Cooking Oils

We are guessing you have heard this advice before…

ING-vegetable-oil_sql“Cook with heart healthy vegetables oils and use margarine over butter because these fats do not contain “artery clogging” saturated fat. Saturated fat is said to increase cholesterol and cause cardiovascular disease.”

Well we are here to set this record straight. This is simply not true. To have a better understanding one must look to history. When we look at the characteristics of traditional diets, according to the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“The diets of healthy primitive and non-industrialized peoples contain no refined of denatured foods such as refined sugar or corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low-fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins or toxic additives and colorings.”

History is shouting at us to simply leave what works alone, but we always think we have a better way. Enter the industrial revolution. We had more mouths to feed and needed a faster and cheaper way of doing it. We began “creating” foods to meet these needs. As Diane Sanfilippo says her in book Practical Paleo, we are not smarter than nature and we cannot make better food than nature.

How Vegetable Oils Are Made

These oils are made in factories, basically a science experiment gone wrong. This article gives a nice illustration showing the process of making canola oil.

kyf-conola-oilchartFor these oils to be extracted they must be chemically altered and deodorized (since it smells terrible) , none of which is a natural process. The crops used are usually genetically modified and treated with pesticides. To form a solid (margarine or shortening) these oils undergo more processing, a process called hydrogenation, which is where awesome “trans” fats come from! These “man-made” oils are not healthy and are considered food toxins.

These oils would include:

  • canola oil
  • soybean oil
  • corn oil
  • safflower oil
  • cottonseed
  • peanut
  • sunflower
  • margarine
  • shortening
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats

How is Butter Made?

In comparison, butter is made by simply churning cream and salt. So, is real food supposed to be bad for us and the chemical “heart healthy” oil supposed to be good for us? We believe it would be wise to consider what is real and has stood the test of time.

Shift in Types of Fats Eaten

Researchers began to notice a change in the types of fats Americans were eating. They were eating less saturated fats (butter, cream, etc) and were now eating vegetable oils or vegetable oils created to look like butter (margarine). At the same time a rise in heart disease hit the nation. This correlation is not on accident, we are what we eat. However, the campaigns went on and the food industry jumped right on board. Marketing flooded the nation. The funny thing is that before the government stepped in with their “heart healthy” advice (claims not supported by scientific literature), people were eating naturally occurring fats. Animal fats: meat, lard, butter, cream, tallow and tropical oils: coconut oil, palm oil. Now, instead of naturally occurring fats, vegetable oils are used in almost every processed food imaginable. To top it off, pretty much every restaurant you eat in uses them. This ranges from fast food to fine dining and everything in between.

What is the Problem with Vegetable Oils?

Well there are several:

  • Bad processing. The processing as mentioned above creates an unnatural chemical structure that the body cannot recognize, and the processing removes most of the healthy antioxidants.
  • High Omega 6. Seed oils contain alot of omega 6 fatty acids, and the body requires a delicate balance of omega 6 and omega 3. Too much omega 6 causes increased inflammation, a factor in many chronic diseases.
  • Too much polyunsatured fat (PUFA). These fats are very unstable, which means that when these fats are exposed to light, air, and heat they oxidize and form higher levels of free radicals. Another way of saying this is that these fats quickly “go rancid.”  Look at it this way: PUFAs are unstable to begin with, then antioxidants are removed, then it sits in the factory, then it sits on the grocery store shelf, then it sits on your shelf at home, then you cook with it at very high temperatures…. all you have left is rancid toxins. Keep in mind that most restaurants fry their foods in these oils and then reuse the oil to fry at a later time. The cycle continues.

Bottom line, vegetable oils should be avoided completely. Check out Allie’s post on Why Low Fat is Making You Fat for more info on why we need fats. We advocate for real food, and here are fats that are great to consume. These are natural and contain fats that are stable.

  • Coconut Oil – This oil is loaded with medium-chain fatty acids which are smaller than long chain fatty acids, and go through cell walls easier without lipoproteins or enzymes to help them be utilized by the body. The easier digestion puts less strain on the digestive system.  MCFAs are sent straight the to liver to be used for energy and not stored in the body as fat. The MCFAs in coconut oil can stimulate your metabolism- leading to better weight loss. Coconut oil also contains Lauric Acid,  which is found also in breast milk. We all know and have heard that breast milk is extremely HEALTHY for our babies. Lauric Acid helps to strengthen our immune systems.
  • Olive Oil– Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and is excellent when using for cooler temperatures such as on salads. If you heat olive oil too high it also can become rancid. Look for organic, extra-virgin, cold pressed forms.
  • Butter – Pastured grass-fed butter is full of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and saturated fats. If you have missed butter, bring it back baby! One brand we love is Kerrygold.
  • Organic Cream– If you tolerate dairy well it’s ok to put that cream back in your coffee (full-fat) that is! Organic cream has healthy saturated fat.
  • Meats – Grass fed meats have healthy amounts of omega 3s and healthy saturated fats. Do not be afraid of meat.
  • Fish– Naturally high in Omega 3 fats.
  • Avocados– These are high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants to fight off aging.
  • Eggs– You know them as a nutrition powerhouse, and for good reason. Eggs are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and cholesterol (which your body needs). Eggs also have an important nutrient, Choline, which aids in reducing chronic inflammation and keeps cell membranes functioning properly.
  • Ghee– Ghee is clarified butter, which means the milk solids have been removed, making it lactose and casein free. It contains healthy fat-soluble vitamins. It also has a higher smoke point than butter, making it a better choice for high temperature cooking.

Now, we want to hear from you! What is your experience with cooking oils? What are you using?

Additional Resources:
  1. Know Your Fats
  2. The Great Con-Ola
  3. The Oiling of America
  4. Too Much Omega 6 Fats
  5. Health Effects of Trans Fatty Acids
  6. If we Are What We Eat Americans are Corn and Soy
  7. Changes in the Consumption of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids in the United States
  8. Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease
Photo Source:
  1. The Unorthodox Epicure
  2. Fine Cooking

13 thoughts on “Cooking Oils

  1. Joshua McAtee says:

    hi Mary – what are your thoughts on palm shortening? i saw this product recently on the tropical traditions site and i haven’t seen many people discuss this product before.

    1. Considering You says:

      Joshua, palm shortening is perfectly fine. use it in place of seed oil shortening (example: Crisco) in recipes that call for it. can also be used to replace butter in baking if desired. Palm Shortening does not have trans fatty acids like vegetable oil shortenings and is not hydrogenized. It has a high smoke point, making it ideal for frying (we fry vegetable chips sometimes). Look for organic, and the listed ingredient should be palm oil. If you can’t find at your health foods stores, here is a good company selling it.

      1. Joshua McAtee says:

        Perfect! I was hoping palm could be used as you described above. thanks for the feedback!

  2. Lauren says:

    Wow, that chart pretty much shows how processed these oils are. I stick to coconut oil, grass-fed oil, and high-quality olive oil – plus, nothing beats the taste of real butter!

  3. Christa Maney says:

    Yes. I loved this. I will be sharing this with others. It says exactly what I fail to say so plainly sometimes. It’s so scary how many products are pushed without any education on it. Or course, I’m sure that is exactly what big companies want. Thanks!!


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