Don’t you just love no-brainers when you’re grocery shopping? Quinoa and almond butter get a free pass, but potato chips and sour cream don’t go anywhere near my cart. Easy and done.
Other foods such as cooking oils aren’t so clear-cut. Sure, they all make such healthy promises, yet look more closely and you’ll see most are rich sources of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.
Not only that; according to my friends Drs. Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra in their book The Great Cholesterol Myth, “About 80 percent of trans fats in the American diet come from factory-produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.”
Eww. Pass. (On vegetable oils, that is, not the brilliant The Great Cholesterol Myth.)
If your pantry’s stocked with corn oil and other nasty vegetable oils, I want you to make an oil change starting now. Choosing the right cooking oils can change your body’s inflammatory response, and the last thing you want to do is consume trans fat.
So what are those healthy oils? You might be surprised to hear I do not recommend flaxseed oil, which goes rancid when exposed to the air. I prefer freshly ground flaxseed meal instead, which provides healthy oils plus gut-healing fiber.
Canola oil is fine as long as it comes cold-pressed and not genetically modified. I don’t care what manufacturers say: don’t heat canola oil, since doing so can destroy the fragile omega 3s.
While you can find an impressive selection of healthy oils in most specialty and health food stores, I always gravitate to these five favorites. Here’s why:
- Malaysian Palm Fruit Oil. While harder to find, it’s worth the search. Palm fruit oil is rich in vitamin E and carotenoids, and it holds up beautifully for high-heat cooking without losing nutrients or flavor. I know sustainability can become an issue here; that’s why I recommend Malaysian palm tree oil: many top companies are already members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). You can keep Malaysian palm fruit oil for a year or longer at room temperature.
- Coconut Oil. Rich in monolaurin (a great immune booster), caprylic acid (a fatty acid that fights candida) and medium-chain triglycerides (fat-burning fatty acids), coconut oil is another great high-heat rock star that lends a delicate flavor to foods. Coconut oil also makes a great moisturizer for your hair and skin.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: With its name, how could I not love this oil? Understand the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t have the stability to heat at medium or high temps; use regular olive oil for medium-heat cooking. Extra virgin olive oil makes a great drizzle on salads or veggies. I also love some of the flavored olive oils such as lemon, blood orange, or garlic.
- Ghee or Clarified Butter: This “butter” has had the milk solids removed, so people with dairy intolerances generally have no problem digesting it. You can use it for cooking and baking just like butter. Love that flavor! Avoid those nasty hormones and only buy ghee from grass-fed cows. More adventurous folks can make it from a pound of organic butter (from grass-fed cows) that you slowly cook until the milk solids separate and fall to the bottom of the pan; strain the milk solids out, and you’ve just made ghee.
- Walnut Oil: I don’t cook with this oil, but it adds such a wonderful, savory flavor to salads and roasted veggies. Walnut oil is a leader in anti-inflammatory omega 3s. Make sure you store it properly in the fridge to keep those essential fatty acids intact.
I’ll provide plenty of ways to incorporate these and other fab oils for cooking, sautéing, and dressings in my upcoming The Virgin Diet Cookbook, out on February 2014.
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