A young friend of mine recently asked me what oil I use in most of my cooking. As you might suspect, my answer was not short. That’s because certain oils work well when it comes to cooking certain dishes, other oils are best used as “finishing” oils, and many oils should be avoided altogether. Let’s first talk about the best oils to use.
Avocado Oil. I discovered avocado oil years ago when I was looking for a neutral oil to use for cooking that wasn’t canola or vegetable oil. Avocado oil has a high smoking point, making it perfect for stir frying or pan frying. In addition, it is completely neutral so it doesn’t take over the food when it comes to food flavors. Besides being a terrific oil for cooking, avocado oil is also loaded with antioxidants and supports vision and eye health.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. We go through lots of this delicious oil. There are so many health benefits that come from olive oil — including improving blood sugar and helps reduce inflammation in your body. While there are plenty of olive oils on the grocery store shelves, read the labels carefully and when possible, choose an organic, imported olive oil. So many olive oils are filled with other oils. Also, look for oils in dark bottles. There are also online sources and even olive oil clubs that will deliver quality olive oils to your door. I have been a member of an olive oil club for years and they always send the very best olive oils from all over the world.
Coconut Oil. Like the previous two oils, coconut oil has numerous health benefits and medicinal properties. Despite what you might think, coconut oil will not make your food taste like coconuts! It is actually quite neutral. Coconut oil is incredibly diverse — you can cook with it, drizzle it over your popcorn, and even use it as a moisturizer for your skin! Look for organic, raw, unrefined coconut oil when possible.
Ghee. I am glad to see this type of clarified butter more commonly available. Not only flavorful, ghee has a high smoking point and helps increase your good cholesterol. Once opened, store ghee in your refrigerator.
Grapeseed Oil. High in Vitamin E, grapeseed oil has a high smoking point, is neutral, and even helps protect your cells from damage.
Walnut Oil. Years ago, a friend gave me a bottle of walnut oil, and I was not sure what to do with it. I soon discovered walnut oil has a mild, nutty flavor, and is delicious in salad dressings or drizzled on grilled meats and vegetables. Because it has a low smoking point, walnut oil is best used as a finishing oil. Once opened, store walnut oil in the refrigerator.
Toasted Sesame Oil. This flavorful oil is used extensively in Asian cooking. Mainly used as a finishing oil, sesame oil gives that distinctive, rich sesame flavor to Asian stir fries, fried rice, and Asian sauces of all types. In addition, sesame oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce bad cholesterol. Once opened, store sesame oil in the refrigerator.
Red Palm Oil. You might not have seen this oil on the shelf, but I am seeing it more and more. Along with having a high smoking point, red palm oil is high in anti-oxidants and is a great source of beta-carotene and can help boost your Vitamin A levels. I also love using Palm Shortening, which is a combination of red palm and coconut oils — it mimics vegetable shortening, but is good for you. I love the organic brand Nutiva shortening.
For the most part, oils most of us grew up using are highly refined and heavily processed. Oils such as corn, canola, soybean and safflower are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and made with GMO crops. These oils can wreak havoc on your body and you might have health issues caused by them. Some health experts say these refined vegetable oils are worse for your health than refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Adlen Robinson is an award winning columnist and author of “Organic Food and Kitchen Matters.” You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org