Health | Wellness | Yoga | Chicago

Olive, Canola and Coconut, Oh My!: A Guide To Cooking Oils

I have heard it millions of times, and I truly believe this statement: If you are going to change one thing about about your diet, change the kind of oils that you cook with. People are cooking with extremely inflammatory and unhealthy oils, and they don’t even realize the effect it is having on their bodies. In this post, I will highlight which oils are unhealthy, which oils are healthy, and how you should be using those healthy oils in the kitchen. Did you know that the oil you are cooking with should actually taste like what it is? Coconut Oil should indeed taste like coconuts, avocados and olive oil should actually have a strong taste!


Unhealthy Oils


Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils

The idea behind hydrogenated oils is that hydrogen is put into the ingredients in the oils which, in turn, turns the molecules into trans fats which can clog arteries and cause a plethora of health issues. I just want to clarify that I love FATS. I believe in a high fat diet, but these unhealthy trans fats can be dangerous to your health.

Common hydrogenated oils are: soybean oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Soybean oil and corn oil contain high levels are omega-6 which, unlike omega 3’s, lead to chronic inflammation. Canola oil once again, has a high level of omega-6’s and when it is introduced to heat, causes bad cholesterol and bad trans fats into the body. Canola oil is in so many things. Look at the back of all of your snacks, salad dressings, and mayo’s at home. A lot of them contain canola oil, unfortunately. Even that one “health store” that everyone goes to has hot bar items cooked in canola oil… not cool. “Health food restaurants” even cook in canola and vegetable oil because it’s cheap, has a long shelf life, and accessible. The easier option is usually not the best option, and I promise you that by simply switching the oils you cook with can tremendously improve your overall health.


Healthy Oils

Two of my favorite Avocado Oils: Primal Kitchen, and Fustini’s (a local oil shop in Michigan)

Olive Oil

A lot of people think that olive oil is the end-all-be-all best oil ever and should be used for everything, ever. Not true. I LOVE Olive oil, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t be used for everything. The first thing you need to be absolutely sure of when picking an olive oil, is that it’s high quality. Olive Oil fraud is extremely common in the US, and most olive oil brands mix their olive oil with other inflammatory oils and do not have to list it in the ingredients. A brand of olive oil that I personally trust is the Bragg Extra Virgin Olive Oil. My friend Christina, aka, addictedtolovely, raves about the Kassandrinos brand of olive oil, which I actually just places an order for and can’t wait to try. My favorite uses for olive oil is for salad dressings, and for drizzling over my food AFTER it is cooked. Olive oil should not be used for cooking; this includes roasting food, frying food, baking food, etc. Olive oil does not have a high smoke point. A “smoke point” means how hot an oil can get before it starts smoking, and damaging the nutrients in the oil. When olive oil is heated, there is a high risk of damaging it and will actually have negative effects on your health.


Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is not just a “fad” or a “trend.” Someone at work the other day was going around telling people that coconut oil “isn’t actually good for you” according to the American Heart Association and I literally made an announcement that it was bullshit. If you truly think that is the case then I really don’t even know what to tell you. My other friend, Kara Halderman, karaboutit,  co-host of a podcast called, Low Carb Conversations, has a great episode on why that article is bullshit. I will link it here:


Anyways, coconut oil rocks! It has a much higher smoke point than olive oil, so it is great for cooking with at medium temperatures. It is extremely good for your gut, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Covering your food in coconut oil is definitely a great idea, especially if you need more healthy fats in your diet, but it’s also great for skin and body care as well. I don’t wash my hair often, and sometimes the day or night before I am going to wash it, I put coconut oil all over my hair; it helps repair damage and leaves it very soft and moisturized. I also have a large bottle of the Now Coconut Oil that I put all over my body after I shower. I don’t like lotions, so it’s a perfect moisturizer for my skin. “Oil Pulling” is a very good practice for your oral health. It consists of swishing around coconut oil in the mouth for a short or longer period of time in order to improve oral health and whiten the teeth. Some people have even found that it helps with headaches and hormonal imbalances. Personally, I use coocnut oil for all of the beauty benefits but also for pan-frying foods like eggs, veggies and meats, and occasionally in baked goods and desserts. I don’t like to use coconut oil for roasting or searing foods because the smoke point is not that high, which brings me to my favorite oil.


Avocado Oil

I would have to say this is my favorite oil, simply because I use it most often. Avocado oil has a very high smoke point, so it is best to use when roasting foods at high temperatures or searing meat on the stove. It’s a great way to add more healthy fats into your diet. I use it to cook anything. I love it as a salad dressing, as a cooking base, in desserts, to coat pans. Literally anything. My favorite brand of avocado oil is the Primal Kitchen Foods Avocado Oil. It’s extremely high quality and tasted good on and in everything.


The Terminlogy

When buying oils, there are lots of different kinds like “unfiltered,” “cold-pressed,” “refined,” etc. Think of the best way to buy oils is to buy them in their purest form because that is when the most nutrients are preserved in the oil. One term you want to avoid is, “expeller pressed,” that means that the oil was processed at a very high temperature which degrades the quality of the oil. “Cold Pressed” means that the oil is extracted at lower tempuratures, which is better than “expeller pressed.” It is good to be aware that the ter, “cold-pressed” is not regulated in the US, but it if is truly processed at cooler temperatures, it will yield a higher quality oil.

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil from Trader Joe’s, Organic Virgin Coconut (Fair Trade) Coconut Oil from Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Unrefined Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil from Whole Foods Market. I would argue that the best option here is the Dr. Bronner’s.


Refined vs. Unrefined

You should never buy refined oils. They have no nutritional value. They are processed at very high temperatures and is extracted from dried coconut, not even fresh coconut. Unrefined oils are essentially the same thing as “virgin” oils. Marketing techniques will try to trick you by using “extra-virgin” versus “virgin” but they are extracted in the same exact way. I would say the best thing to look for on a bottle or jar of oil is, “unrefined” or “virgin” and “organic.” A great trick is to use your nose. Olive oils and avocado oils should have a fairly strong smell and taste, and coconut oil should have a sweet, coconut smell and taste.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *