How to get the most benefit from your cooking oils

When you’re cooking with oils, you don’t have to choose between taste and health. But remember that less quantity is more quality. To use the least amount of fat and get the most taste and health benefits, Ostro Organics recommends the following.

FIVE, SIMPLE RULES

To make things a little easier, you can remember these five tips:

  1. Choose your cooking oil or fat based on its degree of saturation.
  2. Avoid the word “light” or “refined” – go for unprocessed, fresh, first-press, extra virgin instead.
  3. If your oil starts to smoke, throw it out and start again.
  4. When in doubt, cook low and slow.
  5. Consider your whole diet instead of just cutting out oils and fats

Use Oils with Health in Mind

TYPES OF FATS

There are three types of fat: saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The first thing you need to know is the degree of saturation. This is because the more saturated a fat, the less vulnerable it is to heat damage.

SATURATED MEANS STABLE

Fats are made up of chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms. A saturated fatty acid has a hydrogen atom attached to every carbon atom. It is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms.

You can think of a saturated fat like a chain-link fence, where all the holes are plugged with hydrogen.

This saturation creates a strong, stable barrier against light and heat. However, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are missing either a pair (mono) or pairs (poly) of hydrogen atoms in their carbon chains. These fats are like fences with holes, or gaps, in them. The gaps create weak spots where the fat can become damaged if exposed to high degrees of light and heat.

MIND THE GAP

You want to try and avoid eating damaged fats or oils whenever possible, as research shows that once inside your body, damaged fats can spark “free radical cascades,” otherwise known as oxidative damage, which has been linked to numerous health conditions.

Since certain fats – those with gaps in their carbon chains – can become damaged when exposed to heat, it’s best to choose your cooking fat or oil based on the level of heat required. At Ostro Organics we strongly recommend choosing cooking techniques that require low heat, that way your oils and fats will not be damaged and you’ll benefit from all the nutrients in your food. We’ll get to that a bit more in depth further down the page.

Freshness of Your Oils and Fats Matters

Make sure your oil is fresh

When you buy many oil varieties and store them for long periods, they eventually oxidize and develop free radicals. No matter if the oils are highly refined or vacuum sealed. Instead, buy just a few kinds of oil in small amounts. Store them in a cool, dark and dry place and be sure to replace any that smell bitter or “off.”  Keep in mind , the best-by date on oils and fats applies whether the oil is opened or closed – that also goes the other way around – just because you bought an oil yesterday, it doesn’t mean the oil is fresh, it’s just freshly bought. You should be able to find out when the oil was actually pressed, and what processing steps were undertaken to guarantee the freshness and nutritional integrity of the oil. When in doubt, contact the oil-mill before purchasing the oil. They will be able to help you.

Raw Sesame and walnut oils are no exception: Store them in the refrigerator so they don’t become rancid. The cloudiness in refrigerated oils will clear once they return to room temperature.

Coconut oil does not need to be refrigerated, however we do recommend storing it out of direct sunlight at all times.

Choosing Your Cooking Technique

Sauté instead of fry

Pan-frying uses a substantial amount of oil and higher heat for longer periods. Deep fat frying also uses a lot of oil at high heats but can be done for shorter periods. But frying foods in oil — or any kind of fat — promotes free radicals.

Sautéing cooks small pieces of food in small amounts of fat for less time. Plan meals with foods that don’t need frying. When you bake, grill or quickly sauté your food, you reduce the amount of fat you consume. And remember: all oils that are safe to use at very high heat should be consumed in the least amount possible. Oils suitable for deep-frying are highly processed and refined and are best not consumed on a regular basis!

Consider your whole diet instead of just cutting out oils and fats

Restrictive diets that cut fat often add sugar to compensate for the loss in taste — which isn’t exactly a healthy alternative. Think about everything you eat and aim for a nutritionally balanced mix that includes moderate amounts of healthy oil and fats. These oils ought to be consumed with your health in mind – so aim at the highest possible cold-pressed quality that you can find.

COOKING AT HIGH HEAT

Methods: High-heat cooking includes pan frying, sautéing, grilling, and pan-roasting. Anything above 375°F is considered high-heat cooking.

Best type of fat: Saturated
Saturated fat is no longer the nutritional public enemy it once was. Recent research has revealed that, when eaten in moderation, saturated fat can have a place in a healthy diet. Additionally, saturated fats have been shown to suffer the least amount of oxidative damage when exposed to high heat.

Butter / Ghee
Butter is composed of butterfat, milk solids, and water. Ghee is clarified butter, or, butter with the milk solids and water removed. Both butter and ghee contain short and medium-chain fatty acids. Butter is also a good source of iodine and selenium.

Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains even more medium-chain fatty acids than butter. The most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, which breaks down to a compound called monolaurin. Some research shows that monolaurin has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

LOW-MEDIUM HEAT

Methods: Medium-heat cooking includes simmering and reductions, and ranges from 325°F to 374°F. Medium-low heat ranges from 250°F to 324°F.

Best fat: Saturated or monounsaturated fats (MUFA)
Monounsaturated fats have one gap in their carbon chain, so they can withstand some level of heat – just not too much. 

Sunflower Oil
A favorite of chefs, cold-pressed sunflower oil is an excellent source of vitamin E.

Peanut oil
While peanut oil is popular for frying, it breaks down to about 46% monounsaturated fatty acids, 32% polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 17% saturated fats. Due to this relatively high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids – which are easily damaged by heat – it’s best to keep the temperature at a moderate level when cooking with peanut oil.

Macadamia nut oil
As delicious as the nuts themselves, macadamia nut oil is buttery, rich, and makes a mind-blowing homemade mayonnaise. The only drawback can be the hefty price tag, so save this one for extra special eating occasions.

NO HEAT

Methods: These oils are best consumed cold, drizzled on top of salads or used as a finishing flavor on cooked dishes.

Best fat: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have multiple gaps in their carbon chains, making them easily susceptible to damage from light and heat. When shopping for these oils, choose brands in light-proof containers, such as dark glass bottles, and store them in a cool, dark place or refrigerated when possible.

Sesame seed oil
Like olive oil, raw sesame seed oil is a good source of antioxidant vitamin E. It also contains vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. Raw sesame seed oil is a staple in our house, the mild flavor goes with most dishes unlike many Asian roasted sesame oils, you won’t over power any flavors with raw sesame oils. Since it’s over 40% PUFA, save it as a topping to drizzle over the food once it’s cooked.

Flax Seed Oil
Flax seed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has been shown to help promote heart health and a healthy inflammatory response.

Walnut oil
Of all the tree nut oils, walnut oil is one of the best sources of antioxidants, delivering more than 20 mmol antioxidants per 3 ounces. Source Link. Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega 3 ALA and a natural source of melatonin – a hormone which helps regulate our sleep. Try swapping walnut oil for olive oil in your dinnertime vinaigrette, or adding it to Greek yogurt with berries and honey for dessert.

Fish oil
You’re probably not going to be drizzling fish oil over your salads, but it’s important to note that both fish and fish oil are a major source of the PUFA omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These oils are highly heat sensitive, so be mindful of the temperature when cooking fish. If you are taking fish oil as a supplement, make sure that the oil is extracted in a gentle way that does not involve high heat or chemical solvents. Again, even with supplements, freshness is key – know what you eat!

 

A NOTE ON VEGETABLE OILS

The name vegetable oil is somewhat misleading as there are no oils created using vegetables.  Avocados and olives are fruits and make them fruit-oils not vegetable oils. What we call vegetable oils – canola aka rapeseed, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, and safflower – are mostly made from seeds.

Unlike a ripe avocado or juicy olive, it’s hard to squeeze oil out of a seed, so the process to create these “vegetable” oils usually requires extremely high heat and chemicals Here you can watch exactly how canola oil is made. Why does this matter you might ask? Well, because these seeds and soybeans consist primarily of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are damaged by heat. In other words, these oils can be damaged, or oxidized, before they even hit the pan.

WHAT ABOUT SMOKE POINT?

You’re probably wondering why we haven’t mentioned smoke points. The smoke point is the temperature at which the protein, minerals, enzymes, and other compounds naturally present in oil begin to burn. This burning releases free radicals and a substance called acrolein – the chemical that gives burnt foods that nasty, acrid taste and smell. So, you definitely want to avoid burning any of your fats and oils.

According to most nutritionists, oils and fats can become damaged long before they start to smoke.

Oils which have been refined, such as canola and soybean oil, have had all their proteins removed, so they have very high smoke points. But that doesn’t change their fatty-acid profile. If the oil you’re cooking with contains polyunsaturated fats, then they are damaged by heat – regardless of smoke point.

 

EXTRA VIRGIN? COLD-PRESSED? WHAT THA…

Okay, so you’re in the grocery store, ready to pick your oil when all of a sudden you’re bombarded with “cold-pressed,” “expeller-pressed,” “extra virgin,” “light,” “first-press,” “unfiltered,” etc., etc.

The single thing to look for is any term that indicates refinement, such as “light,”

At Ostro Organics we believe that you don’t need to refine something that has been extracted in a gentle way such as cold-pressed.

Expeller-pressed is the same thing as cold-pressed. “Cold” refers to the ingredient being pressed at cold temperatures. These vary depending on the health code in the various countries. In central Europe cold-pressed oil must not exceed 45 degrees Celsius. And “pressed” means that no heat or chemical additives were used to extract the oil – the olives or avocados or coconuts we’re simply pressed until they released oil. Extra-virgin means oil that is made from the first pressing. Ostro Organics only offers virgin, first-press oils that are extracted cold-pressed. In addition all of our oils are certified Organic.

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