The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Cooking Oils

There are lots of cooking oils and fats in the market, and that leaves you with many options. But here’s the thing – it isn’t all about choosing healthy cooking oils, but whether these oils will remain healthy after use.

Is cooking oils stable?

When you cook foods at high heat, you’ll want to use stable oils, and don’t go rancid or oxidize immediately.

When cooking oils oxidize, they react with oxygen giving rise to free radicals and toxic compounds. These free radicals are harmful to your health.

One important factor that should be considered in determining the resistance of your cooking oil to rancidification and oxidation is the degree of saturation of the fatty acids it contains.

Single bonds are present in saturated fats. Conversely, monounsaturated fats have one double bond while polyunsaturated fats have at least two double bonds.

These double bonds have a high sensitivity to heat and are chemically reactive.

Monounsaturated fats and saturated fats are resistant to heating. However, oils that contain polyunsaturated fats should not be used for cooking (1).

Let’s take a look at each type of cooking oil.

Best choice: coconut oil

Coconut oil is your best bet concerning high heat cooking.

90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated. This explains why it has a high level of resistance to heat.

Coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature. It has a long shelf-life and can last for months without going rancid.

It also has very important health benefits. It contains Lauric acid which improves cholesterol and kills pathogens (234).

The fats present in coconut oil have the potential to boost metabolic activities. It also increases satiety compared to other fats ( 567).

Fatty acids in coconut oil

  • Saturated fatty acid: 92%
  • Monounsaturated fatty acid: 6%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid: 1.6%

Ensure that you go for virgin coconut oil. It has good taste, very potent health benefits, and most importantly, 100% organic.

Saturated fats were considered unhealthy at first, but recent studies show that they are not toxic. They are a healthy source of energy (8910).

Butter

Many people avoided butter in the past – due to its high content of saturated fat.

But then, it is needless fearing real butter. The danger lies in margarine, which is processed butter (11).

Original and real butter isn’t harmful to health, and it is nutritious. It is loaded with Vitamins A, E, and K2. It also contains butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid. Both acids have immense health benefits.

Conjugated linoleic acid lowers the percentage of body fat in humans. Butyrate, on the other hand, has anti-inflammatory potentials, can improve your gut health, and may fight obesity as shown in studies involving rodents (1213141516).

Fatty acids in butter

  • Saturated fatty acid: 68%
  • Monounsaturated fatty acid: 28%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid: 4%

It is important to note that there are small amounts of proteins and sugars in regular butter. So, you can expect it to burn during frying or other high heat cooking processes.

If you want to avoid the burning, then make ghee or clarified butter. This will remove the proteins and lactose, and you’ll be left with just pure butterfat.

Do you want to know how to make your ghee or clarified butter? Check here.

Ensure that you use butter made from grass-fed cows. It is richer in conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin K2, and other nutrients.

Learn more >>>>> Healthy substitutes for butter

Olive oil

Olive oil is good for your heart. This explains why it is one of the major components of the Mediterranean diet.

Some pieces of research have shown that olive oil can improve certain biomarkers of health.

It increases your good cholesterol levels (HDL) and reduces the amount of oxidized cholesterol in your blood (1718).

Fatty acids in olive oil

  • saturated fatty acids: 14%
  • monounsaturated fatty acid: 75%
  • polyunsaturated fatty acid: 11%

Although olive oil has fatty acids with double bonds, studies show that they are resistant to heat, and so can be used for cooking (19).

Ensure that you go for good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has a lot more antioxidants and nutrients than the refined variant. Also, it has a much better taste.

The oil should be stored in a cool, dry, place. This will prevent rancidity.

Animal fats – bacon drippings, tallow, and lard

The fatty acids in animals vary, depending on their diet.

Animals that feed mostly on grains will contain more polyunsaturated fats.

On the other hand, animals that are grass-fed or pasture-raised will contain more monounsaturated or saturated fats in them.

As such, you’re better off eating fats from animals that are naturally raised.

Palm oil

Palm oil is produced from palm fruits. It contains monounsaturated and saturated fats, as well as polyunsaturates in small amounts. This explains why it is good for cooking.

Unrefined red palm oil is the best. It contains a large amount of Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin E, and other nutrients.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil has a similar composition to olive oil. It is mainly monounsaturated, with a bit of polyunsaturated and saturated mixed in.

You can use avocado oil just as you would olive oil. Avocado oil can be used for cooking, or cold as you like it.

Fish oil

Fish oil contains a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. DHA and EPA. Just one tablespoon of fish oil can give you all the important fatty acids you need for a day.

Codfish liver oil is the best one you can use. It also contains a lot of Vitamin D3, and most of the world’s population is deficient in this vitamin.

On the other hand, though, you shouldn’t use fish oil for cooking. It has a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats. Fish oil should be used only as a supplement – just one tablespoon daily. Also, store it in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Flax oil

Flax oil is another example of healthy cooking oil. It has a high concentration of the plant form of Alpha-linolenic acid and omega-3 acid.

Most people supplement Omega-3 fats with flax oil. But if you’re a vegan, then you’re better off with fish oil.

Studies have shown that the human body is not efficient at converting alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA, and fish oil contains a lot of these (20).

The flaxseed oil contains a large number of polyunsaturated fats, and so is not good for cooking.

Canola oil

Canola oil is produced from rapeseeds. It has a fairly good fatty acid structure. Most of its fatty acids are monounsaturated and contains Omega-6 & Omega-3 acids in a 2:1 ratio – just great.

Peanut oil and nut oils

There is a wide range of nut oils – with great tastes.

But then, nuts oils contain plenty of polyunsaturated fats, thus, they’re not good for cooking.

You may use nut oils as parts of recipes. However, they’re highly unsuitable for frying or any form of high heat cooking.

Peanut oil is no different. Peanuts aren’t nuts per se. They are legumes, but their oil composition is similar.

An exception to this would be macadamia nut oil. It is monounsaturated but pricey and with an awesome taste.

Macadamia oil can be used for medium- or low-heat cooking.

Best way to preserve your cooking oils

To prevent your oils from going rancid, you must consider a few things.

Never purchase a large stock at the same time. Buy smaller batches. By so doing, you can use most of it before they get the chance to go rancid.

For unsaturated fats like palm, olive, avocado oil, and others, you must preserve them in an environment where they have very low chances of oxidizing and going rancid.

Factors that promote oxidative damage are oxygen, heat, and light. And so, it is important that you preserve them in a cool, dry, and dark place, and also ensure that you cover the lid once you’re done.