So What’s the Deal with Oils?

By Global Master Chef Karl Guggenmos

Image result for oils for cooking

Photo credit: Alternative Daily

 

Among all the cooking ingredients, oils and fats have been subject to more scrutiny, misinformation and controversy than any other food.

It’s confusing for chefs and the home cook alike. We are bombarded with contradictory information almost every year and most of the information is based on anecdotal stories, rather than evidence-based science.

On one day butter is bad and the next day, it’s good for you. Today all saturated fats are bad for you and tomorrow they are only bad if you eat them in excess. And so on and so on it goes.

There are a two facts to remember:

  1. Fats/Oils are essential foods for our body. They provide triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids that store energy, insulate, protect our vital organs and help proteins do their job.
  2. The biggest problem with regard to health effects is overconsumption and unhealthy processing techniques.

Here are a few healthy oils/fats in no particular order:

  • Butter – hard to believe – but pure butter is okay in moderation. It contains vitamins A, E, K-2 and is rich in CLA acids.  Use it sparingly for sautéing,baking and spreading on fresh bread.
  • Canola Oil – yes, the notorious Canola oil. It’s made from Rap Seed and the bad reputation stems from the processing procedure where the very toxic Hexane is used. However, the more modern version eliminates this process and seems to work well. It has a high smoke point (400 degrees F) and should primarily be used for frying.
  • Olive Oil – there are many variations of this very healthy oil, but as a whole, it contains heart healthy monounsaturated fats and is best used for sautéing, drizzling, grilling and salad dressings. (Note: pure olive oil can be used for frying but not so much for other functions.)
  • Coconut Oil –  this oil also has its controversy, mainly because it has a higher level of saturated fat. That said, it raises both the good and bad cholesterol. However, it is rich in Lauric Fatty Acids that improve cholesterol and helps to kill bacteria.  Use it for baking.
  • Avocado Oil –  This newer oil is full of heart healthy monounsaturated fat, loved by the clean food folks and has a high smoke point, so it’s good for frying and in baking.
  • Safflower oil – This is one of the better oils to use. It has a very high smoke point (510 degrees F), is high in omega-9 fatty acids and is neutral in flavor. It is best used for frying and sautéing.
  • Sesame and Peanut Oils – I don’t recommend these for general cooking purposes. They are not really all that great because of their very distinctive and overpowering flavors which are high in polyunsaturated fats. You can consider their use for selective frying and sautéing, if their flavors are desired.
  • Flaxseed Oil – This is a very healthy oil. It is high in omega-fatty acids. The drawback is it is difficult to cook with it because it is very sensitive to heat and oxidizes very quickly. Use for drizzling or dressings.

These are my recommendations.  Enjoy!