There is a lot of debate regarding which fats are healthy to cook with. Awhile back, I watched a video of the harsh processing and toxic chemicals, like bleach and hexane, that are used to make canola oil, something I used to cook with all the time. It made me realize I knew nothing about what makes oils & fats healthy to cook with, and what makes them unhealthy. After reading the research, it appears that saturated fats are the healthiest to cook with!
I was brought up in a world where saturated fats caused heart disease…how could this be? It appears that saturated fats remain stable when exposed to high heat. Let me explain…
There are 3 types of fatty acids; saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. All oils and fats contain a combination of the 3 fatty acids, so how do you choose which oils and fats are best? When cooking, you want to choose oil that is mostly saturated fat so that it doesn’t oxidize while being heated.
Saturated fats are the most stable under heat, monounsaturated fats are fairly stable, and polyunsaturated fats are not stable at all. When saturated fats are heated up, they don’t oxidize like unsaturated fats do. Oxidation is when oils react with oxygen and create free radicals, which are very harmful to the human body
Coconut oil is the safest oil to cook with because it contains approximately 90% saturated fat! Among many other health benefits, coconut oil is safe to cook with and won’t oxidize when exposed to heat.
Butter comes in second place with 68% saturated fat…but be careful! You must choose GRASS-FED or PASTURE-RAISED butter in order to receive the health benefits. When animals eat toxins, they get stored in their fat, which is what butter is made from. So you need to choose butter from an animal that grazed on pastures their entire life in order for their fats to be healthy.
Fat reserved from animals like lard, tallow, and bacon fat contain mostly saturated fats as well, BUT only if they were pastured! If they were fed grains, corn, and soy, then there fats will be mostly polyunsaturated fats so steer clear.
Red Palm Oil is also made up of mostly saturated fats but be sure to buy brands that do not harm the orangutans!
Olive oil and avocado oil are mostly monounsaturated fats which makes them stable to cook with at VERY low temperatures. Heating them past 200 degrees causes oxidation. I would much rather play it safe and cook with saturated fats. But they are very healthy to eat raw in salad dressings.
Nut Oils & Peanut Oil tend to be mostly polyunsaturated fats and are not safe to cook with. The one exception is macadamia nut oil which is high in monounsaturated fats (like olive oil), but I still wouldn’t cook with it.
Industrialized seed and vegetable oils are highly processed and should be considered poison to the human body. I would not eat these oils raw, and I especially wouldn’t dare expose them to heat! I avoid these oils like the plague because they contain trans fats (partially hydrogenated), which are highly toxic to humans. Look at the ingredient labels of your packaged foods…you will be horrified at how many of the following seed and vegetable oils are in there:
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Rice bran oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil.
So there you have it! Coconut oil, grass-fed butter, red palm oil, and pastured animal fats are the healthiest fats to cook with because they are high in saturated fats, making them stable under heat.