In the Chemical Quadrant we look at the food we eat, including what cooking oils we use. Everything we consume can impact our body, so we want to put the odds in our favor by choosing the best options possible.
Lisa Markley is a registered dietitian and the co-author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook. She calls herself a culinary educator, and explains that it is her job to take the recommendations that we hear about and turn them into things that people can actually do in their own kitchens. As she does that, she is trying to accommodate the recommendation, whether it’s less salt, less sugar, or to use certain oils over others, while also making food that tastes good, and isn’t so complicated that it’s overwhelming.
Eating Fats and Oils
Many of us spent years eating low-fat items and believing that fat was bad for us. But numerous studies show that is not true, and that actually, eating fats and oils is important for our health. Fats can do many things for us; they build energy and slow the absorption of our meals, which means we can go longer and be less hungry. They boost our metabolism. Fats also form the building blocks for our hormones, so they are important for hormone balance. They also regulate our blood sugar and keep that in balance. They feed friendly bacteria in our guts, but inhibit the growth of fungi and yeasts (the bad stuff). They boost our immunity, keep our arteries supple, and keep our skin healthy.
Let’s bring on the fats! But in order to truly reap the benefits of fats, you need to use the good ones.
One of the recommendations that Lisa helps her clients understand is deciding which cooking oil to use. While we want to include and incorporate fats, we want to be sure that we are using good-for-us fats, and that we are cooking with them properly. Lisa’s perspective is that we should use traditional fats and oils that have been in our diet for more than a hundred years.
The distinction here is that there are many man-made fats and industrial seed oils that are not good to use in our diets. We do not want to use processed margarines, spreads, or oils like vegetable oil as our source of fat. Instead, we want to use traditional fats and oils.
Here are Lisa’s recommendations on three oils that fit the requirement of tradition:
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. It is an oil at room temperature and solid in the fridge. Olive oil is particularly good at keeping your arteries supple (The reason? It’s heart healthy!) and your skin healthy.
Olive oil is moderately stable over heat. That means that it is possible for it to go rancid over a high heat. The best way to use olive oil is cold, like as a salad dressing, or over moderate heat like in a light sautee.
A variety of olive oils are now available at stores like The Tasteful Olive. We have access to unadulterated olive oils and a wide variety in flavors. You can choose the one that is delicious to you, so you will want to use it as a salad dressing or drizzled over steamed vegetables.
Avocado oil is also a monounsaturated fat. Just like olive oil, it is liquid at room temperature and solid in the fridge. As a monounsaturated fat, it is also heart healthy and good for your skin.
But unlike olive oil, avocado oil is stable over high heat. Its smoke point is over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be used in a variety of cooking applications. It can even be used in a vegetable stir fry or even in baking.
Avocado oil is also neutral in flavor, which adds to its versatility. You will not be changing the flavor of your muffins if you swap in avocado oil.
Coconut oil is a good form of saturated fat. Unlike olive and avocado oils, coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature. One of the fun things about coconut oil is how easy it is to see the melting point. It can be solid in the cupboard, but if you put a little in your hand, it will melt right away.
Like avocado oil, coconut oil is stable over high heat. That means that it can be used in almost any cooking application.
Most people do not find the coconut flavor to be overwhelming, but it may be something to adjust to. After a few uses, you’ll really enjoy what it brings to your dishes.
Diet and nutritional advice can often be overwhelming. Begin with small changes rather than trying to tackle everything at once. To apply this information, make the small change of throwing away any man-made fats and industrial seed oils that you have in your kitchen. Then, as you are cooking your next meal, reach for one of these three healthy oils. Use these small changes to put the odds in your favor.