Cooking with Oil

by Elizabeth on February 28, 2011

I wanted to write about cooking oils because I think it’s a topic that doesn’t get enough love and it’s muy importante. Also, I found that a lot of the explanations I saw online and in books are pretty lengthy and science-y, so I wanted to break it down and lay out some of the basics.

There are two major things to consider when choosing which oil to cook with. The first is the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.  Omega-3 and Omega-6 are non-essential fatty acids, which means the body can’t produce them on its and needs to obtain them through nutrition. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are necessary for a healthy system, but serve different functions in the body. Omega-6 helps create inflammation, necessary for clotting and immune response, and Omega-3 helps decreases it, which is really important because too much inflammation in the body leads to all kinds of illness and disease.  Nutritionists believe that before processed foods, people got a better balance of both, but in today’s modern world (especially in western cultures) there is too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3 in most peoples’ diets.  This is because Omega-6 can be found in many processed foods, a staple of American diets, while Omega-3 is found in foods that unfortunately don’t typically get enough attention, such as cold water fish (salmon, mackeral, sardines), flax seeds, leafy greens and legumes.

Heating oil changes its characteristics, so oils that may be perfectly healthy at room temp can becomeunhealthy when cooked about a certain temperature. In other words, it’s a good idea to consider the cooking method you are using when choosing an oil. For example,  avocado and soybean oil have high smoking points and are good for cooking at high temperatures. At the same time, they don’t have as healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratios as flaxseed oil, so it’s good to find a balance between different types of oils.

Lastly, oil is sensitive to light, heat, and air so be sure to store in a cool, dry place and keep sealed. Many oils do great when stored in the fridge.

This is a helpful and user friendly chart from Bella Online to check out the Omega levels, and here’s one fromPCCNaturalMarket that’s a more extensive list with smoking points – great references to tack onto your fridge!

Previous post:

Next post: