Updated: Jan 27
Photo Credit: @hoskelsa
Oils are an integral part of cooking, but how do you know you are using one that isn't harming your health? And if you're not cooking at home, are you aware of the oils used at restaurants and the oils in packaged, processed foods? With so much conflicting information, I wanted to create this definitive guide to oils and provide a clear breakdown of which ones to use and which ones to avoid for optimal health.
While some oils can be healthy and have nutrients such as Omega's, aka Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's), Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and polyphenols. Other oils, such as sunflower oil, have a higher Omega 6 ratio, which can cause inflammation if they are not balanced with enough Omega 3-s. So, it's all a balancing act! However, Dr. Mark Hyman also says, "Omega 6 fats not only fuel your body’s inflammatory pathways, but also reduce availability of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats in your tissues, resulting in more inflammation". In other words, omega 6 fats undo any benefit eating omega 3s would normally give you. They also reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats (called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) into the active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA by about 40 percent. Imbalanced EFA's and high omega-6 consumption leads to so many inflammatory diseases. It can cause irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer, depression & mental illness due to brain inflammation, hair loss, dry skin, and other skin issues such as acne and eczema.
Canola oil, a highly inflammatory oil, is overwhelmingly used in restaurants and processed food products because it's inexpensive, so it's a widely consumed oil, causing so many health issues today. To put it simply, consuming canola oil is like eating poison. It's a genetically modified industrial oil that might last on the grocery shelf, but it's not meant to be in our bodies. It's particularly damaging to the digestive system, potentially scarring the lining of your small and large intestines, and is a major cause of irritable bowel syndrome. Canola oil also feeds viral infections such as Epstein Barr, bacteria, and mold. In Medical Medium's book, 'Liver Rescue' he mentions that canola oil contains undiscovered compounds that are harsh to the liver, causing liver cell weakness. He also says it takes 6 months to rid your body of it. It's best to avoid canola oil at all costs. When I wanted to clear my acne and learned how damaging canola oil was, I cut canola out 100% by cooking at home, and my skin finally cleared.
PRO TIP: When you're at a restaurant, ask the waiter what kind of oil the meal you are ordering is cooked in. If they use vegetable oil, let them know you are sensitive to vegetable oils and canola oil. If they say they use Olive Oil, ask them to clarify if it's 100% extra virgin olive oil or a 'blend.' Often, the less expensive oils are mixed into olive oil to reduce the cost.
OILS TO BUY & COOK WITH:
EXTRA VIRGIN ORGANIC OLIVE OIL (avoid "light" olive oil or "blends")
ORGANIC COCONUT OIL
ORGANIC & UNREFINED SESAME OIL (in moderation because it is still high in Omega-6 but also provides other valuable nutrients)
KEY WORDS TO LOOK FOR:
· COLD PRESSED OR EXPELLER PRESSED (this means heat wasn’t used to extract the oil)
. VIRGIN (uses minimal heat)
. SINGLE SOURCED
OILS TO AVOID COMPLETELY:
PRO TIP: Always read the labels on your packaged food products. Even the brands that seem healthy sneak them in there. For example, alternative nut milks or Simple Mills grain-free crackers & cookies.
Now, what if you are using healthy oils like Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Olive Oil is great because it contains polyphenols and antioxidants (these are anti-inflammatory). But, it's still important to be mindful of how much you are using because oils have a high-fat content. When I read the book 'Cleanse to Heal' by Anthony William, my awareness grew around the amount of [good] fat I consumed daily, primarily through oils. High-fat foods, regardless of where they come from, are hard on the liver and other organs. If you want to take care of your health, you have to take care of your liver, and the last thing it needs is too much fat. Our bodies' functions are complex, and for a complete understanding regarding the truth about high-fat diets and our livers, I highly recommend the books by Anthony William, aka Medical Medium.
HOW TO STORE OIL:
Buy oils that are in a dark or opaque glass bottle to protect from light damage. They should also be stored in a cool, dark place, away from light, to not oxidize or go rancid. Also, keep the lid on tight. Most oils go rancid within a few months, and oxidation leads to inflammation! It's best to replace your olive oil every 6 months.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH SMOKE POINTS?
It turns out, the smoke point of oil actually has nothing to do with when the oil starts to oxidize. In fact, a lot of the Omega-6 seed oils have a high smoke point, but they oxidize very quickly, which is why Dr. James Dinicolantonio recommends Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil for cooking and Dr. Mark Hyman recommends coconut oil, avocado oil, or grass-fed ghee.
For Further Guidance and more detail, you can check out these great resources below which were used as references in this post:
YOU'RE BUYING FAKE AVOCADO OIL by Bobby Parrish
HOW TO COOK WITH FATS by Dr. Mark Hyman
WHY OIL IS BAD FOR YOU by Dr. Mark Hyman
WHAT OIL IS BEST TO COOK WITH? by Dr. Joseph Mercola
WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID VEGETABLE OILS featuring Dr. Mark Hyman
THE LITTLE KNOWN USES OF SESAME OIL by Dr. Joseph Mercola