Fats & Oils

by in Food & Nutrition January 23, 2013

Happy Hump Day!!  5 days left to go in our Eat Clean Challenge – can you believe it??  January is flying by and hopefully you have spent a good part of it learning about what is in your food and trying some new, clean & delicious recipes!

Today, I wanted to share a topic of discussion that comes up often about what oils are the best to use and when.  We always hear about staying away from saturated fats and trans-fats are definitely a no-no; but which oils are good to use for cooking and why??  Here is the skinny on oils to include in your diet and others to leave at the store.

First; a quick chemistry lesson on oils (fats) and their differences. Without going into too much detail, fats differ in 2 ways: chain length and saturation.  Saturation refers to the fat’s chemical structure.

If a fat is saturated, it is filled to capacity with hydrogen atoms. These are fats found in animals foods such as red meat, full fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.

If a fat is un-saturated, it has a spot in the chain where a hydrogen atom is “missing.”  This group of fats can be further divided into mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. These are most of your nuts, oils and fatty fish (aka- healthy fats).

Trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) are made by adding hydrogen to oils, making them less likely to spoil.  Trans-fats are known to raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and travel through your body like sludge; significantly increasing your risk of heart disease. Tans-fats are found in processed foods, margarine, hydrogenated peanut butter and many fast foods. All of which I know that none of you are eating 🙂

For the most part, I use olive oil and coconut oil to cook with and occasionally canola oil.  The differences are in the saturation and smoke points. Yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it packs a huge punch when it comes to health benefits – just use it sparingly as with any oil. FYI – it makes a great moisturizer too! I tend to use coconut oil more for pan-searing and olive oil more in a marinade or salad dressing.

Once any oil reaches a smoke point is chemically altered and loses it’s health benefits!! So if you are heating up a pan with oil in it and it starts to smoke – turn off the burner, let the pan cool, throw out the oil and start over!

As a general rule, the following are the good vs bad oils to use:

GOOD                                                                                   BAD

Olive                                                                                    Cottonseed

Canola                                                                                  Palm and palm kernel  oil

Coconut                                                                                Corn

Sunflower                                                                            Soybean

Safflower                                                                             Sesame



I love hearing from you!  Email me with any questions, comments, share recipes, etc!

  1. What about peanut oil?
    Personally, I don’t use it, but it may be a question for others.

  2. Curious as to what makes Grape seed oil in the “bad” category? I had an acquaintance recently start a business with a Direct Selling company that is promoting Grape Seed oils as very healthy and a better alternative to Olive Oil because of it’s smoke point.

    • Hi Sarah – Thank you for your comment! I actually meant to remove grapeseed oil from the list all together b/c I feel like most people do not consider using it. Grapeseed oil actually does have a higher smoke point than most oils – it also has a higher concentration of polyunsaturated fats, so it can go badly quicker than other oils.

  3. Yes – good question. Peanut oil is considered a vegetable oil – slightly higher in unsaturated fat and has a relatively high smoking point. It would fall under the “good” list and would be a good oil for frying (if you are choosing to cook that way) 🙂

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