The Best Oils I Cook With

Beneficial Cooking OilsDo you get enough fat in your diet? The average American takes in plenty of saturated fats from animal products such as whole milk, dairy products and red meat. A person may have three large meals a day that contain animal products.

Since the 1950s, we have been consuming increasing amounts of saturated fat products on an annual basis, weighing in at an average of 57 pounds more meat, about 125 pounds less of eggs, over 22 pounds more cheese, and 30 pounds more from other fats (butter, margarine) and oils per person each year.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, you should get less than 10% of your total calories from saturated fats; adults 19 and older should limit their fat intake to 20% to 35% of their total daily calories. The American Heart Association recommends lowering saturated fat intake to five to six percent of your daily calories if you need to reduce your cholesterol levels.

The real question is do you get enough of the right fats in your diet? Oils are a healthy way to obtain those healthy, unsaturated fats, including the monounsaturated variety. Healthy oils, in addition, have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease. I enjoy cooking with oils for all those reasons, so it’s much more than preventing your food from sticking to the pan! Here are three of the oils I use most.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil has multiple uses. When you cook with oils on a regular basis, you will never purchase store-bought salad dressings again. It is just simpler to make your own, and so much healthier. Four tablespoons of olive oil, two cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of oregano create an easy dressing. The extra virgin olive oil I buy contains 93.3 g of fat (13.3 g of saturated fat, and 73.4 g of monounsaturated fat) in every 100 g. It is a good source of omega 3, but is also very high in omega 9. Olive oil is also beneficial by containing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Many people enjoy cooking with olive oil in pastas or on pizza; however, proceed with caution. High-quality extra virgin olive oils should not exceed the temperature of 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The smoke point of oils ranges from 220 to 437 degrees Fahrenheit. When you cook above 302 degrees Fahrenheit, potentially harmful oxidation can occur.

Sesame Oil

Organic sesame oil is also ideal for salad dressings and good for sautéing or baking when heated on medium temperatures. It has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. I will often sauté vegetables or cook scrambled eggs with sesame oil. Unrefined and traditionally-pressed organic sesame oil contains 14 g of fat and contains 6 g each of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It also has a considerable amount of omega 6. The problem is people get too much omega 6 (also commonly found in processed foods) and not enough omega 3, which can lead to various health conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular disease. So use sesame oil in moderation because of its high omega 6 content.

Sesame oil is also known to help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels, while its antioxidant is helpful for skin dryness and detoxifying when applied topically.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is another delicious oil. I eat a lot of avocados, but adding the oil to salads or eggs gives them flavor and increases unsaturated fat. One tablespoon has 14 g of total fat, including 10 g of monounsaturated fat. It is also high in vitamin E, potassium and omega 9. A cup of avocados themselves contains nearly 3 g of protein.

Avocado oil is linked to lower blood pressure, improved osteoarthritis and reduced psoriasis. It is also ideal for cooking a pizza or baking fish in the oven. Its smoke point is about 520 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a better choice for the oven than olive oil.

Healthy oils are a great option for the kitchen for drizzling, cooking and baking. Look for organic, unrefined, cold-pressed oils in dark glass bottles, ranging from $15 to $30.

Sources:
“Nutrition for Everyone: Dietary Fat,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website; http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/, last accessed June 25, 2014.
Joy, T., “What Are the Health Benefits of Sesame Oil?” LIVESTRONG.com website, January 9, 2014; http://www.livestrong.com/article/17951-health-benefits-sesame-oil/.
Good, J., “Healthiest Cooking Oil Chart with Smoke Points,” Baseline of Health Foundation website, April 17, 2012; http://jonbarron.org/diet-and-nutrition/healthiest-cooking-oil-chart-smoke-points#.U6r3HKisg4A.