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Ghee and Coco-what Oil!?: Exploring New Oils in the Kitchen.

Posted Nov 10 2010 9:04pm

I was talking to a dear friend on the phone today and she asked me what I was cooking for dinner.  I’d just finished making pesto lasagna and told her I planned to upload the recipe soon.

My friend asked: “Is it easy?”

I assured her: “All the recipes should be quick and easy. I don’t spend all day cooking.” (Well, not everyday.)

Her response: “The ingredients aren’t easy…you use that coconut stuff… whatever that is… ”

I think my exact words were: ” Get your ass to Whole Foods sister!”

I promise I don’t pick fancy ingredients just to prove I’m high maintenance (Duh, I have my pedicures and Nordstrom habit for that!).  Most of the time I choose ingredients that work best in a recipe as it relates to flavor, and I also choose ingredients that offer added health benefits.

My conversation today got me thinking that I might want to explain why I cook with ingredients such as coconut oil and ghee instead of olive oil.  I love it when friends provide website inspiration. :) You all know how I love making lists, so here it goes….

Healthy Oils for Cooking:

Coconut Oil (unrefined and organic): Coconut oil is a saturated fat that stays solid at room temperature.  I know what some of you are thinking….”Isn’t coconut oil BAD for you?”  The answer is no.  Sadly, coconut oil is still repairing its reputation after studies linked refined, hydrogenated coconut oil with poor health outcomes in animals.  I think we all know hydrogenated oils in any form are bad for our health, so it really wasn’t the coconut oil’s fault all those years ago.  Unrefined, organic coconut oil is actually wonderfully healing.  It boasts high levels of lauric acid which aid in immune and brain function.  The reason I use coconut oil for cooking is because it stays stable at high temperatures making it ideal for cooking and baking.  You can find high quality coconut oil at your local health food store.  Make sure it is unrefined and organic.

Ghee or Clarified Butter: This is butter that’s been heated and then stripped of milk solids making it stable for high heat cooking.  Ghee is often tolerated by individuals who are sensitive to dairy.  It makes a nice substitute for butter. Ghee is easily found at any health food store.  It is sometimes in the oil aisle and sometimes in the refrigerated section.

Butter: Nope, I’m not scared of butter.  Honestly, is anything better than butter in a recipe?  A plain piece of salmon turns gourmet chic with a quick broil in a butter bath.  Mmmmm!  Is butter great to use all the time?  In my dreams it is.  But in reality butter is an ingredient to be used in your kitchen on a rotation, not all the time.  Make sure your butter is high quality, meaning it is organic and free of chemicals, hormones and antibiotics.  Butter tolerates moderate heat temps making it safe for cooking, but make sure you don’t burn butter.  Once it burns, it becomes damaged.

Oils NOT For Cooking:

Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil offers us brain-building omega-3 fatty acids so we love it, love it, love it!  However, flaxseeds are super duper wimpy when it comes to light, heat or oxygen.  As a result, flaxseed oil must be refrigerated at all times to keep the beneficial qualities intact.  Don’t cook with flaxseed oil but instead use it in smoothies and mixed with other oils on salads.  It has a strong flavor so make sure to balance it out with other oils when needed.

Olive Oil:  Olive oil is a tough one because we are used to cooking with it however it does not tolerate high heat very well and easily becomes damaged when used for cooking.  Some people say cooking with olive oil over medium heat is o.k. and some say avoid it at all costs.  I’m going to let you decide.  Medium/low heat should be fine.  Your best bet is to use olive oil on salads and leave high heat cooking for oils like ghee and coconut oil.

Nut Oils: There are so many wonderful nut oilsalmond, walnut, sesame, pumpkin seed, etc.  Most are best for drizzling over salads, pasta and vegetables galore, but none of them should be used for cooking.  Heat damages the healthy properties in these oils so keep them cool.

Oils to Avoid Altogether:

Hydrogenated Oils: Hydrogenated oils (found in margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortening, processed foods, baked goods, fried foods, etc.) trans fats and damaged fats all create high levels of oxidative stress and free radical damage to our bodies.  Our bodies have a difficult time processing these fats and they cause more harm than good.  Unfortunately, you can also turn a good fat BAD when you cook with fragile oil (like flaxseed oil) at high heat.  This damages the healthy fats that naturally occur in fragile oil and creates DAMAGED FATS!  The body sees a damaged fat the same way it sees a hydrogenated oil or trans fat.  Now you get why I’m such a freak about using the right oils for cooking.

Canola Oil:  Canola oil is highly refined in its production.  This process damages any healthy fats Canola oil once possessed.

Corn Oil: Highly refined and genetically modified.  Unless you are a fan of becoming a science experiment at meal time, I’d avoid it.

Grapeseed Oil??: Grapeseed oil is a tough one.  It has a high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking, however, grapes are a heavily sprayed cropgiving the oil a nice mix of chemicals, pesticides and insecticides.  Grapeseed oil is usually highly refined as well.  High quality organic grapeseed oil is hard to find so I can’t say I’m totally onboard with using grapeseed oil as a cooking solution, even though I do use it from time to time when I’m in a pinch. :)

Does this list help or add more confusion to your meal time preparation?  I hope it helps. :)

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