Healthy Oils. Does the words bring terror to your mind? Oil… Fat… can it be healthy? Can you eat it without actually getting fat?
Let me first off start by saying that our bodies need fat. Our brain is about 60% fat, fat coats our nerves, our cell membranes have a bi-lipid layer. Having a diet high in healthy fats are critical to a healthy body. It is necessary for a brain to function well, for our nerves and for our 10 trillion cell membranes.
A diet low in healthy fats can starve our brain and cell membrane which can lead to brain fog, a hard time with memory, fatigue, low immune system and inflammation. And inflammation is the foundation of any and every disease process. Knowing which oils are healthy and should be used in daily living is essential for a healthy body.
There is a major difference between healthy oils and unhealthy oils. And it’s a good think to know the difference between them too. Healthy oils consist of fats that nourish and heal the cell membrane and other tissues in the body. Unhealthy oils lead to dangerous inflammation. They keep the cycle of inflammation going and often times we don’t know we are eating an unhealthy or bad oil. The problem with unhealthy fats is that they are often touted as being healthy from the governing bodies and mainstream media. You can’t turn on a cooking show, the news or watch a commercial without an unhealthy oil being marketed as being healthy in one way or another. For example: vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are only healthy in vegetables. When extracted and bottled up they are known as PUFA’s (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids) and they are very inflammatory to our bodies. Every TV commercial tells you how amazing canola and vegetable oils are. Even the news shows tell you to replace the oils you cook with currently with canola oil. Let’s get to the truth about oils!
This guide is going to be key knowledge for you to have going forward to not only stock in your house, but to know what to ask when at restaurants too.
Dr. Meghan’s Guide to Healthy Oils
This is one of my favorite types of oils to use. Years ago any coconut product was considered unsafe because of the saturated fat content. So we all avoided coconut products for fear of being unhealthy and dying of a heart issue. Now we know that the saturated fats contained in coconut oil are healthy for us. Coconut oil contains 60% MCT oil, which is a medium chain triglyceride. We now know the medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are good for energy, brain function, digestion, weight loss (by stimulating metabolism) and more. The MCT oil also bypasses the gallbladder because it doesn’t need bile to break it down. That’s why coconut oil is a better choice for people with gallbladder issues or their gallbladder removed. Coconut oil also has a high concentration of lauric acid that is known to be anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Coconut oil can be used topically as lotion (or in lotion recipes) to not only nourish the skin but can help heal the skin because of it’s anti-microbial properties. It can also be heated to a high temperature and is ideal for the stovetop.
When choosing a coconut oil, make sure that it is organic, extra-virgin and unrefined. You want your coconut oil to smell like coconut! I only use the unrefined coconut oil on my skin if I don’t want to smell like coconut. This is a great brand of coconut oil!
Ah, if you saw the recent time magazine article you know that butter is back. It’s sad to say that butter was “away” for a while because so many people thought it was unhealthy. Butter is one of the best oils and to me, the best tasting oils, out there. Butter contains many vitamins and minerals. It also contains some important fatty acids (like conjugated linoleic acid, CLA) that contributes to healthy brain function. Butter is brain food! Do you ever wonder why kids want to take a bite straight out of the butter stick? They know their brains need nourishment. I try and get 1-2 Tablespoons of butter in my diet everyday.
When you buy butter make sure that you get an organic grass fed butter. If you can find raw butter, that’s the best option. You can find grass fed butter almost everywhere now, so it’s easy to come by now.
Ghee is also known as clarified butter. It is very similar to butter (made from butter) except does not contain any lactose which means that it is a good lactose and dairy free option. It is good for people that have more reactions and sensitivities to butter or dairy products. Ghee has a unique taste and is ideal for cooking, baking and well, pretty much can be used anywhere you’d use butter!
You can purchase ghee from the store or make it at home.
I love olive oil, but I rarely cook with it. As amazing as it is, you don’t want to heat olive oil very high. Anything above medium will denature the oil and make it rancid, like a trans fat. I use olive oil cold in salads and any cold dish. Olive oils can also be purchased infused with flavor. I love garlic olive oil, herbed olive oil and truffled olive oil (which I drizzle on my roasted root vegetables after they are done baking).
When choosing an olive oil you need to make sure that the source and brand of olive oil is very important. Olive oil doesn’t have a standard for how much olive oil needs to be in the bottle. As weird as that sounds, many olive oils are mixed with inflammatory and toxic vegetable oils. The huge bottles of olive oil you can buy at a big box store for $15? Yep, those are not pure olive oil. I get our olive oil from a specialty oil and vinegar shop and know it’s pure. You can also do research online for some good olive oil too.
Nut and seed oils are a healthy option when it comes to fats. I love sesame oil for asian dishes and nut oils for salads. I don’t have a lot of nut oils (almond, walnut, macadamia nut) in my house only because they are more expensive and can’t be heated up. They are very delicate and will denature if heated. Because of that, I don’t use them as much. But know that they are a good option.
Avocado oil is an oil that you can use in both cold and hot applications. It is extracted from the fruit of the avocado. It can be heated to a higher temperature and not denature. It tastes like avocado so it adds flavor to the different dishes you use it with.