We’ve come across a lot of people who have asked us which type of oil is best for x, y, and z so we decided to come up with a simple guide to assist you in selecting the best oils for your kitchen. When it comes to preparing food with heat, the most important factor is the smoke point of the oil you are using.
What’s a smoke point? It’s the temperature at which the oil breaks down into glycerol and fatty acids. When this temperature is reached, you will literally see smoke being produced from the oil.
Why is the smoke point so crucial? Once oil has reached its smoke point, further heating of the oil can produce harmful free radicals (which have been linked to cancer). It’s important to carefully select the proper oils for different types of cooking. Those with lower smoke points should be used for low/no-heat food preparation, while those with higher smoke points should be used for cooking that requires high heat. Check out this useful chart to guide you through smoke points for different oils.
How do Omega 3s and Omega 6s fall into play? Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory acids found in safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oil. Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory acids found in canola, flaxseed, walnut, and hemp oils. Both of these are polyunsaturated fatty acids and offer health benefits, but various studies have shown that our ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 intake is tremendously unbalanced. We are consuming way too many Omega 6 oils and not nearly enough Omega 3s. This is because Omega 6’s are heavily used in the preparation of processed foods, which is something we love here in the United States. The unbalance between these two essential fatty acids has been linked to the development of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, colorectal and breast cancer, and inflammatory disease.
What’s the take home message? If using oils to cook food, aim to use Omega 3s (canola, flaxseed, walnut, hemp), and minimize the use of Omega 6s (corn, soy, sunflower). You can also use monounsaturated oils, which include almond, avocado, and hazelnut oils. Many of them have high smoke points, which make them optimal for high heat cooking. Olive oil is another monounsaturated oil, however, most extra virgin olive oils have a very low smoke point. Instead, use extra virgin olive oil for non-cooked dishes, such as salad dressings and seasonings.