Cooking oils are a staple in everyone’s household; and if you’re like me, you have a variety. But nowadays, there are mixed opinions on which oils are better than others. How is one to know what to consume and what to stay away from?! Today, I’m diving into the hot topic of cooking oils, and sharing my thoughts and opinions, based on education, as well as experience.
** Please note: I am not a medical professional, and am not recommending, or promoting any specific lifestyle, or diet. These opinions are my own. I follow the idea of bio-individuality, which means that everybody and every BODY is different. What works for me, might not work for you.
First, let’s talk fats. Fat has made a comeback, in the last few years, which is great! It’s one of the three macronutrients that’s essential for energy, absorbing vitamins, protecting heart and brain health, as well as your hormones. Fat IS your friend! However, not all fat is the same, and in fact, there are many types of fats that aren’t great for you. Let’s break down the different types of fats:
Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame oils
Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines) and fish oil
Soybean and safflower oil
Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)
Stick margarine, vegetable shortening
Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish)
Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, even if it claims to be “trans fat-free”
Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, cheese)
Coconut and palm oil
Now, most references would lead you to believe that monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. This isn’t false. But a lot of these oils aren’t great for you, either.
GMOs & Toxic Processing
Some supporters believe that canola oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet, because it’s rich in omega-3s, low in saturated fats and is a good source of oleic acid. Granted, these properties are true, surface-level, but not so much, beneath the surface. Canola oil was first created (from rapeseed) in the 1970s, but in 1995, Monsanto created a genetically-modified version. As of 2005, 87 percent of canola grown in the U.S. was genetically modified, and by 2009, 90 percent of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered. (2) (Dr. Axe). It’s low in saturated fats, and a good source of Omega-3s, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good oil to consume.
The large majority of the plants from which canola oil is harvested are genetically modified—and the oil is extracted by heating and crushing the plant seeds and then mixing them with hexane. In addition to being classified as a neurotoxin by the CDC , hexane and other organic solvents like it, drive up inflammation and interfere with endocrine health (Flo Living).
Omega-3 Vs Omega-6
Aside from being genetically-modified, I never recommend many cooking oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, and general vegetable oils, because these kinds of oils have far more omega-6 than omega-3 and this produces inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the leading cause to so much: depression, fertility issues, skin, stress, etc.
Canola oil raises your levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which crowds out room in your cells for health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that boosting omega-3s can increase sexual desire and response in women. So stick to clean fats like olive oil and coconut oil and you’ll feel sexier, and have less inflammation!
*A note on menstrual cramps:
Most of the inflammatory prostaglandins (inflammatory signaling molecules, like cramps) actually come from your own cells! The reason Advil, and other NSAIDS work is because they inhibit inflammation (pain) by blocking prostaglandins.
Your body’s cell membranes are made up of lipids (fats) which are further made up of fatty acids. These fatty cells come from your diet! Therefore, the TYPE of fat you eat becomes the type of fat that makes up your cells and tissues. And the type of fat that makes up your cells, determines the type of PROSTAGLANDINS your body produces on a daily basis. Example:
✔️If you give your body inflammatory fats (i.e. excess omega-6 oils such as soybean and corn), your body will use these building blocks to create cells that favor pro-inflammatory prostaglandins which cause cramps during your period.
✔️If you give your body anti-inflammatory fats (i.e. omega-3/ALA oils found in leafy greens, walnuts, hemp seed or oily fish), your body will use these building blocks to create cells that favor anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that act as anti-spasmodics for cramps.
Mammals, including humans, are unable to convert omega-6 into omega-3. This means your tissue levels of omega-6 vs omega-3 fatty acids can be traced DIRECTLY to the type of fats you consume daily.
From a dietary standpoint, this means you can change your inflammation and pain levels with simple changes like switching from vegetable oil to coconut or extra-virgin olive oil, switching from factory-farmed animal products to grass-fed, or cutting down on animal products in general in favor of more veggies & leafy greens. (Organic Olivia).
The Truth About Saturated Fats
For a long time, we’ve been told that saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease, however, new research, recently, has said otherwise. While elevated triglycerides are linked to an increased risk for developing heart disease, these don’t come directly from dietary fat. They are actually produced in the liver from excess sugar. Sugar is a topic for another day…
In truth, healthy saturated fats hold many benefits for our bodies. They support cell health and bone health, protect the liver from toxins, strengthen the immune system, and are necessary for the absorption of essential fatty acids.
Coconut Oil is one of the most popular saturated fats, and is very beneficial to one’s body:
Hormone balancing – the fatty acids in coconut oil actually help the hormones get to where they want and need to go in the body, and so support the creation, processing and elimination of estrogen and progesterone, leading to hormonal balance.
Thyroid-supportive – coconut oil has the ability to transform cholesterol into pregnenolone, which is one of the essential building blocks for thyroid hormone-creation. When you add more coconut oil to your diet, you’re increasing the saturated fats made up primarily of medium-chain fatty acids that aren’t found in many other oils. These medium-chain fatty acids increase metabolism and promote weight loss, which is a big part of your healthy thyroid function. In addition, coconut oil can increase basal body temperatures, which is super important for women with low thyroid function.
Gut-healing – coconut oil repairs gut tissue and encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Like breast milk, coconut oil is powerfully antimicrobial and antibacterial. The high levels of lauric acid in coconut oil protects against infection from viruses, bacteria, yeast, parasites and fungi. Lauric acid inactivates harmful microbes in your gut that can lead to hormonal imbalance.
This doesn’t mean you need (or should) eat gobs upon gobs of coconut oil, daily, but 1-3 TBSP is helpful!
Best Oil to use
So, what’s the best cooking oil to use, and when?!
General best practice: If an oil is heated beyond its smoke point, it gives off toxic smoke. Olive oil has a low smoking point, so cooking with it runs the risk of creating smoke that contains compounds that are harmful to human health.
For salads: Olive oil is my favorite.
For baking/cooking/sautéing: Coconut and avocado oil is better, since they have a higher smoke point. Trader Joes has the cheapest, high-quality coconut oil I can find, FYI! Primal Kitchen makes a delicious Avocado Oil! Buy it from their website and get 10% off, using “KATE10”, or on Thrive Market. 25% off your first order! *Both of these oils are excellent on hormone health!
*These are my favorites, but this does not mean there aren’t other options out there!
Remember the 80/20 rule: Focus on consuming good, wholesome, nutritious food 80% of the time, and enjoy those treats the other 20%. There are cooking oils in so much, and often, it’s hard to get out of not consuming something like Canola Oil. Focus on not consuming it when you can, and don’t stress yourself out, when you can’t.
Get in a habit of reading labels! Brands like Oatly put rapeseed oil in their milks, which has prevented me from continuing to purchase it (even though it’s delicious). Whole Foods’ hot bar foods contain a lot of canola oil, unfortunately, but more and more of their foods are starting to contain olive oil, instead. Use your judgement, and do what you can… it’s a process!