Cooking oils that are high in saturated fats are generally considered to be unhealthy and may lead to heart disease and some form of cancers. Even though more information may needed about some of these oils, including coconut oil, there is some evidence suggesting that we should all limit our intake in foods high in saturated fats. This includes things like sunflower oil, soybean oil, butter and even ghee which is just clarified butter.
Alternatives include olive, canola, grape seed, almond, and safflower oil. Unfortunately, many of these oils can have disadvantages when cooking. In the past decade or so, America has fallen in love with extra virgin olive oil. It tastes great, is low in saturated fat, is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which is linked to reduced chances for heart disease, and is plentiful. The problem is extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, loses it flavor when cooked, and high quality olive oils can be expensive.
When starting and maintaining your whole foods diet, it is a great idea to keep plenty of extra virgin olive oil around. But it is also important to understand how best to use it. The most expensive olive oils usually have a slight greenish color and have a very "fruity" flavor. These are great oils for things like salad dressings and drizzling over already cooked foods.
Cooking these high end olive oils usually kills the strong flavor that many people enjoy. In addition, olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, about 420 degrees. That means you may need more than one type of oil in your pantry for a whole foods diet. Naturally pressed canola oil and safflower oil have higher smoke points, about 450 degrees. That means these may be a better choice for higher heat when cooking over a hot grill, under a broiler, or during other high heat applications like stir frying. Grapeseed oil has a smoke point of about 420 degrees but the flavor usually stands up better to high heat.
Having multiple oils in your pantry makes it easier to make your own homemade dressings, cook at different temperatures, and still maintain your whole foods diet. Even though olive oil is a favorite, do not forget about others in the kitchen.
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