There are so many options when it comes to choosing fats to cook with. But which ones are the best for your health? Today, I am going to talk about 5 of my favorites. I like to keep these in my pantry as a ‘go to’ when I am cooking – it’s nice to be able to alternate amongst them. So here they are, in no particular order.
First, avocado oil. And, no, it does not taste like avocados. It is very taste-neutral. Avocado oil is a natural oil pressed from the pulp of an avocado. In fact, its composition is very close to olive oil. It is made up mostly of monounsaturated fats, which are good for us. It also is high in antioxidants which have numerous health benefits. It can be used cold in salads and smoothies, or can be used for grilling and baking. It has a pretty high smoke point, making it a great choice for high heat cooking and frying.
Second is olive oil. Look for one that says extra virgin olive oil, which is not as refined. You can really appreciate the taste of a good high-quality extra virgin olive oil. It is a part of the Mediterranean diet, which is super heart healthy. It’s great for improving HDL, our good cholesterol.
Olive oils are loaded with antioxidants and have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, it may be the healthiest fat in the world. But keep in mind that buying the right kind of olive oil is extremely important. There is a lot of fraud on the olive oil market, as many oils that read “extra virgin” on the label have been diluted with other refined oils. Therefore, examine labels carefully to ensure you’re getting real extra virgin olive oil. Pick an oil that has a peppery, bitter, or pungent flavor, which means it is high in phenols, which are very healthy for us. Also, look for a “harvest” date, which many of the fine olive oil producers like to put on the bottle. And make sure that it comes in a dark glass bottle or an opaque tin.
My next favorite cooking fat is coconut oil. This is one of the best oils for high heat cooking. Try to pick a virgin coconut oil as it has more health benefits. Coconut oil is 80% saturated fat, making it a solid at room temperature. The high amount of saturated fats in coconut oil make it somewhat controversial. Eating too much saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels in many people. But, the health benefits of this oil come from the medium chain fatty acids called lauric acid, which may behave differently in the body compared to other saturated fats. Because of the controversial nature, I recommend using coconut oil in moderation.
The fourth fat that I recommend cooking with is butter. Yes, butter. There was a time when the advice was to replace butter with margarine. But that was some of the worst advice. Margarine is highly processed and contains trans-fats, which are associated with heart and other diseases. Butter is great for high heat cooking and sautéing. However, keep in mind that butter is high in saturated fat and also high in calories. For this reason, use it in moderation.
And lastly, another one I recommended is ghee, also known as clarified butter. Ghee is made by melting butter. The butter separates into liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed, leaving behind a golden colored liquid fat. This process removes almost all of the lactose, making it almost lactose free and easier to digest. This also makes it shelf stable for a long period of time. Its smoke point is even higher than butter, making it ideal for high heat cooking. And most importantly, ghee is not processed, like so many oils that are on the market. However, like butter, it is high in calories and saturated fat, so use it in moderation.
So now you know five of my favorite fats to use. To sum it up, use olive oil on a daily basis, and use the other four on a rotating basis, in moderation. I love cooking and at Physicians Premier Weight and Wellness Center, we also have a healthy cooking kitchen. Our comprehensive program is science based and we absolutely love helping our patients lose weight and understand how to keep it off for life!