The myriad of oils that stock your grocery store’s shelves can be confusing. There are rows of canola, vegetable, safflower, olive, and peanut oils. So which oils are the best to use when cooking at high temperatures, for example, when sauteeing vegetables or pan-frying your favorite fish?
- Certain oils quickly become trouble when it comes to your health if they are exposed to a high heat. When oil turns color and starts to smoke it forms toxic compounds called “free radicals.” For this reason you want to use oils that have a high smoke point, that is the point to which an oil can be heated before it starts to break down into those nasty, foul-tasting chemicals.
Which oils should we choose to stock our pantry shelves? Let’s start with a quick review of fats and which oils we can expect to find them in.
- Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats that help raise HDL (good cholesterol), and lower LDL (cholesterol when found in abundance that can be damaging to our cells). Olive, safflower and canola oils are a good example of monounsaturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated fats are also cholesterol-lowering and contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart and your brain. Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn, soy, and sunflower oils.
- Saturated fats are considered the bad boys of fats. They raise total blood cholesterol and LDL. Coconut oil and palm oil contain saturated fats. Butter can be included in this list, too. Recent buzz about the health benefits of coconut oil (or lack thereof) prompted a bit of research. While coconut oil contains saturated fats, it contains medium chain fatty acids. These fatty acids protect against heart disease, so I’ve added them to my list of healthy fats.
We’ll skip a discussion on trans fats. We all know they shouldn’t be stocked on anyone’s pantry shelf.
Where does that leave us when it comes to which oils we should pour into the pan? We need to pick healthy oils with a high smoke point. Don’t forget to buy cold pressed oils that are minimally processed. Choose any one of these oils and you’ll be well on your way to cooking nutritious meals for the people you love.
- Light olive – don’t pick up extra virgin olive oil, it doesn’t have a high smoke point.
- Grape seed
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Currently, Kristi Rimkus authors her own blog over at Mother Rimmy’s Cooking Light Done Right. Kristi is a student at ACHS, working on a nutrition certification. Any advice in this column is strictly her opinion. You should consult a licensed health professional if you have health concerns before starting any diet and fitness plan.