So many oils to choose from….Which ones are the healthiest? Which ones are best to cook with? Which ones are best to use as dressings? Why do I use a particular oil? So many questions…
Well let’s start with a bit of a crash course on the different oils that I like to use. In my pantry (and fridge) there is sesame oil, extra virgin coconut oil, macadamia oil, cold pressed flaxseed oil, ghee, organic butter and extra virgin olive oil. So when, why and what the?!
Extra virgin v’s the regular stuff- This oil has gone through less processing and has therefore been tampered with less. Like all the food I love, the less processing and the less we have stuffed with it, the better.
Cold pressed v’s heat processed- when you apply heat to oil you change it’s chemical composition and can denature the fatty acids in the oil, if you apply too much heat repeatedly you can cause a process of hydrogenation and turn it partially or wholly into a trans fat and as we know, that sh$t will kill you.
Butter, ghee, lard & tallow are all excellent fats for cooking due to their heat stability. Look for the best quality possible (pastured & organic) as animals, just like us, store toxins in their fat. If they have been eating a diet they were not designed to eat (ie from GM soy, corn & grains), the fat will be tainted with these toxins. Butter & ghee are an excellent source of Vitamins A, E, D & K.
Sesame oil- I use this to flavour stir-fry dishes and in some dressings. It has a really strong flavour so I tend not to cook with it a lot as it is can be quite overpowering. A teaspoon here and there is all that really gets a look-in in most of my dishes and usually at the very end of the cooking process.
Coconut oil- So you may have realized by now that I am mildly obsessed with all things coconut. So why do I love coconut? Firstly, it’s delicious, and secondly it’s so good for you! Don’t be deterred by the high fat content, the saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, even though it’s high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss. Half the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut are composed of lauric acid, which is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Coconut can help boost the immune system. This can have quite a strong flavor that might take a bit of getting used to so if you don’t <;3 it as much as I do, maybe just use it in your baking recipes to start and try macadamia oil to cook with. Coconut oil also has a really high smoke point- why does that matter? The higher the smoke point, the hotter you can heat the oil before it turns into a trans fat. Trans fats will clog your arteries and give you a heart attack, among other things. This oil, if kept in the cupboard, might liquefy in the hotter months but solidify in the winter. I would recommend keeping it in the fridge in summer but it will be fine in the pantry in winter.
Macadamia oil- This is another great option to cook with. It has a high smoke point, so its the safest and most advisable to cook with, and a really mild flavor that won’t overpower whatever you are cooking.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- Now I don’t use this to cook, why? Because it’s a waste, when you heat it it loses lots of its flavor so you miss out on the beautiful taste of it anyway. It also has a pretty low smoke point and heating it past this point causes flavor and nutrition degradation. It may even be harmful to your health by increasing the free radicals in the oil. I use this in dressings or to drizzle over things once they have been cooked.
Flaxseed oil- This stuff is choc-ful of omega 3’s which are a key force against combatting inflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. I use this in dressings, drizzled on veges, in pesto’s or dips and cold sauces. It can be added to smoothies and fresh juices or drizzled on yoghurt. It does have quite a strong flavor so have a taste before you go dousing everything with it. It needs to be kept in the fridge to avoid it going rancid and you CANNOT COOK WITH IT! You do not want to heat this oil, heat damages the oil and can make it harmful to us.