What Fats Are Best For Cooking?
Choosing a healthy cooking fat is important. The healthy cooking fats are those that are least refined and in a natural form. These also tend to be saturated in nature, which we have been told is bad for us. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to make this true. Avoiding the highly processed fats is the best step towards health.
Realizing that fats do change upon heating and will act in the body differently is a point to consider when reading labels. If an unhealthy oil is used, it can have some dire consequences. Oils have varying smoke points and chemical bonding patterns that determine how they will act in the body. Heating a fat beyond its smoke point negates the benefits of the fat as it was. Most of the time, adding the fat or oil after the food is cooked, is the best way to retain the nutrients. Remember that these fats provide us with vitamins and help absorb the minerals we eat as well. Read about how fats don’t make us fat here. Keep in mind that if these fats come from poor sources or sick animals, it will not provide the best benefit. My favorite fats to use are coconut oil and butter. There are also several fats we should never consume..
We can see that most of the healthy cooking fats contain higher amounts of saturated fat. Contrary to popular headlines, good sourced saturated fat has benefits.
Saturated Fat Benefits
- Creates better LDL in blood to decrease heart disease risk
- Saturated fats like coconut oil increase HDL (good cholesterol)
- Short and medium fatty acids (like coconut oil) are used to quick energy and will not make you fat
- Increases bone health by helping minerals absorb
- 90-92% saturated fat – medium chain fatty acid, quick energy good stuff!
- Very stable & has hundreds of uses
- Contains lauric acid (also in breastmilk) that is anti-fungal and antimicrobial
- 350° smoke point
- I like to use for baking, also good for lower heat sautéing
- Olive oil is best for salads and cooking under 375°
- I like to drizzle on vegetables after cooking or use in homemade dressings
- Okay for lower heat sautéing
- This is the best oil for higher heat cooking with a smoke point near 520°
- High in Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant
- Vitamin A is best absorbed from butter
- Helps body absorb and use minerals
- Has immune boosting effects
- Contains other trace minerals important in the body
- Smoke point of 350° -okay for baking and low temperature cooking
- This is “clarified butter” where all milk solids and water are removed, with a “nuttier” flavor
- Smoke point is 450°, good for higher heat cooking
- Has more short chain fatty acids, which are used for quick energy and not stored as fat
Lard or Tallow
- Lard is actually preferable when frying things, though you shouldn’t fry often. It is a very stable fat.
- Stable up to 370°
- I can’t say I’ve used it much at all but it is a better option than vegetable or canola oil!
Fats to Never Use:
There are some fats and oils that were never meant to be part of our body. These are rancid and processed in a way that is difficult for us to digest and causes inflammation in the body. Their labels commonly say “heart healthy”, but the chemical make up of the fat makes it very unstable and can quickly reverse its arrangement to become a “trans fat”. They are highly omega 6 (inflammatory) and the minimal omega 3 will no longer be present after cooking.
Not only that, but the rancid oils produce free radicals which can damage DNA and cell membranes and cause mutations. This really sets the stage for plaque build up in arteries or even tumors. These polyunsaturated oils you were told are “healthy” actually can damage the body. I work for a healthcare company and am pretty disappointed the wellness team is recommending canola oil to cook with.
- Canola Oil
- This is from the rapeseed, known to be not fit to consume based on association with heart lesions
- Goes rancid very easily
- This is where trans fats can come from in baked goods
- Vegetable, Soybean, Corn, Sunflower Oils
- These are highly omega-6 which is inflammatory and potentially rancid from processing and pesticides on the plants
- This is exposed to high pressure and temperatures when processed and dyed and flavored to be like butter
- There is absolutely nothing positive about margarine.
Fresh Idea: The healthy cooking fats are real, unprocessed saturated fats. Stay away from vegetable and canola oils.