I don’t know about you but I have a hard time figuring out what oils to cook with and what oils to use for salad dressing.
I often mix different oils depending on flavor, and smoke point (how hot it needs to be until it smokes). Some oils can’t be heated and that’s important to know. You certainly don’t want to generate free radicals in the foods that you’re consuming to get healthy.
The oil you use in your kitchen can make or break your dish becuase if it goes rancid, you may not taste that, and you’ve lost all the health benefits of it. Olive oil shouldn’t be heated too hot.
Furthermore, did you know that some oils are actually harmful to your health?
Did you know that fried chicken or French fries often use “hydrogenated” oils which increase your risk of diabetes, heart attack, obesity and cancer? Some “partially hydrogenated” oils are even derived from soybean oil, discussed below.
What’s in your kitchen?
GOOD- High in Monounsaturated fats
Olive oil- Excellent source of antioxidants, polyphenols and essential fatty acids. It supports cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Unfortunately many olive oils are adulterated, there are fake or contaminated products everywhere so choose wisely. The Zoe brand is USDA certified organic and it comes in a dark bottle which prevents oxidation. Most of all, it was awarded the NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association) certified quality seal ensures complying with the highest international olive oil standards.
Coconut oil- I’m referring to the unheated, unrefined, virgin coconut oil which is healthy raw, or baked; don’t use super high heat. Please avoid “hydrogenated coconut oil” which is man-made and contains trans fats.
Almond- A source of natural vitamin E, it has even less saturated fat than olive oil. Almond contains monounsaturated fat (like olive oil). It contains salicylate in case you’re allergic. Almond oil goes rancid easily, store it in a dark cabinet, or buy it in a can. A good brand is made in California, click here to see LaTourangelle almond oil.
GOOD- High in Omega 3 fatty acids
Hemp- Unrefined oil have a good amount of Gamma Linolenic acid (GLA) which is considered a healthy omega 6 that may relieve PMS and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Walnut- This oil has a strong taste and some brands are heavily refined. Maybe toss a dozen nuts on your salad instead? I wouldn’t heat or bake with this oil due to the low smoke point.
Flax- A fragile oil that shouldn’t be heated. It’s good to make salad dressings with. Refrigerate the oil. Too much may be goitrogenic (suppress iodine absorption) so avoid consuming high dose supplements for extended periods of time. A little oil on your salad should be fine though.
Tea seed- Tea seed comes from the seeds of Camellia oleifera. That’s the plant that is a cousin to Camellia sinensis, which gives us green tea, as well as black tea, Oolong tea and white tea. The Tea Seed oil is cold-pressed. Tea Seed oil is also called “Tea Oil” or Green Tea oil. The color as you can imagine is a pale yellow to green color, often described as an “amber-green” color, and it has a sweet aroma but a mild, neutral flavor. What I like most about this oil is the anti-inflammatory properties it offers, just like green tea. I also think it is great for the skin.
I also like it because I can use it at high temperatures (the smoke point is high), the flavor is similar to grape seed oil, and it contains many antioxidants including vitamin E, natural calcium and phosphorus. It has both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Do not confuse “tea seed oil” with the essential oil of “tea tree” (maleleuca) which CANNOT be ingested.
Tea seed oil is NOT Tea tree oil! Be careful.
In fact, if you’re looking for Tea Seed oil, here’s a link to the product I’m referring to which is sold mainly online or in culinary stores. There are other brands too. You can apply this to your skin, it has wonderful moisturizing benefits, and remember it has some antifungal properties too. As with green tea, the tea seed oil can neutralize free radicals. Chinese research conducted on tea seed oil suggests that it slows the growth of 3 different types of human cancer cell lines, including colon cancer, breast and uterine cancer.
Grape seed- This oil is actually high in Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, as opposed to Omega 3s. So if you’re eating a typical, fried, fatty diet, this oil won’t help you and in fact might contribute to problems. But if you have a diet rich in Omega 3s, or you take fish oils that are high in Omega 3s, I think this would be fine for you. Grapeseed oil contains some monounsaturated fat similar to olive oil, however it has a higher smoke point so you can heat it without too much concern that it’s going bad. We all know grapes and grape seeds have health benefits, this one has approximately twice the amount of vitamin E than olive oil. The flavor is mild, and I think it bakes well. I’ve used it to make pesto many times with good results.
BAD- High in Saturated fats or Trans Fats
Canola or Rapeseed- Some of you think this is a “healthy” oil because it’s very low in saturated fat and like olive oil, it’s high in monounsaturated fat. However, hexane is used as a chemical solvent to extract canola oil from the seeds, and pesticides are sometimes used. Bleaching too. It’s used for baking or stir-fry.
Margarine- This is a man-made chemical, do I need to say anything else?
BAD- High in Omega 6 which can increase inflammation
Cottonseed- This has an unhealthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Like canola, it is often refined, deodorized and possibly bleached. Used for baked items.
Corn- It’s hard to find a non GMO version of this, unless it specifically says “organic” and plus it maybe bleached.
Corn oil increases “oxidized” or bad cholesterol. Cooks (not me) recommend it for high heat.
Soybean- This is another oil that’s heavily refined and often genetically modified (GMO). Soy plants are somewhat toxic to humans, you didn’t know? Soybean oil, milk and tofu contains a lectin called PHG, short for phytohemagglutinin. PHG may interfere with digestion, affect memory and make your blood cells stick together (like clot). People use soybean oil for stir-fry because of the high smoke point.
Read your supplement bottles, soybean oil is used rather frequently in many dietary supplements and it may be something you want to avoid. I leave this up to you.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.