Cooking with Oils 101
March 2, 2020
Cooking with moderate amounts of oil is a great way to add some heart and brain-healthy fat to a meal, not to mention the unique flavors from the likes of sesame, avocado and olive oils. With an overwhelming array of options at the grocery store these days, we’re here to help differentiate healthy oils from their inflammatory counterparts.
The good stuff
In the Plantable kitchen we primarily use olive oil, and if a meal requires a different oil profile we would look to avocado or sesame. A staple in the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil has been cherished as a great source of healthy fat for centuries. Good fats are essential for many functions throughout the body including the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Sesame oil is also a good option as it's delicious and rich in antioxidants. When purchasing oils, always look for cold-pressed and organic versions.
Temperature and smoking points
Although olive oil is very healthy, the benefits are negated if it is used for cooking at too high of a temperature. When oils are heated beyond their smoke point, they create free radicals that provoke inflammation. Because it has a smoke point below 400 degrees, it is best to use olive oil as a salad dressing, to top off an already cooked dish, or for roasting vegetables at a temperature under 400 degrees. When using oil at high temperatures, we recommend avocado which has a smoke point of 520 degrees. 🥑
Oils to avoid
Canola, corn, peanut, cottonseed, rapeseed, sunflower, and any other hydrogenated or highly processed vegetable oil should be avoided. A major reason for this is that they are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While some of these oils also contain omega-3 fatty acids, they are still much higher in omega-6. Canola oil contains twice the amount of omega-6 as it does omega-3. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential parts of a healthy diet, but consuming them in a balanced ratio is the key. Throughout evolution, us humans got our omega-6 and omega-3 fats in an approximate 1:1 ratio. Within the past several decades omega-6 intake has skyrocketed in the Western diet, shifting this ratio to an estimated 20:1. This is quite concerning because an overabundance of omega-6 vs. omega-3 provokes inflammation, the underlying factor behind all chronic disease.
Beyond having high amounts of omega-6, many of these vegetable oils are highly processed and refined. Let’s take canola oil for example. The canola plant (an off-shoot from rapeseed, which is toxic) is grown to produce oil and canola meal which is fed (cheaply) to animals. The extraction of oil from the canola plant includes treating it with synthetic chemicals and hydrogenation which introduces trans-fat that is notorious for impairing heart health. This all represents a very different route from farm to table than pressing fresh olives for extra virgin olive oil. The bottom line? It’s best to avoid canola and highly processed vegetable oils altogether.
So there we have it. In summary, temperature is an important factor when cooking with oils. Olive, sesame and avocado are the ideal choices to cook with and most other varieties should be avoided or limited whenever possible. 😇