A few weeks ago, Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog asked me if I wanted to help build a cooking oil comparison chart that would help people make sense of the wide array of choices. The topic of cooking oils is one I am very passionate about, so I gladly jumped at the chance.
The chart — a real visual treat! — can be downloaded here, but I encourage you to read this blog post first, as it explains the science behind the results (and contains some very important FYIs).
- Partially hydrogenated oils (aka “trans fats”) are the epitome of cardiovascular horror, so their presence (i..e: in shortening) resulted in a severe penalty.
- Oils high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids also scored very low. For more information on the problematic health aspects of oils high in omega 6, please see this post. I also highly recommend you read this post, which explains why I am concerned with omega 6 levels in oils, but not in whole foods.
- Oils high in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are very heat-sensitive, so refined varieties are best avoided, as the processing exposes them to very high temperatures. This is why refined walnut oil scores lower than cold-pressed flax oil.
- All saturated fats are not created equal! Unrefined coconut oil’s saturated fatty acids provide cardiovascular benefits.
- Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy (they increase HDL cholesterol), so their presence in an oil is a point-scorer.
- Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat. Hence, a “high-oleic” version of an oil is significantly higher in monounsaturated fats (and thereby also lower in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids).
- As healthful as some oils can be, it’s highly desirable to get a substantial percentage of your dietary fats from whole foods. Avocados, for example, offer much more than monounsaturated fats. They are also a wonderful source of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, and fiber — all of which are absent in the extracted oil.
- Many pesticides are fat-soluble, which means they are stored in a plant’s fatty acids. Whenever possible, purchase organic oils.
- When oils are refined, they undergo a variety of chemical processes, including deodorizing, bleaching, and anti-foaming. See bullet point #7 of this post for more information.
- By the way, this chart isn’t just handy for cooking — it’s also great for label reading. Not surprisingly, the lowest-scoring oils on this chart are ubiquitous in many processed foods.
- All oils contain a variety of fatty acids. Focus on the prominent ones.
With that said, head on over to Eating Rules and download the handy dandy cooking oil comparison chart!
Many thanks to Andrew for reaching out to me with the idea!