Your Guide To Using Cooking Oils | Intellectual Medicine 120
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Your Guide To Using Cooking Oils

Your Guide To Using Cooking Oils

cooking oil, olive oil, smoke point, oxidation, free radicals, I.M. 120

Category: Healthy Living
April 23, 2016 - 7:34am — ShannonPetteruti

There are times, even when you are pursuing weight loss, that you will be cooking with oil. The natural question is, which oil is best to cook with?


This literally means the temperature at which the oil begins to "smoke," that is turning from a liquid to a gas. When cooking you want to use oil that has a high "smoke point." When cooking oil starts to smoke it becomes oxidized. The oxidized state of the oil amplifies free radicals and can cause problems such as accelerated aging, degeneration of brain and nervous tissue, and increased risk of cancer.

If you start to notice your oil smoking, turn down the heat. Oils that have a higher smoke point include avocado at about 520°F, processed olive oil with the smoke point around 400 (virgin olive oil has a smoke point about 30° lower, but is still a good choice for most cooking needs), and coconut oil with a smoke point of 350°F.

Do not use flax oil or oils from nuts (except macadamia nuts) because they have a very low smoke point.


Any food, including fats such as cooking oils, that are exposed to oxygen in the air begin to become oxidized. Oxidation is the process where a molecule is stripped of an electron or has oxygen added to it. This basic chemical reaction occurs in a pair. As one molecule is oxidized, another is reduced. The reduced molecules ones that have an electron added or has lost an oxygen Atom. The reactions are referred to as "redux reactions."

Don't worry about all that chemistry. The thing to remember is that it happens. And if it progresses, the food can become rancid. At that point, much like the smoking oil, it can become a hazard to your health.

Whole grains and polyunsaturated fats certainly are a healthier way to eat, however they tend to oxidize more quickly then processed white grains and saturated fats. The best advice is to buy small quantities and keep them refrigerated. If you follow this approach they should last for three months without losing significant quality.


Saturated fats

These are solid at room temperature. They are slower to oxidize than polyunsaturated fats.  Historically thought of as being "bad" for cardiac health, recent research has thrown that old paradigm into question. Based upon our current understanding of healthy nutrition, saturated fats are acceptable as long as the volume is moderate. Examples of saturated fats include butter.

Mono unsaturated fats

These are liquids at room temperature but become cloudy when stored in the refrigerator. They oxidize more quickly than saturated fats, but not as fast as polyunsaturated fat's. Examples include olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fats

These are always liquid, even when refrigerated. They tend to oxidize the most quickly and recommended shelf life is not to exceed three months, even when refrigerated. Examples include corn oil or soy oil.

"Virgin oils"

These are oils that are produced by pressing without any chemical processing.

Omega 6 v.s. 3
Another variable to consider when choosing a cooking oil is the amount of omega-6 versus omega-3. In general, omega –3 is anti-inflammatory and is preferred. Corn oil and soy based oil tend to be high in omega 6 (avoid).

Virgin coconut oil

This is worth special mention since there is a well done study in the literature correlating the use of virgin coconut oil with improvements in weight loss in people pursuing a weight-loss eating pattern.

Another unique attribute of coconut oil is its capacity to improve the health of your hair when applied topically. Due to its low molecular weight, it is capable of penetrating the cuticle of the hair and getting into the shaft enhancing it's vitality. Applying it to your hair and letting it soak in prior to putting in your conditioner may enhance the quality of your hair.

The range of choices of cooking oils can be overwhelming. My choice is to use olive oil as much as possible, purchase it in small amounts and keep it refrigerated.

Based upon my research, I am looking forward to trying the coconut oil as an alternative. Yes, I will be applying it to my hair as well! (at this point my life I am fighting for every follicle).

Although I do recommend staying away from them due to the high level of omega-6, the more common corn and soy oils are cheap and available and certainly are reasonable to use. When compared to olive and coconut oils, they don't have as healthy a profile, but so long as the volume used is modest it's unlikely to cause harm. When you're dining out, or visiting, strict avoidance of these oils is not worth the social friction that making a stand is likely to create.

Hopefully this information will help you as you continue to live the hundred year lifestyle.

To your best health,
Dr. Stephen Petteruti