I have been on a quest to know what are the best oils to use in cooking and baking, and it is often a confusing journey. What is all this about mono unsaturated, saturated, poly-what? Is canola a good oil? I honestly haven’t figured it all out, but in my pursuit of simplicity and desire to eat nutritionally, here are some of the best options to the best of my knowledge.
“Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.” (Deut. 8:6-9)
Olive oil has rich Biblical tradition. Historically it has been most frequently used in Mediterranean countries, where the oil consumption is 40%, but there are far lower incidences of heart disease and less cancer than in the United States. What is it’s secret? Monounsaturated fat! This agent lowers blood cholesterol and yet at the same time does not harm the good HDL blood cholestrol component. Other research shows many more benefits: it may regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, assist in prevention of breast cancer and act as an antioxidant.
Which to buy?
Extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed, is considered the best as it is the least processed, comprising from the first pressing of the olives. Extra virgin also contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols. Virgin olive oil is from the second processing. Pure olive oil undergoes processing, such as filtering and refining. Extra light olive oil undergoes considerable processing and only obtains a very light olive flavor. Do not subject to high heat, otherwise much of the nutrient components will be destroyed. I purchase mine from Costco when available, but also have greatly enjoy Bragg’s brand in the past (they are also a Christian company), purchased through Azure Standard.
How to store?
Keep in a cool, dark place. Resist the temptation to place your beautiful bottle of olive oil on the windowsill. Light and heat are the #1 enemy of oil. Keep olive oil in a cool and dark place, tightly sealed. Oxygen promotes rancidity. Olive oil is like other oils and can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high temperatures.
How to use?
Olive oil should primarily be used in non-heated forms (dressings, etc), due to heat damaging the nutritional contents. If you choice to use oil olive in frying, keep at a moderately low heat. Read more about this here.
Coconut oil is a highly saturated tropical oil derived from coconuts of the coconut palm tree. Traditionally it has provided many health benefits to the peoples who live in areas of the tropics and subtropics where coconut palms grow. Many newly discovered health benefits are now being unearthed through careful research and use in clinical practices. We have been lead to believe that saturated fats are the dietary contributor to heart disease.
According to Sue Gregg, “There is a double reason not to fear coconut oil. First, it is highly debatable that saturated fats cause heart disease. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD in The Cholesterol Myths (www.NewTrends Publishing.com) presents the facts of exhaustive research over the decades to disprove this theory. Secondly, the saturated fat of coconut oil is different than the long chain fatty acids of meats and also of polyunsaturated fats.” Read the full article here.
Coconut oil has been called the “healthiest dietary oil on earth.”
Health benefits include:
- Promotes weight loss
- Provides an immediate source of energy
- Supplies fewer calories than other fats
- Supplies important nutrients necessary for good health
- Is highly resistant to spoilage (long shelf life)
- Is heat resistant (the healthiest oil for cooking)
According to Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife:
- Protects against heart disease, cancer & diabetes
- Acts as an antioxidant in its resistance to attack by free radicals,
protecting against degenerative diseases, in general.
- Protects from a range of infectious diseases. Fife lists 28 infectious
and degenerative disease conditions that coconut oil can help to relieve,
reduce or prevent.
And the list goes on…
Where to buy?
I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for the high quality and cheapest price! They are also somewhat local for me (in Eugene, OR), but they ship anywhere. I purchase the 1 gallon unrefined, cold pressed organic coconut oil. For local friends, I purchase in quantities together with friends to save on shipping, if you care to join us! In the past I have enjoyed Wilderness Family Natural coconut oil as well.
How to store?
The stability of coconut oil for storage and safe use in cooking and baking is precisely due to its high saturated content. It may be stored for reasonable lengths of time at room temperature without going rancid.
How to use?
Use coconut oil when frying or sautéing, as high heat does not affect the quality or nutritional value. Coconut oil is the oil of choice for cooking because it is nearly a completely saturated fat, which means it is much less susceptible to damage when it is heated. Coconut oil works great in replacement of oil and butter in baking, and for greasing using wax paper in replacement of Crisco or Pam. I often use it half and half with olive oil and/or butter and get great results!
Canola oil is “widely recognized as the healthiest salad and cooking oil available to consumers”, according to the food industry. But did you know that it was developed through genetically modifying rape seed? It is one of the top genetically modified ingredient (GMO’s) that is in most processed food items on the market. (What are GMO’s? Read more here.) It is not produced naturally in creation, but rather engineered as a cheaper alternative to olive oil.
Learn more about the history of the production of Canola Oil in Sally Fallon & Mary Enig’s article: The Great Con-ola.
Weston Price also recommends avoiding the following oils due to the fact that they can cause cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, sterility, learning disabilities, growth problems and osteoporosis:
- All hydrogenated oils
- Soy, corn and safflower oils
- Cottonseed oil
- All fats heated to very high temperatures in processing and frying
Keep it Simple & in Moderation
To simplify my kitchen and cooking, I have chosen to stick with extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil for all my cooking and baking needs! I use these in the majority and occasionally small quantities of quality butter. There are a few other quality oils out there including sesame, palm, and flax oils, according to Weston Price Foundation. So have fun exploring! I just enjoy simplifying!
I believe oils are good for you in appropriate moderation. Keep all things in moderation. Do not go overboard with incorporating them into your diet, but do choice the best oils to provide a good balance in your diet!
More on Butter
I would love to hear if anyone has had experience with other quality oils? What do you use them for? Any significant difference?
Due to multiple inquiries into other good oils, I will be writing a part 2 post covering palm, peanut, grapeseed, and sesame oils. Stay tuned!