You have many options when it comes to selecting fats and oils for cooking.
But it’s not just a matter of choosing oils that are healthy, but also whether they stay healthy after having been cooked with.
The Stability of Cooking Oils
When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily.
When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that you definitely don’t want to be consuming.
The most important factor in determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and rancidification, both at high and low heat, is the relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in it.
Saturated fats have only single bonds in the fatty acid molecules, monounsaturated fats have one double bond and polyunsaturated fats have two or more.
It is these double bonds that are chemically reactive and sensitive to heat.
Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking .
Alright, now let’s discuss each type of cooking fat specifically.
The Winner: Coconut Oil
When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is your best choice.
Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat.
This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid.
Coconut oil also has powerful health benefits. It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens .
The fats in coconut oil can also boost metabolism slightly and increase feelings of fullness compared to other fats. It is the only cooking oil that made it to my list of superfoods.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
- Saturated: 92%.
- Monounsaturated: 6%.
- Polyunsaturated: 1.6%.
Make sure to choose virgin coconut oil. It’s organic, it tastes good and it has powerful health benefits.
The saturated fats used to be considered unhealthy, but new studies prove that they are totally harmless. Saturated fats are a safe source of energy for humans.
Butter was also demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content.
But there really is no reason to fear real butter. It’s the processed margarine that is the truly awful stuff.
Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious.
It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It is also rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate, both of which have powerful health benefits.
CLA may lower body fat percentage in humans and butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut health and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese.
Fatty Acid Breakdown:
- Saturated: 68%.
- Monounsaturated: 28%.
- Polyunsaturated: 4%.
There is one caveat for cooking with butter. Regular butter does contain tiny amounts of sugars and proteins and for this reason it tends to get burned during high heat cooking like frying.
If you want to avoid that, you can make clarified butter, or ghee. That way, you remove the lactose and proteins, leaving you with pure butterfat.
Here’s a great tutorial on how to clarify your own butter.
Make sure to choose butter from grass-fed cows. This butter contains more Vitamin K2, CLA and other nutrients, compared to butter from grain-fed cows.
Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the mediterranean diet.
Some studies show that olive oil can improve biomarkers of health.
It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream .
Source: Authority Nutrition