Every now and then, ThisFitBlonde takes a break from yakkin’ about fitness (my first love) to talk about nutrition (my…life partner?).
A quick disclaimer, for the sake of my clinical (and wayyyyyy more well-qualified) friends: I am a certified sports nutritionist, which means that I have the necessary background and examinations to advise clients on what types of foods to eat to better their athletic and fitness performance.
I am not a registered dietitian (R.D.), which is a health professional that has completed a relevant bachelor’s degree, done countless hours in a supervised and accredited practice program, and passed a (very challenging) national examination. Whew.
That said, I do feel qualified to offer an informed opinion on certain nutritional topics – and which oils are best to use while cooking is one of them. A lot of clients of mine “default” to olive oil because they’ve heard it’s healthy; some use coconut oil on everything because they’ve heard it’s even better; even others spend a fortune on avocado or hempseed oil because it sounds a bit fancier, or maybe because they think it boasts a higher smoke point.
I want to clear up some of the pros and cons on different oils and offer my professional opinion – both in terms of health and performance – on which ones you should be using. For those of you who are already bored of this post, print out this easy-to-read guide – it’ll give you the down low in one quick visual you can post on your fridge.
OLIVE. This is basically your #1 best all-around oil – it’s high in the good fats, low in the dangerous ones, tastes delicious, delivers on the flavonoids, tastes good in dressings and is pretty useful for cooking. Higher quality olive oils are bought in tins or dark glass bottles, not clear ones, and extra virgin (versus regular olive oil) has a stronger flavor.
COCONUT. I’m talking unrefined (the type that’s solid at room temp) and virgin, as the other types (read: cheap) are definitely not healthy to ingest. High in the good saturated fat (lauric acid), low in the bad ones, superb as a butter substitute in baking and fabulous for cooking Asian cuisine (for flavor) and cooking in general (for its high smoke point).
GRASS FED BUTTER. Please don’t ignore those two words in front of the yummy word “butter” because they do matter – and ghee, or clarified butter, also counts here. Real, honest butter has a ton of Vitamin A, E, and K2, and if you’re using the clarified sort, it doesn’t burn when cooking (since clarifying removes the lactose and proteins). Plus, um, did you realize that BUTTER IS OF COURSE THE MOST DELICIOUS?!?!?
HEMPSEED. It’s basically the same as olive oil in its health properties, but with the added benefit of having the type of Omega-6 fatty acid that acts as an anti-inflammatory, which we can all use. Hempseed oil has also been shown to have an anti-clotting effect on the blood – but this one is best used for dressings and cold foods, as heating hempseed oil changes its nutritional composition somewhat significantly.
OILS TO AVOID. I’ve just highlighted the ones I’d recommend to clients, but in general, you’re going to want to avoid this (shockingly) long list for any sort of long-term use (as in, fine for the occasional dose of Grandma’s Christmas cookies but not ideal for everyday cooking): soybean, palm, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, pumpkin seed, margarine, lard. These contain way too much Omega-6 (bad) fat and not enough Omega-3 (good) fatty acids to make ’em worth your while, and some are also high in saturated and trans fats to boot.
All this talk about oil is making me hungry – and making me think I’ll need to add a follow up post about one my favorite nutrition myths to debunk – that FAT doesn’t actually make you fat, and OILS are actually a wonderful part of a healthy diet! But until next time, readers…
What’s your favorite oil to use for cooking, baking, or just a good old-fashioned bread dip?