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Nutrition News: Cooking Oil

With so many opinions surrounding us about FOOD, it can be hard to find the truth about what is best for you and your family! Questions like “can I cook with olive oil”, “why is canola oil bad”, “is butter good or bad” are far too common! We’re here to help…we’ve put together this list of oils so you can better understand each cooking oil and what it should be used for!

Saturated: Saturated fats are very stable because all the carbon in the fatty acid chain is “saturated” with hydrogen, therefore, they will not go rancid and can be cooked using high heat. They appear solid or semi-solid at room temp. Breast milk is high in saturated fat and therefore is an indicator that it is a safe fat to consume. Saturated fat is found in animal meat and its products.

Monounsaturated (MUFAs): These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, they are relatively stable and do not go rancid easily. Monounsaturated fats have a bend at the position of the double carbon bond. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in our food is oleic acid (Omega 9), which naturally occurs in olive oil, avocado and most nuts.

Polyunsaturated (PUFAs): Polyunsaturated fatty acids have at least two double bonds and lack four or more hydrogen atoms. There are two types of fat that make up this category: linolein (Omega 6) and linolenic (Omega 3). (The omega number indicates the position of the first double bond). These fats are “essential fatty acids,” meaning our body can’t make them and they have to come from our diet. These fats are important because they regulate inflammation in the body through the production of prostaglandins. Most individuals do not consume enough Omega 3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, fatty fish such as salmon, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds) and consume too many Omega 6 fatty acids which are typically found in a lot of junk foods (such as salad dressings, potato chips, pizza, some pasta dishes and processed meats).

Trans Fat: If you didn’t know yet, this is the worst type of fat to consume…it is as bad and as unhealthy as it gets. Trans fat increases LDL, or “bad”cholesterol levels and decreases HDL, or “good” cholesterol. According to a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “eating trans fats is associated with coronary heart disease, death from heart attack, and diabetes. Research also suggests that consuming trans fat may increase a woman’s risk of infertility and a man’s risk of prostate cancer. It’s found in commercially fried food, doughnuts, crackers, cookies and baked goods made with shortening.

Hydrogenated/Partially Hydrogenated: Hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation is a process that takes an oil and adds a hydrogen atom in order to make it more stable. This is the process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature. In most cases, an emulsifier is added and the product is bleached to remove any impurities. These oils are found in margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods and most baked goods.

Olive Oil: Most know that there are many health benefits to consuming olive oil; it’s packed with nutrients including vitamins E, K and A and has been part of the diet of some of the world’s healthiest, longest-living people for centuries — like those living in the blue zones*. It’s said to help with the healing/prevention of: inflammation, heart disease, depression, dementia and obesity. Be sure you’re buying an “Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil” in a dark bottle, store it in a cool, dry place (not above your stove) and use it raw or with low temperature cooking as it has a very low smoke point. This oil should be treated like a fine wine.

* “Blue Zones is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives.”

Coconut OilThis oil is one of our favourites and there’s good reason why it gets so much attention! It has a very high smoke point (350F) and many health benefits. The reason coconut oil remains stable when exposed to heat, light and oxygen is because it’s mostly saturated fat (as well as monounsaturated & polyunsaturated). One of the best health benefits of coconut oil is the MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) it contains. If you’re into fitness, you may have heard of this fancy term. MCTs are absorbed faster than other types of fats and are more readily available to be used as energy as opposed to being stored, making coconut oil great for weight loss. Another benefit…you can use this stuff on everything & I mean EVERYTHING…from baby bum cream to lip chap, oil pulling, hair masks, natural personal lubricant, in replacement of WD40, coffee cream (blend it up for some bullet proof goodness) & so much more. It also contains antibacterial properties so it’s great to keep in your first aid kit!

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Avocado Oil: This fat is your best bet for an all-purpose oil. It’s great for searing, frying, roasting and baking. Avocado oil is made from pressing the pulp that surrounds the pit on an avocado. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, the addition of avocado oil to a meal can boost the absorption of carotenoids in food. Additionally, avocado oil contains high levels of MUFAs, making it heart healthy when consumed in moderation. For the healthiest and highest quality avocado oil, you’ll want to look for: organic, extra virgin, unrefined and cold-pressed. Unrefined avocado oil is more suitable for raw food and low-temperature cooking, whereas, refined avocado oil is more suitable for high-heat cooking (with a smoke point of 400F).

Canola Oil: Finding an organic canola oil (like this one) is important, with the majority of canola grown being GMO. No long-term studies have been conducted but there are reports that GMO canola oil has caused kidney, liver and neurological health issues. Canola oil originated from the rapeseed plant. In the 1970’s, canola was first bred from the rapeseed plant right here in Manitoba at the University of Manitoba. Nearly 30 years later, a disease- and drought-resistant canola was developed, using genetic modification; this is the canola that the majority of recent varieties are produced using.

1970: canola oil is first created

1995-1998: Monsanto creates a genetically modified canola oil

2005: 87% of canola grown in USA is GMO

2009: 90% of canola grown in Canada is genetically engineered

Butter: Would it surprise you if we told you that butter has health promoting benefits? Butter has been a staple in diets around the world for a long, long time. The quality of nutrients found in butter depends on its source, a bright yellow butter indicates that the butter is a product of a grass-fed cow, making the butter rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A). Butter is free from sugar, trans-fat and carbohydrates. Grass-fed butter contains 100 calories per ~1 tbsp portions and also contains vitamin E and vitamin K. The saturated fat found in grass-fed butter can help regulate blood sugar when consumed in moderation.

Ghee:  Ghee is made by removing the milk proteins, lactose and casein from butter, it’s rich in short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids and butyrate. This is a great option for those avoiding dairy.

P.S. ghee tastes like movie theatre popcorn and has a higher smoke point than butter! 

“Butyrate is a type of fatty acid that helps your gut work right, and it might be important for gut-related diseases from autoimmunity to obesity to colon cancer.” – paleoleap.com

Margarine: I’d like to start this by saying margarine is nothing like butter and is not a butter substitute. It was created, in a lab, to be a cheap substitute for butter. Most margarines are made using corn or soy oil (GMO crops). In recent years, olive oil has been added to the mix and marketed as “heart healthy”. It’s surprising how many people are still using margarine. The initial thought was that margarine is lower in saturated fat than butter, making it a heart-healthy option. We have now learned that’s not true. Originally, margarine was made up of trans fats, which have since been removed from most margarines. It’s important to note that most contain industrial, highly processed fats that would never be found in nature.

Sunflower Seed Oil: When it comes to Sunflower Seed Oil, you want to make sure it’s of high quality, like this one. Due to its high content of polyunsaturated fats, sunflower seed oil does not hold up well to high-heat cooking and is best used raw/cold. The heat and pressure used when extracting the oil from the seed destroys that antioxidants found in the whole seed and can alter the chemical nature of the fat, which is why you want to look for a sunflower seed oil that has been cold pressed, which allows the oil to be passed on in its pure, natural state with the enzymes, flavours and benefits all remaining intact.

Sesame OilThis oil can be characterized by its rich, nutty flavour. It’s a staple in asian cuisine and also possesses medicinal properties. Sesame oil is composed of 15% saturated fat, 42% omega-9, 43% omega-6 and loaded with b-complex vitamins. Sesame Oil has a fairly high smoke point, 400F, and its high omega-6 content can make your cells prone to oxidation. Consuming this oil in moderation is advised.

“In Ayurvedic therapy, sesame oil is renowned for its ability to strengthen and detoxify the body and ensure the proper functioning of all the vital organs. It’s also used in sacred and religious ceremonies. Today, sesame oil is a common component of skin and massage oils, hair care products, cosmetics, soaps, perfumes and sunscreens. Sesame oil has great moisturizing, soothing and emollient qualities.” – Dr. Mercola

Camelina Oil: This product of Manitoba is more than just a beautiful name. With its high smoke point, this oil is incredibly versatile, making it a great go-to oil. This virgin, cold-pressed, organic camelina oil is unrefined and unfiltered allowing the product to retain all of its natural nutrition. This oil contains omega 3, 6 and 9 acids and is high in antioxidants and vitamin E.

When shopping for oils, look for virgin, cold-pressed. Processed oils are made up mostly of fragile, polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids. As noted above, eating omega-6 in excess can throw your omega-6 or omega-3 balance out of whack. 

You can always trust My Farmers’ Market to carry trustworthy, quality oils. 

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