by Lisa Bell, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Last week, I wrote about the many benefits of healthy fats. This week, I’d like to continue that discussion by explaining which fats and oils are best for cooking, and which should be used for cold food preparations only.
Heating an oil changes its molecular structure. Oils and fats which are composed mainly of saturated fatty acids, such as coconut oil and ghee, remain more stable when heated than oils composed mainly of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes coconut oil and ghee ideal healthy fats for cooking and frying.
These oils are all excellent for heating
The smoke point of an oil is very important too. When we heat an oil beyond its smoke point, it begins to break down and release harmful free radicals into our food. Avocado oil has a very high smoke point, making it another excellent choice for high-heat cooking. Coconut oil and ghee also have relatively high smoke points compared to other oils.
Extra virgin olive oil is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients. While this oil can be used for low-heat cooking (it has a relatively low smoke point), heat can quickly reduce its phyto-nutrient content, reducing its many health benefits! This makes extra virgin olive oil ideal for use in cold food preparations, like salad dressings and dips, mayonnaise, pesto, and sauces.
Hemp oil is a wonderfully healthy oil, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, as well as gamma-linoleic acid, which is great for skin health and hormone balancing. However, hemp oil should never be heated. It can be added to salad dressings or drizzled on cooked vegetables as a finishing oil just before serving.
Flaxseed oil is another extremely nutritious oil, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, as well as alpha-linoleic acid, which is great for cardiovascular health, brain health, and lowering inflammation. Flaxseed oil is another healthy fat that should never be heated. It makes a delicious addition to smoothies, or it can be taken by the spoonful as a supplement for its many health benefits.