Safer Fats for Cooking
So, which fats and oils should you choose for cooking? Below is a color-coded guide to help you determine which fats and oils are safest to include in your favorites recipes.
Green = Safest for cooking;
Yellow = Safer for Cooking;
Red = UNSAFE for Cooking
SAFEST FOR COOKING
(frying, baking, broiling, grilling and roasting)
- Beef and Lamb Tallow
- Chicken, Duck, and Goose Fat
- Coconut Oil – organic and virgin
- Red Palm Oil – organic and virgin Palm kernel oil is also acceptable)
Tropical vegetable fats in this category should be organic and unrefined in nature. The animal fats should be from organically raised, grass-fed pastured animals.
Lard: Lard is pork fat. It's safe for cooking and frying due to it's nearly equal fatty acid profile of 40% saturated and 48% monounsaturated fats. Lard has only 12% PUFA’s (poly-unsaturated fatty acid) and will vary depending on the animal’s diet. Lard is a healthy source of vitamin D.
Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter): Ghee is a stable, saturated butterfat with the milk solids (casein proteins) removed. It is safe for cooking and light frying. If you are intolerant to butter, try ghee. Ghee is prepared by melting and simmering unsalted butter at a medium temperature until the water content of the butter has evaporated off. This allows the casein to separate and sink away from the butter fat. Next, the butter fat is carefully removed leaving the milk proteins behind. The butter fat is then allowed to cool and solidify to be packaged as ghee. Be sure the ghee you purchase is made from organic, grass-fed butter.
Beef and Lamb Tallow: Very safe for cooking and frying. Tallow fats are 50-55% saturated, 40% monounsaturated and only 3% or less polyunsaturated. Purchase from http://www.grasslandbeef.com (US Wellness Meats). McDonald’s first fried their French fries in 93% beef tallow (along with 7% cottonseed oil) before changing over to vegetable oils with added chemical flavor enhancers in 1990.
Chicken, Duck and Goose Fat: These bird fats are quite stable. They are highly regarded as healthful fats in Europe and beyond. Duck and goose fats are somewhat superior to chicken fat due to their higher saturated fatty acid content and are safer for sautéing and frying at higher temperatures. Chicken fat has a higher MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) profile and a lower saturated fatty acid profile, so chicken fat is best used for low to medium heat cooking (quick stir-frying, light sautéing and slow, low simmering).
Coconut Oil: This healthful tropical oil is almost fully saturated (92%). It has powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties and contains a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid, which is found in abundant quantities in breast milk. I like to combine coconut oil with ghee or lard when I don’t want to taste coconut in my recipes. Coconut oil is safe for cooking and frying at higher temperatures. My favorite brand of coconut oil is Nutiva. I often use it in place of butter on toast and toasted mochi.
Red Palm Oil: This deep orange-red tropical oil has a pungent, paprika-like flavor that is, in my opinion, best suited for roasting root vegetables. Try roasting red and white potatoes, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, fresh garlic and herbs in red palm oil. Butternut squash and parsnips are also delicious when roasted in red palm oil. It is a nice change from the usual oils used for cooking and brings color to your plate.
SAFER FOR COOKING (FOR QUICK STIR-FRYING, LIGHT SAUTÉING AND SLOW/LOW SIMMERING)
- Olive Oil (Unfiltered is best; should be golden yellow/green in color and cloudy.)
- Peanut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Sesame Oil
These oils should ALWAYS be extracted via expeller-pressing! Read the label first!
The Olive Oil (oleic acid) Myth: Olive oil contains 75% MUFA’s. It is relatively stable for cooking. There has been a rumor moving its way through the holistic community for the past several years stating that trans fats are formed when olive oil is exposed to higher temperatures. Fat expert Mary Enig does a beautiful job of explaining that this rumor is not only untrue, but completely lacking in supportive scientific evidence. Lightly cooking with olive oil over a medium heat (less then 400 degrees) is considered safe.
Can olive oil and its MUFA molecules be damaged at high heats resulting in free radical production? Yes, but these unstable molecules are different from trans fats, so please do not confuse the two. Again, to form a true trans fat, the fat must be exposed to extreme pressure and temperatures, metal catalysts, chemical solvents, etc, in a closed container to actually alter the chemical structure of a fatty acid molecule from its natural “cis” formation to a “trans” formation.
Peanut Oil: Peanut oil is relatively stable due to its MUFA content. Use it occasionally for a quick stir-fry, but the key word here is “occasional”. Peanut oil also has a significant PUFA content, so limited use is recommended.
Avocado Oil: A relatively new edible oil to the market since 1999, avocado oil has been previously used for many years as a moisturizing agent in cosmetic and hygiene products. Avocado oil is not extracted from the pit, rather it is extracted from the fatty pulp, which is high in MUFA’s. It is similar to olive oil, so the same cooking rules apply.
Macadamia Nut Oil: Macadamia nut oil contains nearly 80% MUFA’s. It is very close to the fatty acid profile of olive oil, so the same cooking rules apply. Mac oil has a distinctive, nutty flavor and is delicious in salad dressings. Look for expeller-pressed, organic UNBLENDED versions of this oil. Stores in the refrigerator for up to one year.
Sesame Oil: Like peanut oil, sesame oil is relatively stable. Sesame oil falls right between a MUFA and a PUFA (42% MUFA, 43% PUFA), but it has high levels of antioxidants for protection against oxidation, so sesame oil may be used for low-heat stir-frying or a quick sauté on a very limited basis. Combining sesame oil with olive oil and/or other stable saturated animal fats will help protect sesame oil when cooking.
UNSAFE FOR ANY KIND OF HEAT EXPOSURE! DO NOT USE FOR COOKING!
- Vegetable/Soybean Oil
- Corn Oil
- Flax Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Pine nut Oil
- Pumpkin Oil (safely roasted or raw versions)
- Safflower Oil (80% omega-6!)
- Sunflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
These PUFA oils are comprised of nearly half omega-6 fatty acids and should NEVER be used for cooking! If you do wish to consume these oils, do so in moderation, buy them from healthy sources and be sure that they are never refined or processed; although finding truly unprocessed versions of these oils is a difficult task! Corn and soybean oils are best avoided due to their genetically modified status and heavy pesticide levels.
Use omega-3 rich oils, like flax (and even smaller amounts of omega-6 oils) sparingly in salad dressings (add flax in small amounts to a base of olive oil); in small servings in a condiment such as homemade mayonnaise; stir them in small amounts into freshly prepared smoothies, lightly drizzle them over cold soups, dips, and hors d’oeuvres, or consume them right off the spoon in very limited quantities as a dietary supplement.
Grapeseed oil: There are many conflicting opinions about the safety of cooking with grapeseed oil. Like sesame oil, it has a higher smoke point due to its antioxidant content. Regardless, grapeseed oil is very high in PUFA’s and should not be used for cooking.
A note about liquid Evening Primrose, Borage, and Black Currant Oils: These omega-6 fatty acids, whether liquid or contained is a soft-gel supplement, are widely available in health markets. They are nutritionally supportive to the endocrine system and are mass marketed to women especially to help balance hormones. PLEASE DO NOT COOK WITH LIQUID BORAGE, EVENING PRIMROSE, OR BLACK CURRANT SEED OILS! They are highly reactive and should never be heated. If you do wish to supplement with these oils, consume them in very small amounts as you would any other omega-6 PUFA.
The following oils are UNSAFE to consume under any circumstances!
CON-ola (Canola Oil): Even though Canola is classified as a monounsaturated fat, it is also naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids. Extracted from the hybridized rapeseed, which is a genetically modified crop, canola is a HIGHLY PROCESSED oil! The omega-3 fatty acids in canola are delicate and turn rancid quickly during processing. Therefore, given the fact that canola oil must move through damaging extraction processes to be harvested and deodorized, it is safe to say that canola oil is unfit for consuming, much less cooking! It is an oil of industry and DOES NOT belong in the human digestive tract! Canola is the current oil of choice for prepared foods at Whole Foods Markets across the country.
Cottonseed Oil: Cotton is one of the most genetically modified, pesticide-laden crops in America. Besides the danger of ingesting these pesticides, when did cotton and its seed become a food? Is there anyone out there eating cotton for breakfast? I certainly hope not! Mentioned earlier in this article, the extraction and hydrogenation processes quarantine pesticides in the oil, therefore the high pesticide levels found in cotton are reason enough to recommend it as inedible! Cottonseed oil is hydrogenated most of the time and is one of the main ingredients in Crisco shortening along with hydrogenated soybean oil. Avoid cottonseed oil at all costs!
Don’t forget about the health benefits of good, old-fashioned REAL BUTTER!
Butter is a dirty word among today’s general population, but the TRUTH is our ancestors prized butter for its life-giving nutrients! Raw, unprocessed butter fat from grass-fed cows has a comprehensive fatty acid profile that protects it consumer from developing *imbalances such as hardening of the arteries, calcification of organs, glands and joints (arthritis), and cataracts. Most of us receive enough calcium from our regular diets, yet our bodies lose the ability to properly utilize this calcium intake. As a result, we appear to have a calcium deficiency in an actual state of calcium excess due to a lack of the necessary cofactors (healthy fats and fat soluble vitamins) found in foods like raw butter, to aid our bodies in using calcium and other minerals in an effective manner. The excess calcium must be stored somewhere, so the innate intelligence of the body begins to store it in unusual places (arteries, kidneys, gallbladder, eyes, joints, etc.), resulting in the aforementioned imbalances*.
Quality raw butter contains: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in small amounts in a healthful ratio; CLA or Conjugated Linoleic fatty aids for better weight management, muscle growth, and protection from cancer; Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K to help us absorb and properly assimilate naturally occurring trace minerals (zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, manganese, etc,) found in raw butter; Butyric fatty acids for protection against fungal infections and tumor growth; and Arachidonic fatty acids for proper inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to heal effectively. Butterfat enhances brain function and increases cell membrane integrity. With all these health benefits, raw organic butter should be a central dietary fat consumed each and every day.
A word to the wise about fats!
Choose your fats wisely and with GREAT CARE to ensure they have been minimally and safely processed, or better yet, not processed at all; and remember… healthy fats are not the enemy and healthy fats do not make you fat! Consume a wide variety of fats from whole oils to whole foods containing healthy fats and carefully monitor and limit your consumption of PUFA’s. If you want to learn more about fats and the important role they play in balanced health, visit www.westonaprice.org and navigate to the “Know Your Fats” link in the menu on the left and read two eye-opening articles titled, “The Skinny on Fat” and “The Oiling of America”. These articles are a must-read for anyone wishing to regain their health and vitality. Much of the information stated in this article is from the brave and wonderful work of Dr. Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon, coauthors of the aforementioned articles.
About the Author:
Caroline Barringer, NTP, CHFS, FES is a Lead Instructor for the Nutritional Therapy Association and conducts Certified Healing Food Specialist workshops nationwide. She can be contacted at 877-773-9229 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.immunitrition.com.
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
Know Your Fats, by Mary G. Enig, PhD
www.westonaprice.org – Articles: “The Skinny on Fat” and “Fats and Oils FAQ’s”, “The Great Con-ola”, by Mary G. Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon
Nutritional Therapy Association, Inc., “Fatty Acids Module – NTT Curriculum
“The Big Fat Lie”, by Colleen Dunseth, NTP, NTA Instructor
Safety Data for Hexane: www.http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk/HE/hexane.html
National Academy of Sciences – Article: “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids”
Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
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