Have you noticed that supermarkets have increased the number of choices of oils they sell? Not only the size of the bottles but the types of oils. How do you decipher which one to use for which purpose? Grape seed, Avocado, sunflower and so on. How do you know which one to buy?
Some oils can be pro-inflammatory which contributes to cancer and other chronic diseases say Rebecca Katz, founder of the Healing Kitchens Institute of California.
Inflammation is the body’s response that destroys cells and tissues. Certain cooking oils can contribute to a pro-inflammatory response.
One thing to consider when using oils for cooking is the smoke point. The smoke is the highest temperature oil can get to before it starts to smoke. Once this happens the hydrogen bonds in the fat start to break down and cause free radicals to form. It is these free radicals that increase inflammation in the body. For example, the heat point for olive oil is 320 degree, which means you, can heat it up to that point before it starts to break down. The moment you add food to your pan, you instantly lower that smoke point. When you heat the oil to 315 degrees and add your onions, you lower it to 275, and when you throw in your greens it lowers a little more.
A simple way to prepare using oils when cooking is to heat your pan first. Once your pan is hot, add your oil and let it shimmer. At this point you place the food in the pan. Once the food is in the pan the smoke point drops precipitously. Remember those who have professional ranges could still exceed the smoke point during this process. Home ranges don’t reach the same heat capacity as professional so that shouldn’t be a problem.
So the question remains what oils should you use?
Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and ghee are good choices. Ghee is clarified butter, which is when the milk solids are extracted. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best oils to use when cooking or making salad dressings or to use as finishing oil. When choosing an olive oil at the markets chose one that is in a dark container. Olive oils go rancid faster when they are packed in a clear bottle. Pick up the oil in the back of the shelf where it is dark and usually the newest one in the store. Do not store Olive oil on the counter that is exposed to light or in a clear bottle. Both heat and light causes rancidity.
Oils made with nuts such as flaxseed and walnut should be used as finishing oil and not for cooking. Nut oils are fragile and go rancid faster then non-nut oils.
The more inflammatory oils include safflower, sunflower, corn and soy oil. These oils are used in restaurants, and processed foods that you buy from the market. Used once in a while according to Katz is not too bad but they should not be a top choice for home use. Although you hear about the benefits of these oils having polyunsaturated fats their omega 6 fatty acids content is significantly higher then their omega 3 fatty acid. This unbalance of fatty acids is considered to contribute to a pro- inflammatory state in the body.
Canola oil has been popular oil for home use but not always the best choice. You will find this oil used in baked goods and in processed foods. Its made from rapeseed oil which is highly processed and chemicals are added during the process. If you are looking for neutral tasting oil and like canola oil Katz recommends an organic brand called Spectrum. If you want to try some other neutral oils try using grape seed or avocado oil.
Lastly, using oils in our diet is a good thing. Did you know that sautéing our vegetables in a little oil helps fat soluble vitamins in those delicious dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables get absorbed. Raw is not always better.