Updated: May 27, 2020
There are so many options lined up at the grocery store for oils and fats to use while cooking that it can be difficult to pick out the best one for your health (and for your tastebuds!). There's olive, sesame, grapeseed, canola, coconut, and avocado oils. Not to mention ghee and butter too! The type of oil or fat that you use depends on a variety of factors, but most significantly is whether or not you plan on cooking with those oils. Today I'm sharing my top three fats to use specifically while cooking for increased health and wellness.
But first... a little science:
Why does it matter if it's being cooked or not? Aren't all fats the same? The short answer is no, all fats are definitely not the same. Each fat has a different way that it is processed and produced. Each fat also contains a different percentage of lengths and saturation of fats. When it comes to cooking, looking at how saturated a fatty acid is helps to determine if it's a good source of fat to cook with.
The more saturated a fat is, the more heat stable it is. This means that you can cook with it at higher temperatures without the oil becoming oxidized. When a fat becomes oxidized, it forms harmful free radicals that can lead to inflammation in the body. So the goal is to reduce the amount of oxidation while cooking with fats. This means looking for a more heat stable fat that has more saturation.
Three Fats to Add to Your Pantry
Ghee is formed from the clarification of butter - this means that all of the milk proteins and sugars are removed through a simple process of heating the butter up and scooping the proteins and sugars out. It contains mostly saturated fatty acids which makes it extremely heat stable for high temperature cooking. It also contains CLA which is a compound that has been found to reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure that you're picking a grass-fed variety. Grass-fed versions have a better omega 3 to omega 6 ratio which helps to decrease inflammation.
Try using 1 Tbsp. grass-fed ghee in your sautés. It's especially tasty while cooking chicken and beef.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a powerhouse when it comes to decreasing inflammation and reducing your risk of heart disease. It contains oleic acid (aka omega-9) which has also been found to reduce your risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation. EVOO also contains oleuropein which studies have found can extend lifespan. However, it has a lower smoke point than ghee which means it can oxidize faster. When using EVOO, make sure to cook on medium-low or lower.
This is a great oil to sauté veggies, garlic, and onions in! Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a spicy kick! It's also great in a cauliflower rice burrito bowl like THIS one.
Coconut oil can be a pretty polarizing topic on whether or not it's healthy. Yes - it does contain higher levels of saturated fats. I'll touch on saturated fats and the health quality of it in a future post. For now, the amount of coconut oil you use for cooking is not enough to have it be a problem. The higher levels of saturated fats in coconut oil actually make it an excellent cooking oil because it won't degrade and increase free-radical damage in your body when exposed to heat. Plus, coconut oil contains beneficial MCTs that can boost energy levels and brain health. I recommend using coconut oil in the range of medium-low to medium heat.
Try 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil while cooking veggies for a curry! The oil will add a slight coconut flavor that tastes amazing with curry.