Organization: Erin Falco RDN, Inc.
Author: Veronica Rechten
Publish Date: 9/30/22
Anti-Inflammatory Cooking Oils & How to Use Them:
Most of us, no matter our culture, technique, or preferences, use some type of oil when cooking. Oil provides fats, nutrients, flavor, helps with food texture, satiety and keeps food from sticking to the pan. Over time, the cooking oil options have expanded, and more information has come on the scene about which oils to use when, why and how. So, how do we navigate it all? In this post, we will help you determine which oils work best for you and your body!
1) Olive Oil:
One of the most widely used cooking oils in the world, olive oil (specifically extra virgin which is made from cold-pressed olives) is a staple in most kitchens. Olive oil is mostly made up of monounsaturated fat. We want this type of fat in our diets as it is protective to the brain (which is 60% fat!), and it helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
How to use it:
While it is so often used specifically for cooking, olive oil has a relatively low “smoke point.” This is the heat at which the oil begins to put out harmful compounds called “free radicals,” which can be damaging to our cells. For olive oil, its best to cook at a temperature less than 375 degrees. Olive oil in its cold form is where you will reap the most nutritional benefit and is great to use in salad dressings and dips, or to drizzle on top of hummus or pasta.
2) Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil is a saturated fat that contains medium chain triglycerides, also known as MCTs. MCTs are the easiest fats to digest and absorb because they bypass the lymphatic system and directly reach the liver. This allows for immediate available energy and assists nutrient absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The saturated fats in coconut oil can also increase HDL, our "HAPPY" Cholesterol, and lower our LDL, our "LOUSY" cholesterol, by helping convert LDL into cholesterol-derived beneficial hormones such as vitamin D, sex hormones and glucocorticoids (our anti-inflammatory adrenal hormones). To add even more of a benefit, coconut oils also contain butyrate which are short-chain fatty acids that the cells of the intestinal lining depend on for fuel. Coconut oil is a great source of fat to improve gut health, hormone health, cognition and focus.
How to use it:
Coconut oil comes in two types: refined, and unrefined. Refined is usually liquid at room temperature, and has a very mild flavor. Its high smoke point (450 degrees) makes it good for sautéing and stir fries. Unrefined is solid at room temperature and has a more noticeable coconut flavor. This can make it excellent for baking as it can be used to replace butter or other oils in cooking, or to help solidify chocolate after melting. Straight MCT oil can be used in smoothies, added to protein shakes, and even coffee! MCT oil cannot be cooked with.
3) Avocado Oil:
The newer power-house on the market, avocado oil is a big favorite for all of your oil needs! At almost 70% oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat), avocado oil is great for the heart, the brain, the skin, and overall bodily inflammation. It also contains disease fighting antioxidants. These properties help in lowering total cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and insulin resistance.
How to use it:
Like olive oil, avocado oil has a very mellow flavor that is not easily detectable in foods. With the highest smoke-point of any oil (520 degrees), it can be used in any kind of cooking or baking, or can be used cold in dressings, dips or drizzles.
If you tend to like to cook with butter, an alternative to lactose-free butter is ghee. Ghee is butter that has been cooked and rendered to remove all moisture and milk solids. That means that it is lactose free, (the carbohydrate part of the milk that can contribute to bloating/gas/digestive discomfort). It does have small amounts of casein in it which is a milk protein. Those with milk allergies/sensitivities need to stay away from Ghee. There is dairy free ghee- which will be both casein and lactose free. Ghee contains fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, and is rich in butyric acid, which is anti-inflammatory & the primary source of fuel for our intestinal cells (Just like in coconut oil mentioned above!).
How to use it:
Ghee is used one-to-one like you would butter however, it has a much deeper and nuttier flavor, so it can be used to enrich the flavor of dishes. Ghee has a smoke point of 480 (much higher than regular butter), so feel free to use it for stovetop cooking as well as baking.
A Note on Omega 3 Fish Oils & Flax Oils:
While full of omega-3s and incredibly beneficial to consume for the body, fish oil and flax oil should not be used for cooking as their smoke point is very low. Talk to your RD about using them orally for health benefits.
A Note on Vegetable Oils:
Vegetable oils are a mix of oils from various plants. For this reason, it is often difficult to tell exactly what is in them, and whether they are actually beneficial to use. Often they contain residue of pesticides and can be inflammatory. It is best to try to stick to oils made from one plant that is easily recognizable.
We hope this was helpful in giving you some extra information when it comes to choosing oils for your kitchen! Sometimes choices can be overwhelming, but a bit of research goes a long way! If you need more nutritional support, visit us at www.erinfalcordn.com for more posts and webinars, or contact us for a discovery call to become a patient.