Nancy's Nutrition Corner

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food," Hippocrates.

Cooking with Oils

When it comes to cooking with oils, not all your options are created equal! Some can withstand high heats, while heat turns others from a “good for you oil” to an oil full of dangerous free radicals. Naturally, we need our good fats—not only do they taste good, but we rely on them for many important bodily processes. Fats are involved in the structural components of cell membranes, surround our nerve fibers, and are used for a variety of metabolic functions.

The important thing to remember about using fats when cooking is this: Heating a cooking oil beyond its smoke point will not only deplete the antioxidant content but will create free radicals as well. Here is a temperature guide to aid you in choosing which oil to choose when cooking:

High Heat Oils
All three of these high heat oils are rich in heart healthy omega 9’s and are an excellent choice for frying and sautéing:

  • Avocado oil: smoke point 510 degrees
  • Almond oil: smoke point 495 degrees
  • Sunflower oil: smoke point 445 degrees

Medium-High Heat Oils
These oils are a great choice for baking and sautéing. Canola and safflower oils are rich in omega 9’s; walnut oil is rich in omega 3’s and omega 6.

  • Canola oil: smoke point 425 degrees
  • Walnut oil: smoke point 400 degrees
  • Safflower oil: smoke point 390 degrees

Medium Heat Oils
Medium heat oils are a good choice for light sautéing or sauces. Grapeseed and sesame oils are rich in omega 6’s. Coconut oil is rich in plant-based saturated fat.

  • Grapeseed oil: smoke point 425 degrees
  • Sesame oil: smoke point 350 degrees
  • Coconut oil: smoke point 280 degrees

No Heat Oils
No heat oils such as olive and flax seed have very low smoke points and are best used without heating--simply pour them directly into dressings or on to dishes.

Nancy Silva, ND is a licensed naturopath with a penchant for good food. Her monthly column discusses the nutritional aspects of some of the foods available through LocalHarvest. You can contact Nancy from her listing on our website.

Back to the April 2009 Newsletter