My favorite oils are olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. However, I use different oils in different scenarios and in different quantities. I wanted to breakdown the different types of oils and what to consider when choosing a cooking oil.
The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke. When an oil cooks at temperatures at or above its smoke point, it forms free radicals, which are harmful to our health. In order to avoid these free radicals, you may want to consider the smoke point of the oil you are cooking with.
Both avocado oil and coconut oil are higher smoke point oils. I like cooking with avocado oil for savory flavors such as sauteing vegetables. I like cooking with coconut oil for sweeter flavors and when baking desserts. Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, so I avoid cooking with olive oil. Instead, I use olive oil to top vegetables with or use to make salad dressing.
In addition to avocado oil and coconut oil, there are other high smoke point oils. Those oils are just my favorite high smoke point oils.
Saturation refers to the number of single versus double bonds a lipid has. If a lipid contains the maximum number of carbon bonds, it is fully saturated. A saturated fat is a solid at room temperature. This includes oils such as coconut oil and palm oil.
In general, it is best to limit consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats contribute to increased cholesterol levels in the body. Based on this, you may want to consider unsaturated oils as your primary cooking oils. Oils that are unsaturated fats are those that are liquid at room temperature.
I like using coconut oil for dessert recipes. I use it similar as you would use butter, which also contains a high quantity of saturated fat. However, I use this oil on occasion versus everyday.
Oils are processed very differently. Some oils, like Extra Virgin olive oil, are cold-pressed. Other oils undergo extensive processing in order to be extracted.
Industrialized oils such as sunflower and safflower oils are extracted via the solvent, hexane. These oils are cheap to make and heavily processed. They are seen in a ton of processed foods- check the labels! Furthermore, they are also inflammatory oils. This is because they contain high amounts of omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids can be beneficial to your help. Arachidonic acid (AA), which is an essential fatty acid, is an omega 6 fatty acid. However, when the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is off, as seen in these oils, it can lead to inflammation.
My favorite options are extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin avocado oil that are cold-pressed and unrefined.
In addition to smoke point, other factors can lead to lipid rancidity and the production of free radicals. Exposure to light and metals can have a similar effect. Many oils come in opaque containers, which reduces the impact of light. It is best to store oils in a place where it is away from sunlight, such as in a cabinet versus on the kitchen counter.
Oils do not typically come in metal containers. However, where I have run into issues is the use of oil spray pumps. For years, I used a Misto oil pump to create a “natural” nonstick spray. However, I have now learned that metal can lead to the rancidity of oils so I had to ditch my metal oil spray pump.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out my post on 6 Ways to Start Your Journey Towards Nontoxic Living.
Brown, Amy C. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation. Cengage, 2019.