With so many oils on the market, it is hard to determine the best oils to cook with and which oils we should avoid for our health. It has been well established that not all oils are created equal and different oils on the market have been shown to have different health benefits. Michèle Wolff B.H.Sc Naturopathy, Dip. Colonics and Author of ‘Digestive Solutions’ shares the good and bad oils you need to look out for.
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So we how do we decipher between the good and the bad oils? Here is my guide of the healthiest oils for cooking and those to avoid:
Good Oils! Oil Me Up!
The healthiest oils for cooking at high temperatures
Rice bran oil is good for cooking as it has a high smoke point (213°C ), it has a mild flavour and is a thin oil to cook with which some people prefer compared to coconut oil. A component of the oil oryzanol was shown in Japan to be effective in relieving hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause. Researchers found 90% of the women found some form of relief from hot flushes after taking rice bran oil for four to six weeks.
Coconut oil has a huge number of benefits. It has been shown to help with many health problems including thyroid, candida, digestive disorders (it can help kill pathogens associated with diarrhoea), parasites, weight loss, insulin control and energy increase.
This fat keeps you full but doesn’t contribute to weight gain. You can add a tablespoon to your porridge, cook with it, mix it with plain yogurt, use it as butter, add a tablespoon to hot water or drink it for energy.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid which boosts the immune system.
Good for salad dressings or adding at the end of cooking
Olive oil is high in oleic acid, the most common monounsaturated fat, and has been associated with reduced blood pressure and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
Avocado oil has the highest smoke point out of any plant oil but still needs to be used at a low heat. Research shows that 1 ½ tablespoons of avocado oil added to a salad increased nutrient uptakes. It is worth adding to food to boost the uptake of nutrients to help immunity which is especially useful for inflammation.
Polyunsaturated oils: Omega-3 oils like flaxseed and fish oil are essential for the health of your body, with benefits for heart, brain, eye, joint and digestive health. However, these are very unstable and should not be heated but kept in the fridge.
Macadamia oil is produced in high amounts in Australia. It has 5 times more vitamin E than olive oil and a higher smoke point but best used uncooked or at very low temperatures.
A study in the Newcastle research project revealed significant reductions in inflammation and clotting tendency associated with consuming macadamia oil. It also increases good cholesterol (HDL) and is beneficial for inflammatory bowel problems and stomach ulcers.
Apricot kernel oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the apricot. It is great for salad dressings, has a nutty flavour and a high level of vitamin A and E for healing, which is useful for the bowel lining. It is nutritious and used a lot in skin care.
Hemp seed oil can be used long term as it contains a healthy balance of omega 3 (20%) and 6 (60%) and gamma linoleic acid (2%). It tastes like sunflower oil and is green. This oil also contains an amazing 35% soluble fibre. Hemp seed oil needs to be refrigerated and never cooked with.
Oils to Avoid
Other oils change their molecular structure under high heat and are very harmful to the body. Unfortunately these oils are used in most takeaway foods. Most cheap vegetable oils have been solvent extracted which destroys valuable antioxidants. These include soybean, sunflower, corn and cottonseed oils.
Avoid canola oil. Although it is very popular, it has its issues. Modern canola was hybridised to shut down heart damaging erucic acid but new studies are showing that even the small amounts that remain may still cause health issues. Canola goes rancid easily and during the shelf extending deodorisation process, the 12% of omega-3 content in canola is transformed into trans-fats.
Over the years many have avoided fat because they thought eating fat would make them fat. People who avoided fat often got dry skin, and inflammation issues. Now we have more awareness on the benefits of eating fat – and in fact, consuming good fats can actually promote healthy weight loss and weight management.
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