Cooking oil is used everyday to cook food. There are so many kinds of cooking oils but only a handful are actually healthy. Just because you prepare your own meals more than you eat out doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthy or the right kind for cooking.
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has the second highest saturated fat content (90%) of any vegetable oil, making it super resistant to oxidation. It’s smoking point at 177°C/350°F makes it the most stable oil to resist mild heat-induced damage.
49% of coconut oil consist of lauric acid, a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the second most lauric acid of any oil on earth, first being babbasu oil (50%). Coconut oil is also nature’s richest source of medium chain fatty acids which are easily digestible and have the ability to help stimulate metabolism.
Coconut oil is best used for sauteing. The perfect coconut oil is unrefined, virgin, and cold pressed. A 1.5kg/54oz jar costs about US$30. It’s roughly about 100 tablespoons worth.
- Rice Bran Oil
Rice bran oil has the highest smoking point of all unrefined cooking oil at 254°C/490°F, making it the most suitable oil for pan frying, stir frying and especially deep frying. It’s highly stable and lasts at most 2 times longer than most vegetable oils.
Rice bran oil is naturally rich in antioxidants (2%), especially gamma oryzanol, vitamin E, and helps improve cholesterol levels by increasing HDL cholesterol while reducing LDL cholesterol.
As there is virtually no taste to the oil, it takes on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. ½ gallon/1.9 liter of unfiltered, minimally processed, GMO free rice bran oil costs about US$25.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K. Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful health benefits.
While subjecting extra virgin olive oil to high heat can alter the taste, it’s actually fairly resistant to oxidative damage from cooking. As the smoking point is at 191°C/375°F, extra virgin olive oil should not be used as a frying staple. It is best used at room temperature.
A 2L/67oz bottle of extra virgin olive oil costs about US$25. That’s about 130 tablespoons worth.
- Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is great as a finishing oil and in vinaigrette as it has a rich, buttery quality that pairs particularly well with seafood and vegetables. In its cold pressed, virgin, unrefined form, avocado oil is rich in vitamin E and made up of 72% monounsaturated fats, the kind that helps lower LDL cholesterol.
In its refined form, avocado oil’s smoking point is second to none at 271°C/520°F, highest of all cooking oils! However, avocado oil is very expensive. A 500ml/16oz bottle typically costs US$15.
Ghee is shelf stable clarified butter that not only tastes better than butter but is much healthier. At levels under 10% of total calories, ghee appears to help lower cardiovascular risks, especially when other fats consumed during the day are exclusively from plants or plant oils. For example, a person on a 1500 calorie diet eating less than 150 calories or 17g or 3½tsp will reap ghee’s health benefits.
Ghee’s smoke point (252°C/485°F) is much higher than butter (135°C/275°F), making it so much more suitable for high heat cooking. It rarely burns. A 13oz/368g jar of organic ghee costs about US$15.
- Red Palm Oil
Red palm oil is naturally redder in colour because of its high carotene content. It consist mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fat, with small amounts of polyunsaturates, making it one of the best oils to withstand oxidation. In a 2007 animal study, red palm oil significantly decreased p38-MAPK phosphorylation in rat hearts subjected to a high-cholesterol diet. This means that red palm oil may help you lower cholesterol levels.
It has an earthy musky taste as it is derived from a plant. Red palm oil is loaded with vitamin E, and CoQ10, a type of antioxidant. As red palm oil has been cold pressed since the 1990s, it retains all of its nutritional properties.
A 2L/67oz jar costs about US$25. It’s smoke point at 218°C/425°F makes red palm oil suitable for moderate temperature cooking like frying.
- Macadamia Oil
The most distinctive feature of macadamia oil is the shelf life. When stored in the fridge, it has to potential to last up to 3 years, the longest shelf life among cooking oils. It consists of 80% monounsaturated fat, making it pretty resistant to oxidation. The healthiest range of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is between 1:1 to 5:1, and macadamia oil has the best ratios at 1:1, making it the ideal cooking oil for keeping your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio balanced.
With a smoking point of 210°C/413°F, macadamia oil is suitable for sauteing and frying. It also goes really well in baking, applicable on any quick bread, cake or cookie that asks for a nutty flavor. A 16oz/473ml bottle of pure organic macadamia nut oil costs about US$15.
- Tea Seed Oil
Tea seed oil is one of the 5 big boys of high smoke point cooking oils. It has a pale amber-green look and a sweet, herbal aroma. Most of the time, tea seed oil is cold pressed, retaining all of its nutritional value. It resembles olive oil and grape seed oil’s excellent storage qualities and low content of saturated fat. Monounsaturated oleic acid comprises up to 88 percent of the fatty acids. It is high in vitamin E and other antioxidants and contains no natural trans fats.
Tea seed oil has a smoking point of 252°C/485°F, making it suitable for frying. A 500ml/17oz bottle of organic cold pressed tea seed oil costs about US$15.
- Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is processed oil. You can’t squeeze a vegetable to get oil out. It’s made using a chemical process. Avoid all types of vegetable oil as they contain trans fat, are highly toxic and associated to cancer, heart diseases, obesity and diabetes. Large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acid (Omega-6) is also found in vegetable oils, making it highly reactive to oxidation.
Avoid soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. Here, watch how canola oil is made.