Good-Ness talk about something that there is a lot to choose from on the grocery shelf!
There are your run of the mill oils - canola, vegetable, corn, olive, and then there are your fancy-shmancy oils - avocado, grapeseed, sesame, rapeseed to name just a few. And then… there is coconut oil. Ahhh the oil of the hour. Coconut oil really deserves its own post since it is pretty much recommended to be used for everything from cooking our stir fry in, to moisturizing our calloused feet, to correcting our under eye wrinkles and fixing our damaged hair. Did I just mention cooking food and calloused feet in the same sentence!? I digress.
So oils can play an important role in our diet. First of all, they contain fat, and we need fat in our diet for numerous reasons but two that top the list to me are vitamin absorption and satiety - aka - keeping us feeling full longer. Oils can make cooking easier and our food tastier. Some oils are even beneficial to our health, others notsomuch. What makes one oil healthier than another has to do with the type of fat that the oil is made up of, and sometimes the amount the oil has been refined (aka processed).
Now, I could go through each type of oil and tell you about the fat ratio and the refinement of it and what it could be used for. That would be a long post and I can feel your eyes glazing over already.
So straighten back up in your seat and listen up, here is the bottom line. In an effort to make things Simple, in general, I would recommend that you have two different types of oils in your pantry, extra virgin olive oil and canola oil and here is why. Extra-virgin olive oil is a type of fat that is good for your heart. Studies have shown that extra-virgin olive oil can decrease inflammation in the body and it is has been shown that certain components of extra-virgin olive oil may decrease cancer risk. People, this oil has stood the test of time and a myriad of studies that would suggest consuming it is actually going to improve your health. Now, maybe you have noticed that I have taken the time to actually type out extra-virgin olive oil every time I have mentioned it and there is a reason why. Olive oil and light olive oil (which btw, only refers to the taste and not the calories) etc. have been refined and do not necessarily have the same benefit to your health as extra-virgin olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is what you want in your pantry. And while were talking about where to keep it, do keep it in your pantry where it is darker and cooler than say, over your stove, so that the quality of the oil will keep longer.
Now why the canola oil then if I have just sold you that extra-virgin olive oil is the best thing ever?
Extra-virgin olive oil has what we call a low smoking point, and this is because it is not refined. So what does this mean? When you heat it up past its smoking point, it begins to break down which can negatively affect the flavor and the nutritional value of the oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is great for lower temperature cooking, for making salad dressings, and for flavoring (like drizzling over pasta). Canola oil has a higher smoking point than extra-virgin olive oil and it is a heather oil compared to others like vegetable, corn, and safflower. So I would use canola oil when you are cooking over the stove at medium-high and high temperatures. Now most all of the run of the mill oils on our shelves are refined, which means that they may even have some trans fat in them due to the processing. We can't know how much and refining of oils is just something that is difficult to get away from. If it is something that you are concerned about, Spectrum does make a canola oil that is refined for high temperatures, that not supposed to contain hydrogenated oils, is organic and non GMO and it can be purchased at Whole Foods and probably elsewhere (see picture).
I really think that between these two oils, most of your cooking needs can be accomplished. But before I wrap this show up, I want to say that coconut oil can be a great substitute for butter in baking if you are vegan and don't want to use butter, and that peanut oil is another oil that has a high smoking point that can add a nice flavor to stir-frys and it is also what I fry with. YES I said fry. I deep fry at home usually once a year, every southern gal needs to know how to make a good southern fried chicken, even this nutritionist one.