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Best Oils to Cook With and Which to Avoid

Is olive oil or coconut oil better for you? Which oils are safe to cook with and which ones should you avoid? All of the information out there can be confusing. Even though an oil might be deemed healthy, it may not stay healthy when heated.

When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or easily turn rancid. When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that shouldn’t be consumed. Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are rather resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided when cooking.oil_and_pan

Best Oil Choices for Cooking:

Coconut Oil

This is one of the best choices for high heat cooking. It is made up of over 90% saturated fatty acids, making 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 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. Also, the fats in coconut oil can boost metabolism and increase feelings of fullness as compared to other fats.

When buying, look for virgin coconut oil or raw on the label – they offer better flavor and more health benefits. Smoke point is 350°. Refined coconut oil can be used occasionally for recipes, which require heats over 450°, but make sure it isn’t hydrogenated or treated with hexane.

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Grass-fed ghee is rich in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. It is also rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — the essential fatty acid found almost exclusively in grass-fed animals, which is now believed to protect against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Because the milk solids have been removed from ghee, the elements in dairy that many people are sensitive to, have been removed. The removal of the milk solids also allows you to use ghee at a higher temperature -up to 485° F.

Olive Oil

No surprise here, olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that that contains beneficial antioxidants and has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure to choose high quality extra virgin olive oil. It has many more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined oil olives and it tastes much better.

And contrary to many reports, high quality, extra virgin olive oil can be used for high heat cooking as it has a high smoke point (365°- 400°).

Note – there have been many reports lately about unsavory olive oil dealers who have been combining olive oils with cheap vegetable oils. As a result, you might be unknowingly ingesting unhealthy oils. It is very hard to determine if an olive oil is pure. Artisan or locally produced olive oils tend to be your safest bet. Olea olive oils are 100% pure olive oil. They can be found at oleaestates.com.

Avocodo Oil

Avocado is an excellent choice for frying as it has a very high smoke point (475°- 520°). The composition of avocado oil is similar to olive oil. It is primarily monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in. It can be used for many of the same purposes as olive oil. You can cook with it, or use it cold.

Oils to Avoid When Cooking:

Industrial Seed and Vegetable Oils:

These are highly processed, refined products that are much too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. The world health organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio for omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is about 4:1. However, the average ratio American’s ingest ranges from 10:1 to 25:1! (Look out for a future blog post on Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s).

Based on this overconsumption of Omega 6’s, it is recommended to avoid the following oils altogether, whether cooking with them or simply using them cold.o-5-NEW-USES-FOR-VEGETABLE-OIL-facebook

  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Safflower Oil

Canola Oil

Canola Oil should be avoided as well due to its harsh processing method. To create canola oil, rape seeds (what canola oil is made from) are heated to high temperature so that the oil can be extracted. This oil is then refined, bleached and deodorized Processing the oil under high heat causes it to go rancid, which is why industrial carcinogenic bleaches and deodorizers like hexane are needed. Additionally, about 87% of canola oil is genetically modified.

Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil:

These are high in omega-3s, but should not be heated because they are sensitive to oxidation.

Nuts and Peanut Oil:

There are many nut oils available and many have amazing flavors, but due to their high level of polyunsaturated fats, it is recommended to avoid them when cooking.

There is one exception. Macadamia nut oil is mostly monounsaturated (like olive oil) and has great properties and is safe for cooking

Happy cooking 🙂

  • Elizabeth Girouard

    Great article Lisa! Thanks for the useful information.

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Fat is Good.

Fat is Good

Our society has made us afraid of eating fat. It really took ground with the boom of the “fat-free” industry in the 80’s. The truth is, the right fats help promote health and well-being. It’s about choosing which fats to ingest. The mix of fats that you eat, rather than the total amount in your diet, is what matters most. The key is to eat more good fats and less bad fats.

Here’s the lowdown:

Fats contribute to the amount of cholesterol in your body. Very simply,Good-Fats-Vs-Bad-Fats

HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in your blood.

LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind.

  • Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
  • Polyunsaturated fats lower triglycerides and fight inflammation.
  • Saturated fats may raise your blood cholesterol if you eat too much.
  • Trans fats are the worst types of fat. They raise your bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good HDL cholesterol.

Good Fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for you. They lower cholesterol, protect your heart, reduce the risk of disease and support overall health. Omega-3 fats are in this category and are essential to physical and emotional health. They are highly concentrated in the brain and research indicates they play a vital role in cognitive function (memory, problem-solving abilities, etc.) as well as elevating your mood, fighting fatigue and controlling your weight.

 Examples of Good Fats Include:

  • Monounsaturated (the best kind!): Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews), peanut butter
  • Polyunsaturated: Soybean oil, safflower oil, walnuts, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, flax seed, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines), tofu

Bad fats: Saturated fats have fallen into this category – however, saturated fats are ok if they are eaten in moderation. Coconut oil is a perfect example. The health benefits of coconut oil are immense, as discussed in previous posts.

Bad fats raise our cholesterol and put our bodies at risk of certain diseases. Trans fats should be completely avoided. Trans fats (hydrogenated oils) are the worst kind of fats and are used in the manufacturing of food to help it stay fresh longer.

  • A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been twisted and deformed during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas.
  • No amount of trans fats is healthy. Trans fats contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer.

Examples of Saturated Fats That Should Be Eaten in Moderation

High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork), chicken with the skin, whole-fat dairy products (milk & cream), butter, cheese, ice cream, palm & coconut oil

Examples of Bad Trans Fats (the worst kind!):

Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), stick margarine, semi-solid vegetable shortening, most pre-mixed products (cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix), vegetable shortening, fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), candy bars

**Trick: How to tell a good fat vs. a bad fat: Trans fats and saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or sunflower oil).

And no… fat-free foods are not healthier. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.

General Guidelines For Choosing Healthy Fats

  • Try to eliminate trans fats and limit fast food
  • Limit saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods and replacing them with low fat varieties (ie. use olive oil instead of butter, low-fat cheese vs. full fat, skim or 1% milk vs. whole milk)
  • Eat omega-3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flax-seed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
  • Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
  • Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)

Lastly, enjoy eating fat. It is good for your health.

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Did You Know?

Below are facts on some common things we eat every day that you might not have known. Let’s classify them into the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Skim Latte– Packed with protein, and half your calcium need for the day; it’s a “liquid meal in a cup”. Caffeine or what I usually like to choose…half caf…helps give you sbaboost of energy and fires up your metabolism. If you do want to add a little flavor – ask for one pump (vs. the typical 4 pumps). You will save 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Be wary of the “skinny” latte– which is made with artificial sweeteners.

Organic Whole Grain Cereals – A cereal such as Uncle Sam’s has only 4 organic ingredients: Whole Wheat Kernels, Whole Flaxseed, Salt and Barley Malt. Weighing in at 190 calories, 5 grams of good fat, 38 carbohydrates (of which, 10 grams are fiber!), less than 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of protein. What a perfect meal!

Non-Fat Greek Yogurt – One cup of Fage Total 0% Fat Greek yogurt is only 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar (vs. most flavored yogurts with over 22 grams of sugar), 18 grams of protein!, and 20% of your daily calcium requirements.

Pure Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is chock-full of protein, with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Benefits of one serving of peanut butter:

  • 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E
  • 49 mg of bone-building magnesium
  • 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium
  •  0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6
  • Can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions

Choose one with no additives…peanuts only and maybe a little sea salt. Best to eliminate anything that ends in “y”…Skippy, Jiffy, Teddie, Freddy…and be cautious of the term “natural” on a label – it’s a marketing term and doesn’t mean anything. Organic is ideal. If you are allergic, try soy nut butter. Same great protein benefits.

Eggs – Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.  A large egg contains:

  • only 77 calories
  • only 5 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of protein
  • all 9 essential amino acids
  • rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others)
  • 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things. A study revealed that 90% of Americans may not get enough choline in their diet.

The yolks contain most of the nutrients! Omega-3 enriched or pastured (raised on a pasture and grass fed) eggs are much more nutritious than factory-raised chickens. 

Whey Protein – Whey protein is considered a complete protein, contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Additional benefits include:

  • weight loss
  • increased muscle mass (vs. fat)
  • increase in glutathione levels (your body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
  • decrease in triglycerides and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
  • increase in immune system function and power in sports and decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training

Quinoa – also known as the “SuperGrain”. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and it contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It contains:

  • iron
  • lysine (mainly essential for tissue growth and repair)
  • is rich in magnesium
  • high in Riboflavin (B2) (improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells)
  • has a high content of manganese (an antioxidant)

The Bad

Smoothies – depending on the ingredients, can have up to 1,500 calories, 60 grams of fat and 60 grams of sugar. Best to lean toward the natural ingredients – fresh fruit, milk, water, whey protein. 

Granola – has long been viewed since back-in-the-day as a “health food”. There are wonderful properties to granola and trail mix, however, they are often made with butter and oil and have up to 400 calories per cup. Shop for the lighter variations, or make it yourself.

Salad Dressing – Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing has 150 calories per 2 tbsps. , of which, 144 calories are from fat, and 420 mg of sodium (Ranch is 140 calories, 135 from fat). Even if you choose the “light version”, you start to sacrifice nutrition for artificial ingredients. Try a balsamic glaze with natural spices (garlic, salt, pepper, mint).

Fat-Free Foods – you are better off just eating the real thing, or reduced fat…most fat free foods have a ton of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup – added empty calories which cause you to eat more. Healthy fats are essential to our diet – it’s just important to eat them in moderation.

100 Calorie Packs – convenient packs do not change the nutritional content. Your snack may still be too high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates or sodium, even if you’re eating only 100 calories. And they generally leave you unsatistifed and craving more.

Bagels – most bagels are a dense, bleached, processed flour carbohydrate that usually contain about 500 calories, equivalent to 5 slices of bread. All of those carbs will give you a quick boost than a hard crash. They are typically made with white flour, are very difficult for your body to ingest and have several inflammatory properties. If you choose to eat a bagel, opt for whole wheat or oat bran.

Gatorade –

  • A single serving of Gatorade contains 14 grams of sugar – a mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups and glucose-fructose (most 20oz bottles are 2.5 servings or 34 grams of sugar)
  • Contains a ton of sodium – an unlikely candidate for any beneficial electrolyte restoration (when the body experiences short periods of exhaustion and fatigue, it does not need mass amounts of sodium)
  • It uses brominated vegetable oil (BVO) to increase fluidity and uniformity (like other sugary drinks). BVO is also used to create lead dissolving additives for gasoline, photographic paper films, fire-extinguishing materials, and agricultural fumigants. More than 100 countries have outlawed the substance altogether.
  • Because of the amount of carbohydrates in Gatorade, over consumption can cause obesity.
  • Ingredients include:  water, sugar, table salt, carbohydrates, electrolytes (110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, 93 mg chloride), high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, glucose and fructose.

Sugar Cereal- It is common for nutrition-minded shoppers to pick “healthy choices” such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Cascade Granola. Honey Nut Cheerios actually has the equivalent amount of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. And most other cereals have significantly more. In fact, many of these cereals surpass the half-way mark for how much sugar many experts believe we should consume in a day.

The Ugly

Donuts – Sorry to say, a donut is not food. Nutritional info for a Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut: 370 calories, 24 g of fat (11 grams of saturated fat), 390 grams of sodium, 35 carbs, 17 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. And this is a common breakfast. Ingredients include:

Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene)

Frappuccino – A Grande Java Chip Frappuccino have 460 calories, 18g of fat (12 grams of saturated fat), 50 mg of cholesterol (17% of daily value!), 72 grams of carbohydrates, 66 grams of sugar! (no, that is not a typo) and 6 grams of protein. Ingredients in a frappaccino (not including the chips) include:

  • Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150)

With the light Frappuccino, it may be fewer calories however; you are ingesting even more chemicals:

  • Light Coffee Frappuccino: Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)

Processed Deli Meats  – most are prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and bonded together with non-meat additives and meat emulsions cooked to coagulate and bind the chunks of meat into a “shaped form” of meat. Often include nitrates, up to 460 mg sodium per serving, carrageenan, meat by-products (read – bones), corn syrup, gelatin and emulsifiers. Your best bet is the real thing – roasted turkey. Make it and slice it for the week. Or visit Batavia. Best turkey sandwich in town.

Soda / Sugar Drinks – 1 can of Classic Coke contains 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar and includes high fructose corn sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, “natural flavors” and caffeine. Snapple is not any better, against popular belief: 1 bottle = 150 calories, 36 grams of sugar.

Chicken Nuggets – There are truly no “healthy” chicken nuggets unless made from scratch – if any, possibly Bell & Evans with simple ingredients of white breast chicken & whole wheat breading. Typical ingredient list for chicken nuggets includes:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Potassium Lactate, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Flavorings, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Diacetate, Carrageenan. Dextrose, Calcium Propionate (to Protect Freshness), Guar Gum, Potassium Sorbate (to Protect Freshness)

English Muffins – Perfect example of a processed food. Ingredients in Thomas’ include:

mono and diglycerides, datem, sodium stearolyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono-and diglycerides, dextrose, wheat sour, guar gum, lactic acid, molasses, fumaric acid, azodicarbonamide, , caramel color, acetic acid, sucralose, nonfat milk

Try a brand that is organic or whole wheat with 5 or less ingredients.

Fruit Snacks/Gummies: a recent fruit snack was given to my son in a party bag…it is produced by “Healthy Food Brands” and the ingredient list is as follows:

grape juice concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, apple puree, gelatin, citric acid, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, FD&C Red, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 3, carnauba wax.

One guess if I let him eat it?

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