Does it Matter What Oils I Cook with?
Let’s start of by explaining the basic differences in the fats found in oils. There a few different kinds:
· Monounsaturated fatty acids: MUFAs contain 1 double bond in its chemical structure making them liquid at room temperature. Found in avocado oils and olive oils.
· Polyunsaturated fatted acids: PUFAs have more than 1 double bond and are also liquid at room temperature. Found in safflower oil, sunflower oil and corn oil.
· Saturated fats: No double bonds in their chemical structure making them solid at room temperature. Think coconut oil but also found in animal meats (beef, poultry, pork), processed meats, and dairy products (cheese, butter, milk). We Americans consume enough of these on our own. No need for supplementation.
· Trans fats: Occurs naturally in some foods in very small amounts. Most commonly found in processed foods through a process called hydrogenation. This process causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. Quite simply, do not consume trans fats. The hydrogenation process allows processed foods to have a longer shelf life. So this is why you find them in baked goods, frozen pizzas, fried foods like chips and coffee creamers. Restaurants use them in their deep fryers as the oil lasts longer and you don’t have to change the oils out as often.
Unrefined vs. Refined
Unrefined or raw oils mean the oil was extracted or pressed from the seed, nut or vegetable and was bottled immediately. Refined or processed oils are broken down even further with chemicals, this is more cost effective for manufacturing. This means that unrefined oils have a better nutrient retention verses refined but it also means they have lower smoke points and can turn rancid more easily.
What’s in Vegetable oil?
Vegetable oils are blends of several types of oils that have been highly processed and refined which cancels out the health benefits of these oils. Another issue with vegetable oils its their high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 which American’s consume well on their own. These oils are also more easily oxidized while cooking.
What is smoke point and why does it matter?
The smoke point of oils is not only important in the taste of food, its also important for your health. The smoke point is the temperature at which fat or oil begins to break down from the heat. Heating oils past their smoke point has been linked to the formation of carcinogens. Free radicals are formed through a process called oxidation and in turn the oil becomes rancid. This is why its important to be aware of what oils you are cooking with and their smoke points! Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the most prone to oxidation and creating free radicals.
So what oils should I be cooking with?!
Your best options are to stick with unrefined olive oil and avocado oil for cooking. Olive oils can be used in lower heat cooking as well as its great used cold in salad dressings. Avocado oil has the highest smoke point at 520 degrees and is ideal for high heat cooking. A quick google search can get you a full list of oils and their smoke points!