Originally published in our Spring 2013 newsletter
When thinking about healthy oils, we often think of olive oil first. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil has many health benefits, and has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. But this benefit is available only if we consume it uncooked. Because olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, it is easily damaged by heat, which changes it structurally and has been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer and heart disease when used in cooking. (Olive oil should be stored in a dark glass bottle to avoid damage from light).
Another oil high in monounsaturated fats that was once considered a good choice in cooking is canola oil. This oil should also be avoided for another reason – most of the canola oil on the market is genetically modified to make it “Roundup Ready”, which means it can better tolerate the pesticide ‘Roundup’. Toxins in pesticides are readily dissolved in oils and can make their way into your fat tissue. In fact, the risk of heart disease associated with obesity is thought to be related to the toxins that are held in the fat tissues, which increase inflammation in the body.
Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats are even more susceptible to degradation by heat. These include corn and soybean (which are also mostly “Roundup Ready”), grapeseed, flaxseed, sunflower and safflower oils, which should never be heated. Store these oils away from light and heat.
The very worst oils to consume are the trans fats, which are formed when manufacturers use a chemical process to turn a liquid oil into a semi-solid form, like shortening and margarines. The damage has already been done, and these oils should be avoided, heated or not.
So what oil is safe for cooking? The best choice for cooking is coconut oil, which is high in saturated fats, making it much less susceptible to damage when heated. It is now known that saturated fats are not a risk factor for heart disease when consumed in moderation. In fact coconut oil has many health benefits, which include maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, aiding in weight loss, and preventing senile dementia. But be sure to buy a good quality organic coconut oil for the best health benefits.