Updated: Jun 25
Some oils can be heated, others can not. Some fats and oils promote heart disease, others protect against it. Some can contribute to Alzheimer's disease, others promote healthy brain functioning to prevent it. Certain fats and oils contribute to weight gain, others contribute to weight loss. Some people carry genetic factors that determine a strong need for avoiding certain types of fat, and other carry factors showing that they strongly need certain fats and oils in their life, but what are these genetics and how can you know if you carry these genes? Certain labs can show if your body has the proper levels of healthy or bad fats, but which ones are these? The list goes on and on about how fats and oils play a huge role our individual health. It is crucial that we each know what
Knowing the sources of cooking fats and oils is as important as knowing how they are made, and how they are going to effect your health.
Differences Between Fats and Oils
Before we get started, let's first explain the different types of oils on a basic molecular level. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, lard, bacon, and fatty meats. These are disease promoting, and contribute to a vast number of health issues.
There are a few vegetable products that are also sources of healthy saturated fats such as in coconut oil, palm and palm kernal oil. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and mostly come from vegetable with a few exceptions. There are several different types of unsaturated fats named for the differences in their molecular structuring, and each have variable health benefits depending on the sources.
> Monounsaturated fats come from seeds or nuts, such as avocado, olive, almond, hazelnut, hemp, macadamia, walnut, peanut and canola oils. While most monounsaturated oils are healthy when utilized in the correct ways, peanut and canola oils should be avoided. Avocado and olive oil in the right amounts may help reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol.
> Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetables, seeds or nuts such as safflower, sunflower, hemp seed, flax seed, grape seed, cottonseed and sesame seed oils. Used in place of saturated fats, these can help to lower cholesterol.
> Omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed, chia, walnuts, algal, perilla soybean and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and trout) can help to lower triglycerides.
> Omega-6 fatty acids are walnuts, safflower, soybean, hemp seed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and avocado oil. It is important to have the proper ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids for proper brain and heart health.
> Omega-9 fatty acids sources are olive, macadamia oil, rapeseed, wallflower seed, and mustard seed. Omega 9 fatty acids can be high in antioxidant properties, if they are minimally processed and closer to their natural forms.
Trans fats are made when vegetables are processed or hydrogenated into shortening and margarine. Sources of trans fats include processed snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods made with "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "vegetable shortening" and should be avoided at all costs. Trans fats are very unhealthy for you will raise the bad forms of cholesterol. They also have very negative impacts on heart and brain health.
What oils are the best for cooking?
Some fats and oils can be used when cooking over high temperatures, while some are better suited for use over low or no heat. Below is listed the preferred cooking oils, their smoke points, and their best used.
The smoke point of a fat or oil is the temperature at which the oil will burn and become damaged. Smoke points for a fat or oil can vary depending on the quality and variety of the source ingredients, and on how process the fat or oil is - refined vs. unrefined, hot vs. cold-pressed, extra-virgin vs. virgin, etc.
Download this free pdf file for an easy to reference guide to cooking with fats and oils:
Avocado oil has a high smoke point of 520 degrees and is great for any type of cooking, from low to high, as well as great for dressings and finishing dishes.
Coconut oil is my next favorite for cooking up to 350 degrees if unrefined, or 450 degrees if refined. As it is a saturated fat, it helps to get a crispier texture in foods when sauteing or baking.
Flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point of 225 degrees so it should not be used as a cooking oil. It has many health benefits for hormone health, and also promotes healthy skin, nails and hair.
Hemp seed oil is a very healthy Omega-6
Macadamia nut oil should be used for low to medium-heat cooking up to 410 degrees.
Olive oil can be used for low to medium-heat cooking up to 320 degrees if unrefined or 465 degrees if refined. It will lose its flavor and health properties if heated at too high a temperature.
Sesame oil can be heated up to 450 degrees, but has more antioxidant health benefits if used as a dressing or finish on a dish without heating. Toasted sesame oil contributes a delicious flavor to dishes as well.
Sunflower oil can be heated up to 450 degrees.
Walnut oil can be heated up to 400 degrees, but has more omega-6 health benefits if used as a dressing or finish on a dish without heating.
The bottom line is: Every cellular membrane is made up of phospholipids, a fatty material that gives the cell flexibility and capability of proper functioning. We want to put the healthy types of fats and oils into our body to ensure that all cellular processes are constantly functioning optimally.