that you take as a supplement. Walnut, sesame, sunflower and soybean are on the edge here. Add flax oil and hemp oil to smoothies or juice and use a bit to make salad dressing. 

Use: They typically help decrease inflammation, nourish your brain and make your skin soft. I’m simplifying here because they do a lot more, but those are my top three. 

What can you use to cook with?

The most common cooking oil is likely“vegetable oil” and comes from plant sources, and the healthfulness of a vegetable oil depends on its source; canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils. It’s called ‘vegetable’ so that the manufacturers can substitute whatever commodity oil they want — soy, corn, cottonseed, canola — without having to print a new label. Many of those are also genetically modified too, so that’s a double strike. 

NOTE: Processed oils have been pushed past their heat tolerance and have become rancid in the processing, and then have to be treated with a feast of harsh chemicals and then bleached. Second step is deodorizing, nasty stuff.Also, some of these oils, especially palm, are associated with more degradation of land for production, but that’s another topic. So the takeaway here is ditch the vegetable oil.

Coconut oil

The largest part of fat in coconut oil comes from a healthy saturated fat called lauric acid, which has been proven to encourage your body to burn fat and also raise HDL or the good cholesterol in your blood, and that can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Bet you didn’t see that coming. And most importantly, when it comes to cooking, coconut oil is resistant to oxidation at high temperatures which makes it a great stable oil to cook with. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet has widespread health benefits, like improving heart health, promoting brain function, and even has potential anti-cancer benefits. And like coconut oil, it can also handle moderately high temperatures without oxidizing,so it’s best for low and medium-heat cooking.

Butter (grass fed if possible) and Ghee 

I personally use both butter and olive oil when cooking, as this can help to avoid the butter from burning. Butter does have a high smoke point, but it can easily turn to brown butter, which is great for quickly cooking a nice white fish like sole for instance, but not so great as it moves closer to smoke point and turns into not-so-healthy butter. 

Clarified butter or ghee is even more stable, and that includes shelf stable. It can last on the counter for up to a year! Other fats and oils can slow down the body’s digestive process and give us that heavy feeling in our stomach. Ghee actually stimulates the digestive system by encouraging the secretion of stomach acids to break down food. And with all the heartburn out there and what we’ve talked about in the past regarding deficiencies and actually needing more stomach acid in many cases, ghee could be your new go-to. It actually has a very high smoke point or burning temp, so give this one a go for sure and pick some up in your next shop.

No matter what fat or oil you use, remember that fat is needed. You don’t have to go overboard, but using the right one is most important

1 Response

Carol Manion
Carol Manion

March 17, 2021

Lianne, I am So SO happy to read that you use combination of oil and butter for cooking as I learned this at Banff Springs Hotel from European Chefs but couldn’t convince my family who claimed, “That was the heavy, rich French-style cooking!”

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