The 3 Oils I Keep in Rotation
You see, I don’t actually do a whole lot of cooking with oils, at least not in terms of heating them. But that is most certainly NOT to say that I think oils are unhealthy— you just have to be sure you’re choosing the right ones.
Oils are incredibly beneficial, not only as a source of healthy plant fats but as a source of antioxidants and omegas. They’re also greatly beneficial for digestion, cleansing the internal organs (there’s even a method of kidney stone removal that involves drinking a cup of olive oil!), and promoting healthy hair, skin and nails.
The confusion comes not only with the great variety of oils on the market these days— it seems they’ve made an oil out of everything— but with their differing qualities, chemical and nutrient makeup, and characteristics. You might even say that they all have their own personalities.
But I like to keep my kitchen as confusion-free as possible, so I always stick to having olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. I’ll explain why and how I use each one, but first I’ll tell you the oils to avoid and why!
A good rule of thumb is to avoid all the “vegetable” oils. When you see this on a label, this is purely a convenience for the manufacturers. Vegetable oil is made from either a single or combination source of corn, soybean, cottonseed, canola, safflower, palm and sunflower. By calling it “vegetable” oil, they can change around the plant source without needing to spend money to change the label; in other words, they’re cheap, and they’re typically made pretty cheaply, too.
These oils are all high in polyunsaturated fats and are highly processed and refined, meaning they are not only stripped of nearly all nutrients (empty calories), but they have been pre-exposed to high temperatures and factory processing that essentially makes them rancid and carcinogenic before you’ve even gone to cook with them yourself.
Due to the low cost of these refined oils, large food companies and chain restaurants use these vegetable oils for their products, packing them into foods that we don’t even realize contain oils— including “healthy” protein bars and other packaged items marketed at the fitness industry. Even if it’s labeled “organic” corn/safflower/canola/etc oil, you can’t escape the fact that its highly processed and nearly void of nutrients.
You might ask, “but how do you know vegetable oil isn’t olive oil or avocado oil?” And that’s because olive oil (EVOO) and avocado oil, especially, are much higher quality, and it would be foolish for the manufacturer to not label the product as such and charge accordingly. It would kinda be like selling your Chanel handbag on Ebay but choosing to not label it as Chanel and simply selling it under the generic term “designer.” Why go generic when you know the value of Chanel?
There are several other oils out there, including nut and seed oils, and while not all of them are necessarily bad, at the end of the day you can never be too sure. And as I said, I like to take the guesswork out whenever I can. So to simplify, I stick to avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil.
Olive oil - the “old faithful” of oils, olive oil has been a staple in some of the longest-living civilizations of all time, including Blue Zones. The reason being that olive oil (always ensure you’re getting extra virgin) has a high nutrient profile, is unrefined, and contains a balance of mono and polyunsaturated fats, meaning it’s less susceptible to clogging of the arteries yet also less volatile when exposed to air or heat than other plant oils. Flavors can vary, and you can get some delicious infused bottles, but generally mild enough to add to a variety of dishes. Not commonly discussed is that it has a relatively low smoke point, so olive oil is best eaten raw as a dressing or garnish than to cook with.
Avocado oil - definitely the most expensive, but all around the most beneficial. Packed with many of the same amazing benefits of avocados, the oil is creamy yet has a very mild taste, making it very versatile. It has a similar chemical makeup to olive oil, yet has a slightly higher smoke point of around 450F.
Coconut oil - as a saturated fat, coconut oil naturally contains MCTs (medium-chain-triglycerides) which are more readily available to be used as energy by the body rather than stored as fat. It also has lots of antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it great for skin treatments and potentially even helping with gut imbalances due to candida or other bacterial overgrowth. That said, it is saturated, so it’s not beneficial for everyone, especially if you have a lot of it and have APOe 3/4 or 4/4 genotype. I also like the slight coconut flavor, and makes it nice to add to smoothies or even tea to sooth digestion.
Now, all that to say, I rarely if ever cook with any oils, and that is purely because there is always risk in cooking with fats, animal or otherwise. If I ever NEED to use an oil for cooking, I will usually use coconut or avocado. But heating fats is still a form of processing, which can lead to oxidation and free radicals. Plant fats, including oils as well as nuts and seeds, are all best consumed raw. So when it comes to cooking, I am all about dry roasting with parchment paper, steaming, and water sauteeing! Then I’ll add a little avocado oil or EVOO at the end to garnish and add healthy fats.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is to ensure you are keeping them stored in a cool place in a dark glass SEALED bottle. Don’t even think about buying an oil in a plastic bottle (I don’t care if it says it’s made from organic olives on the Dalai Lama’s olive ranch), or leaving oils exposed to air. This creates oxidation— think rust— and will turn the oil rancid lickity split. Not ideal.
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