Healthy Cooking Fats - Which to Use & which to Ditch
For this week’s post I want to dig into some fundamental nutrition knowledge with you. Today we are talking all about healthy fats for cooking: which to use, and which to ditch. Healthy fats is definitely a hot button topic, a place of major misconception, and a big passion of mine. This is one of the first big take home lessons I learned it in nutrition school and it's something that I continue to preach to my friends and family.
Fats are so Important to Our Health
Every single cell in the human body is made up of fat (whether we like it or not). Let's go back to grade 12 biology. When it comes to an animal cell (vs. a plant cell), every single selling the human body is surrounded by what's called a “phospholipid bilayer” (a double layer composed of a phosphate head and lipid (fat) tails). So essentially, fat is a component of every single cell in our body – our tissues, muscles, organs, bones and skin.
I like to use this analogy when I think of healthy fats: it’s like choosing building materials for your house. If you use low quality, unstable or degraded materials, how can you expect to build a strong and safe house? The same goes with the fats we choose to eat. Because fats are utilized by every single cell in our bodies, we need to be using and eating quality “materials”. Otherwise, we can’t expect to have a healthy, safe, well-functioning body. A fat can become damaged or harmful for our bodies in three ways: through exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. Unfortunately, even if we personally have not exposed the fat/oil to heat, light or oxygen, the fat is already oxidized inside the bottle just do to the manufacturing processes. Rancid oils promote inflammation in the body which can exasperate health conditions like heart disease and arthritis.
Choosing Health Fats to Cook with
The most important component when choosing a fat to cook with is whether or not it is saturated. The molecular structure of saturated fat makes them very stable when exposed to heat (ie. Will not easily oxidize or become rancid). A saturated structure is when the carbon chain has hydrogen at every instance of carbon - it is saturated with hydrogen.
Healthy saturated fats to utilize for high heat cooking are:
Butter or ghee (clarified butter)
Rendered animal fats like bacon fat or tallow
You can also use avocado oil at moderate temperature cooking/roasting.
Of course, there are other sources of healthy fats, however I do not recommend cooking with them. Save your olive oil or macadamia nut oil to use as a finishing oil or for cold temperature uses like salad dressing, sauces, or homemade mayo. Olive oil is a polyunsaturated fat meaning the molecular structure contains multiple double bonds (kinks) and not as many hydrogen molecules. When compared to saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are not as stable when exposed to heat and therefore can easily oxidize and become rancid.
Here is a link to download a one page info sheet about choosing healthy fats for cooking. It’s created by my favourite nutrition educator, Diane Sanfilippo.
Click HERE to see the original post and get the guide.
Fats that Are NEVER Healthy
It may surprise you that many of the conventionally pushed “low fat, heart-healthy” options are really not healthy for us. Like at all. Margarine, canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, or grapeseed oil are NOT options that I would ever recommend using.
These oils are often genetically modified (which is a hairy-meatball topic for another blog post) and/or these oils are often already rancid in the bottle when you buy them at the grocery store. These liquid “vegetable oils” are exposed to a lot of heat, light, oxygen, and even chemical solvents through the manufacturing process.
Click HERE to watch a video about how Canola Oil is made.
Qualities to look for when purchasing fats
Choose avocado oil and olive oil in dark green glass bottles
Look for the words “extra virgin” and “first cold pressing” when purchasing olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
Organic and non-GMO verified is an added bonus
When using butter, ghee, tallow, or other animal fats, make sure that it's coming from a quality source - a happily raised animals.
Product hype and Label Claims to Avoid
Butter substitutes or margarine products claiming to use coconut oil or avocado oil. Check the ingredients list! These products may contain small amounts of these healthy oils however the majority is going to be health degrading canola oil or soybean oil.
Anything with a Heart Association Health Check Logo.
I hope this post has been a helpful resource for you! Which of the healthy fats are you already using? What steps are you going to take to start ditching the bad fats?Questions and comments are always welcome on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
Have a beautiful week, Lovelies. Talk again soon!