The Best Oils/Fats for Cooking & The Ones You Need to Toss

Today we’re talking about oils – which oils/fats are safe for cooking and which ones you want to avoid using (when cooking or otherwise). Not all oils are created equally, especially when it comes to what is safe for your body. As with so many other things we consume, over time, the oils you use for cooking and baking have a significant impact on health. They can provide healthy fats and nutrients the body needs to boost health and function optimally, or ingredients that can do a lot of damage. 

I was at my dad’s the other day and I happened to see a bottle of nasty, yellow oil in his cupboard. As I do with many of the items my dad has in his cupboards, I asked what that was doing in there. He gave me a sheepish grin and stammered a little bit, while I rolled my eyes and let out a little huff (I try to cut him some slack…he’s getting better). We’ve had at least a few chats about healthy oils/fats he should have in his kitchen and which ones he needs to toss – I thought that yellow one was long gone. So we had another chat…lol!

What oils/fats should we avoid?

As I told my dad, toss the yellow stuff! The oils/fats you need to avoid include:

  • vegetable oil
  • canola oil
  • corn oil
  • soybean oil

For me, this would be pretty much every oil we used in our house growing up…and even for several years after we were married! It’s a tough thing for some people to get their minds wrapped around because we’ve been told for so long these are the best oils to use and that they’re a healthy option. But they’re not a healthy option…period.

These oils are polyunsaturated fats and are considered to be highly unstable. This has to do with their chemical composition, but in simple terms for the non-science person, being unstable makes them extremely susceptible to damage from heat, air, and light. This damage causes oxidation and when consumed, oxidation generates free radicals in the body. This is BAD. Free radicals are damaging to cells and lead to organ/gland damage, inflammation, and eventually disease. There are enough free radicals in the body that are generated by normal functions, so you don’t want to be adding any more. The polyunsaturated oils we find in the grocery stores are made from genetically modified materials and chemically processed at very high temperatures, so they’re damaged before they’re even packaged. Packaged in clear plastic containers (exposing them to light), they’re shipped and stored on grocery shelves and then left to sit on your pantry shelf, still exposed to light and during the summer months, heat, as well. All this before you even cook with them! 

What oils/fats are safe?

The oils you want to be using, whether cooking or not, are stable oils/fats. As you’d expect, this is the opposite of unstable which means they are much less susceptible to damage from heat, air, and light. The most stable oils are saturated fats and the ones we use regularly are:

  • coconut oil
  • ghee
  • grass-fed butter

We’ve been using coconut oil for a few years now, as is the case with many folks, given its increase in popularity over the past several years. Besides being safe for cooking, coconut oil supports the body with properties such as anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, hormone balance and digestion support. It also contains MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) – unlike other fats, MCTs do not need pancreatic enzymes to be digested by the body and are available for immediate energy. These fats are excellent for brain health, metabolism, boosting physical performance, and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. The one downside of coconut oil in my house is that most of my peeps are picky about the coconut taste – which would be what prompted us to try ghee. 

Ghee (clarified butter) is an option for anyone looking for a more buttery taste, but is sensitive to, or avoiding dairy, as the milk solids (casein and lactose) have been removed. I like the buttery flavor and use it when I’m cooking things like eggs, salmon, veggies, or even Alfredo sauce. Besides its great taste, ghee is loaded with fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 and also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, is anti-inflammatory in the body, and provides support to the gut lining. Grass-fed butter is another option in this category. 

As far as butter goes, we all know how yummy things are cooked in a little butter. We don’t use a lot of butter in our house because we don’t do dairy, but I do sometimes drop a little chunk in my coffee (with some MCT oil)…I highly recommend trying that one! And buy grass-fed butter to get the healthy nutrients like Vitamin A, K2, and antioxidants (and avoid the unhealthy things found in the harmful oils I’ve listed above).  

Monounsaturated oils/fats are another group of oils that can be used safely for cooking. Just be mindful that they’re slightly less stable than saturated fats, so should be used at a lower temperatures. These oils are also excellent for salad dressings and the two we use most often in our house are:

  • olive oil
  • avocado oil

We use olive and avocado oil interchangeably, depending on what I’m making and what a recipe calls for. I make my own salad dressings and usually use olive oil for those. Both oils are healthy fat options for the body. Olive oil provides Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins A and E (great for immune and skin health), has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant – to counter the effects of free radical damage! Avocado oil boosts collagen production, is a good source of Vitamin E, is anti-inflammatory and boosts nutrient absorption in the body. You can’t really go wrong with either one, so it becomes just a taste preference. 

Whenever buying liquid oils, be sure to only buy those in dark, glass bottles. I also always buy unrefined, organic oils/fats – refined oils are more processed, often with chemicals and have less nutritional value. Another thing to note is that although we tend to think buying in bulk is better, that’s not necessarily the case with liquid oils. Once they’re opened, they’re exposed to air and even though the more stable oils aren’t damaged as easily as unstable by air exposure, they still start to degrade once opened. If you buy smaller bottles, you’ll get through the bottles before oxygen exposure becomes an issue.

So go have a look through your pantry and see what’s in there for oils…toss the bad and replace with the good! And when you’re done, do your parents a favor and have a look in their pantry, too!