The Truth About Cooking Oils


There are a few different reasons why you will want to avoid certain fats and oils for cooking, mainly seed oils. 1. Saturated fats are more STABLE than unsaturated fats. Quite literally, the chemical structure of saturated fats will not be easily damaged by things that will easily damage unsaturated fats, namely heat, light and air. Ever wonder why your high-quality olive oils are sold in a dark green glass or other opaque container? It’s to keep light from damaging the oil. Ever wonder why coconut oil doesn’t go “off” or smell rancid from sitting out on the counter without a lid on it but a vegetable oil like corn or soybean oil will? Air oxidizes those oils and makes them rancid. That is, damaged beyond the point that they are already just from the point of bottling. What separates the saturated fats from the unsaturated fats is the presence of a hydrogen bond at every instance of a carbon in the chemical structure of the fat. When there is a double bond in the chain of carbons, it creates a more unstable structure, which you can see when a fat is liquid at room temperature: the group of unstable fats together form a liquid versus the group of stable fats together which form a solid or semi-solid. 2. Seed oils are extremely high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) at varying ratios, all of which are prone to oxidation, PUFAs most significantly. You wouldn’t cook with fish oil, would you? Why would you want to cook with other oils that are very high in PUFAs? Even beyond PUFAs, MUFAs are pretty easy to damage as well (olive oil is very high in MUFAs). Read this article for more on why canola and other seed oils all made by expeller and chemical extraction methods are already rancid once they’re bottled and this article on how they’re made. 3. BEWARE: Many refined seed oils are marketed as having a high smoke point, therefore making them “ideal” choices for cooking.  That’s not really the whole story. A higher smoke point is valid only if the fat or oil is fairly stable to begin with, and it may be useful in determining between two fats which is more ideal to use. That said, simply using the smoke point as a reason why you choose a cooking oil is an ineffective tool and will leave you with an already rancid oil on your hands (most likely, due to how it was initially processed – see video on how canola oil is made) and one that you’ll possibly damage further with the high heat of your oil


Diane at Balanced Bites created a handy list for reference that will help you when cooking.  The list is called “Fats/Oils:  Which to Eat & Which to Ditch” and you can download here. In addition, she has another list that shows cooking fats in general and she ranks them based on 1) how they’re made (how much processing goes into it), 2) the fatty acid composition and 3) the smoke point.  The Guide To Cooking Fats is printable and can be downloaded here. (PDF)chart It’s safe to assume, however, that most naturally occurring saturated fats are safe to cook with, while most unsaturated fats (called oils because they are liquid at ambient room temperature) are unsafe to cook with and are most ideal for cold uses if appropriate for consumption at all. Remember that man made trans-fats are never healthy to eat: Crisco, Earth Balance, Smart Balance, Benecol, Margarine, Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and the new one claiming to be a coconut product but it actually contains soybean oil… yikes! Source:  Balanced Bites