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Cooking with Oils: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Cooking with oils; How to make an informed decision?

When it comes to cooking oils there are a number of different choices and it can be really difficult to know which one is right for you. Not a week goes past where we aren’t giving conflicting evidence about what we should be doing to protect our health. Once upon a time the best thing you could do was add olive oil to your diet, now you shouldn’t cook in olive oil because when heated to high temperatures it can become carcinogenic and therefore becoming unstable and creating cancer causing compounds. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can be really difficult to separate the facts from the fiction! So today we have decided to go through some of the most commonly used oils and decide whether they are The Good, The Bad or the downright ugly!



The Good

Coconut Oil

Step back, we have a winner! You you hear about it just about everywhere and coconut oil is the clear winner. Coconut oil is made up of more than 90% fatty acids and saturated fat which makes it extremely heat resistant. As many oils become unstable when heated, therefore letting off those nasty cancer causing compounds, coconut oil is the better option. Now all oils can potentially become unstable when heated to extremely high temperatures, but some are better at coping with it than others.

Coconut oil is also noted as having some health benefits as well, including Lauric acid, which can help to kill bacteria, and in some studies has been noted at lowering cholesterol levels in the body. Other studies have noted that coconut oil can temporarily raise the body’s metabolism which can help towards losing weight especially around your midsection. If those benefits weren’t enough, it smells and tastes great too.



Hold the phone … butter is back? Guess you heard that right, butter has returned! Remember that we’ve been being told that butter is bad for us, it’s making us fat and it’s giving us all heart attacks? Well it turns out that might not have been as true as we first thought. In fact many studies have shown that butter from grass fed cows contains essential fatty acids as well as vitamins A, E and K. Butter can be used in cooking and many studies now show that there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease.


The Bad

Olive Oil

For years we were told Extra Virgin Olive Oil was the way forward, and while we can’t deny its heart healthy benefits, it isn’t always the best oil to use when it comes to cooking. When heated Extra Virgin Olive Oil can become unstable and potentially release those nasty cancer-causing compounds you do not want in your diet. That’s not to say you should be avoiding extra virgin olive oil completely, instead use a different oil when cooking at high temperatures and use your Extra Virgin Olive Oil in dressings, dips and even sauces. You might even want to put a little on your salad. Extra Virgin Olive Oil in this format has an abundance of health benefits, including raising your good cholesterol and low in your bad cholesterol.


Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is another healthy oil which has a similar makeup to olive oil. It is made up of mostly mono-saturated fats with a small amount of saturated and a tiny bit of polyunsaturated fat. Because of its makeup avocado oil should be avoided cooking at high temperatures however it is perfect in many cold dishes just like olive oil.


Nut Oils

There are many nut oils available on the market including toasted nut, peanut, macadamia and hazelnut. All have their own distinct flavours and tastes but none of these should be used for cooking, mainly because they are full of polyunsaturated fats. These oils become unstable when cooking at high temperature with the only exception to this rule being the macadamia nut oil, which can be used for cooking but only when cooking at a low temperature.




The Ugly

Palm Oil

I’ve somewhat unjustly put palm oil under the ugly as isn’t necessarily a whole lot worse than some of the other oils which shouldn’t be heated (and read down further to find the real ugly. That being said, there have been some reports and studies looking at the health implications of ingesting palm oil. Palm oil is in a lot of our food and is made up of mostly saturated and mono-saturated fats which does make it a good oil for cooking. However, health wise it has been linked to heart disease and cancers – which immediately makes it a no-no in my book. Another issue and the reason I have put it under the Ugly is its sustainability factor. The popularity of palm oil has caused large areas of vegetation are being demolished so that these type of palm trees can be grown there instead and unfortunately that means destroying the natural environment for orang-utans, which are an endangered species.

Find out the real ugly…

These following oils should not be used in cooking. The list below is a number of oils which are genetically modified and highly processed vegetable oils. You should be avoided genetically modified products at all cost and 90% of the corn and soybean produced now is genetically modified. Canola oil is another that needs to be avoided as it is 100% genetically modified. Studies have shown that ingestion of these oils can potentially lead to serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and strokes. This could be because they contain a large number of trans fats which are highly toxic to the body. No matter how inexpensive they are or what they claim on the label, you must avoid these oils at all costs.
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil

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