In a nutshell…
There are many unrefined saturated and unsaturated fats like lard, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil that are good for your health. When cooking with them, you need to use the fats and oils that are stable at certain temperatures.
What are the healthiest fats and oils to cook with?
There are so many different cooking fats and oils available to us and it’s hard to know which are the best to use. Basically, there are saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. They all have healthy options, but some are good for using at high temperatures and others should only be heated at low temperatures or not at all. Heating certain fats and oils to high temperatures causes oxidation and rancidity, which forms free radicals and harmful compounds that are bad for your health. Authority Nutrition
Saturated Fats: These fats are heat stable. You can recognize them because they stay solid at room temperature. Saturated fats aren’t chemically altered by heat; therefore, good for medium-high heat cooking, low heat cooking, and also raw. Some healthy saturated fats, with their smoke point in degrees F include:
- Grass-fed ghee 480˚
- Palm kernel oil 455˚
- Unrefined coconut oil 450˚
- Grass-fed beef suet 400˚
- Grass-fed beef tallow 400˚
- Grass-fed mutton tallow 400˚
- Unrefined cocoa butter 365˚
Monounsaturated Fats: These fats contain some saturated fats, but they also contain monounsaturated fats, which are less heat stable. When using these fats, cook them over low-medium heat to ensure they don’t undergo oxidization.
- Pastured goose fat 375˚
- Pastured duck fat 375˚
- Pastured chicken fat 375˚
- Pastured lard 365˚
- Pastured bacon grease 365˚
- Pastured butter 350˚
Polyunsaturated Fats: These oils go rancid easily and oxidize quickly when cooking. Polyunsaturated fats should be prepared through cold-pressing and left in their unrefined state. Extra-virgin olive oil can be heated over very low heat, but is best used uncooked in dressings and for dipping. Flaxseed oil should never be heated. Nourished Kitchen
Of course, you don’t need to use all these different options in your cooking and there are other healthy options that I haven’t listed here. I use the ones that are easily available to me; such as, coconut oil, ghee, butter, lard, extra-virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil. Here are a couple good charts on oil smoke points: Practical Paleo: Guide to Cooking Fats & Keto Diet: Fats in a Nutshell
Which fats and oils should I avoid?
Industrial seed and vegetable oils are highly processed and refined oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are harmful in excess. When you don’t have a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in your body, it causes inflammation and cardiovascular disease. The manufacturing of vegetable oils involves pressing, heating, and the use of industrial chemicals and highly toxic solvents. And many are made from genetically modified crops. Authority Nutrition The following list includes vegetable oils to avoid:
- Rice bran
This video shows the process of manufacturing canola oil. It’s promoting the use of canola oil and even a pro-canola oil video doesn’t succeed in making it look good–in my opinion.
You can buy more expensive vegetable oil that has been cold-pressed, which makes it healthier, but it will still have large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
Aren’t saturated fats bad for my health?
In the past, saturated fats and high cholesterol levels have been thought to cause heart disease. But now, the inflammation of arteries, which then causes cholesterol that would otherwise flow freely to be blocked, seems to be the cause. What causes the inflammation? An overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (flour, sugar, and the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils that are found in many processed foods. Dr. Dwight Lundell, a renowned heart surgeon, says that,
Animal fats contain less than 20% omega-6 and are much less likely to cause inflammation than the supposedly healthy oils labelled polyunsaturated. Forget the “science” that has been drummed into your head for decades. The science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent. The science that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol is also very weak. Since we now know that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern about saturated fat is even more absurd today.
So, no–saturated fats are not bad for our health. And when cooking with high heat, they’re the best option.
Tip: Avoid industrial vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils that are highly processed and come from genetically modified crops. Vegetable oils are found in most processed food; therefore, eating real food and cooking with unrefined fats will naturally eliminate unhealthy fats and oils from your diet.
Disclaimer: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means if you click on them and purchase a product I will earn a commission on that product with no extra cost to you. I highly recommend all of the affiliate products listed above.