“Fat is fattening.”
“Fat clogs your arteries.”
“Fat makes you gain weight.”
We’ve all heard these indictments and had them pounded into our heads. But then, somewhere along the way, we started hearing about “healthy fats” and people singing the praises of olive oil, nuts and fish oil. So what gives?
It’s no wonder so many of us are confused by convoluted nutrition advice. Want to know what fats won’t simultaneously clog your arteries, make you gain 10 pounds and have the health police beating down your door? Lo and behold, I present to you my guide to healthy cooking oils. Wonder no more.
But first, let’s clear up one thing.
Fat is just one type of nutrient that provides calories in the diet. The calories from fat are higher than from protein and carbs, because 1 gram of fat supplies about 9 calories. Compare this to protein and carbs, which only supply 4 calories per gram, and you can see why fat has been villainized over the years based on calories alone.
Just because fat supplies calories does not mean it should be feared, however. Cooking oils are mostly pure fat, and no matter which one you choose, they all have about the same number of calories per the same volume.
So one tablespoon of butter has about the same calories as one tablespoon of olive oil, which is the same as one tablespoon of pure Crisco (and all of these have just over 100 calories, by the way).
So while the calories still most definitely count, remember that fats and oils are just one piece of a healthy diet. Whether your diet is lower in fat, or has an abundance of it (I’m looking at you keto dieters), choose the kinds of oils that will serve your health.
On the flip side, it’s best to limit highly refined oils that are high in omega-6 fats, because these tend to increase inflammation in the body and can contribute to a host of health problems.
So choose wisely, my friends.
My Favorite Cooking Oils
Extra-virgin olive oil
I’ve waxed poetic in a previous issue of Charm about the wonderful merits of extra-virgin olive oil, so if you’d like an entire article to help guide you in purchasing the perfect EVOO, go check it out.
I’ll reiterate that olive oil is so healthy, it’s ridiculous. Quality and freshness definitely matters though, so seek out the highest quality oils, possible. Olive oil works perfectly in cooked applications, but it can burn easily, so avoid using in the highest heat cooking applications.
OK, so I’ve also written an entire article on butter in a previous issue of Charm. In fact, a few attendees at previous speaking engagements began calling me the “Butter Girl,” which is a nickname I proudly wear.
Everyone likes butter, so it’s a pretty easy sell when I tell you that it’s just as healthy as it is delicious. As with all cooking oils, quality does matter, so use good quality butter from animals raised on pasture whenever possible. For all the details check out my article “In Defense of Butter” in the March 2016 issue of Charm.
Coconut oil is wonderfully versatile, and because it is highly saturated, it is very stable when cooked. This makes coconut oil very healthy because more saturation means more chemical stability when heated, which means less oxidation and inflammation in the body. These are all good things. On top of that, coconut oil has some awesome antibacterial and antiviral properties, so it might even help prevent cold and flu.
Refined coconut oil can be used as a perfect substitute for vegetable oil (which should be limited) since it’s flavorless and neutral tasting. Virgin coconut oil, to the contrary, does add a coconut flavor to anything it’s used in.
Other fancy stuff
I don’t use fancy stuff all the time (despite my husband’s claims that I’m high maintenance), but I do keep a few special flourishes on hand for certain food preparation tasks.
When I feel up to making my own homemade mayonnaise, nothing beats avocado oil for its combination of neutral flavors and amazing health benefits.
Walnut and pecan oil are two more favorites that are best used for cold applications, especially salad dressing or as a drizzle on top of dishes. They add an amazing flavor, and walnut oil is high in omega-3 fats, which makes it extra special.
Want to sum it all up? Here’s my cheat sheet to help you navigate what to cook with. Happy cooking, and bon appétit!
To schedule a consultation with Angela, visit the MediSlim clinic at 3806 S. Medford Drive in Lufkin or call (936) 632-1996 for more information.
Choose Good Cooking Oils
• Refined coconut oil (flavorless, can be used for baking in place of vegetable oil and higher heat applications)
• Virgin coconut oil (coconut flavor)
• Extra virgin olive oil (medium heat only and fresh applications)
• Butter (my favorite is Kerrygold brand)
• Ghee (clarified butter)
• High quality pastured lard, duck fat, or beef fat (but NOT hydrogenated varieties)
• Peanut oil (use sparingly)
• Avocado, walnut, pecan, and other specialty oils (best used in fresh, unheated applications)
• Fish oil or cod liver oil (as a dietary supplement) – choose only cold-pressed varieties
Limit These Cooking Oils
• Vegetable oil
• Cottonseed oil
• Soybean oil
• Safflower oil
• Sunflower oil
• Corn oil
• Grapeseed oil
• Canola oil
• Fried foods
• Salad dressings made with the above oils
• Hydrogenated oils (all types) — eliminate from the diet. This is bad, bad stuff!