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Cooking with Oil PDF Print E-mail

Over the past 10 years our understanding of which oils are good for us has increased exponentially. There’s a lot of information available, but the way that the body uses is complex, and so there are bound to be a lot of ‘gray areas’. Is Flax Oil better than Fish Oil for our Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) needs? Is cooking with Olive Oil better than Sunflower Oil? Each oil has a distinctive colour and smell – if an oil is colourless and odourless, chances are that it has been processed (bleached, refined or deodorised using chemicals) and is not worth consuming. The only oils that we as humans need to ingest are the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids – this is because they are not produced by the body. Omega 3’s are not found in all oils and when they are, the oil must be treated with care as it is unstable and goes rancid quickly. The omega 6’s are actually easier to get from food sources and we usually do not need to supplement with those as we get enough of them.

The use of oil in food 

The oil that you buy in that dark green or brown bottle should ideally be used as it is, or only added to food once it has been cooked. This is because heating any oil with EFA’s changes the structure turning them into toxic products that can be harmful to your health. If it is necessary to cook foods in oil then consider the ‘smoking point’ as a guideline. This information is unfortunately not supplied on the label and is basically the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to smoke when heated. When it gets to that point, food will burn and taste unpleasant. Most importantly the oil becomes toxic as heating oil to a high temperature causes oxidation and chemical changes. The antioxidants are used up and trans-fatty acids and other more toxic by-products are produced. 


A general guide for heating oil is as follows: above 150oC unsaturated fatty acids become mutagenic (they are capable of damaging genes), above 160oC trans-fatty acids begin to form; above 200oC trans-fatty start to form in substantial quantities which increases exponentially above 220oC. Frying with oils will not kill us as our bodies are able to cope with a certain amount of toxins. The problem however comes in when over many decades these toxic products accumulate in our cells and this can eventually manifest into various degenerative diseases. If you do need to fry, choose oils that contain the lowest amounts of EFA’s and the greatest amounts of saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. We generally tend too long for the oil to heat up before we cook and this is totally unnecessary. Do not use fresh, unrefined, mechanically pressed, oxygen and light protected EFA-rich seed oils for cooking! 

What’s in a Name 

Polyunsaturated: As previously mentioned, Omega 3 fatty acids (sometimes referred to at superunsaturated fats) and the Omega 6’s can’t be made in the body but are vital to human health. Monounsaturated: These are the Omega 9’s which include oleic acids (found in olive, avocado and almond oil). Oleic acid is the most important monounsaturated oil as it keeps the arteries supple and is that major fatty acid produced by skin glands. It is also a fairly stable fat. Saturated: Saturated fats include coconut oil which has medium chain fats, butter and palm oil. They are generally present in minor quantities in most oils. So when looking for oils look for something that is ‘cold pressed’ (meaning that there is no heat during the pressing process), unrefined, unprocessed and mechanically pressed.

The oil should be in a dark container to protect it from air and light. Make sure that the label includes the oil’s proportions of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. Remember to look for the sell-by date and last but not least, choose oils that have been pressed from organic seeds. 

What are Trans Fatty Acids?

Avoid these at all costs! They are bad for your health and account for many premature deaths from heart disease and even birth defects. Trans-fats are hydrogenated (added hydrogen) vegetable fats and are mainly used in fast food and places where oils are used up to three hundred times for frying. If you see trans fats or partially hydrogenated fat on a label, do not buy it. Trans Fats have been banned in Denmark with the UK and USA in the process of banning them altogether. 

What about Margerine? 

Margerine is made through the process of hydrogenation where hydrogen is added to the oil to turn them semi-solid. This is done at temperatures of 250oC for several hours. This purposefully creates trans-fatty acids because they have higher melting points giving margarine body, consistency, shelf-life and texture. 

This table shows the smoking point at which oils, when heated, become unstable.

Smoking points for different oils in degrees Celcius

Flaxseed Oil 107
Pumpkin Seeds Oil 120
Hemp Seed Oil 165
Sunflower Oil 160
Olive Oil 185
Macadamia Oil 198
Sesame Seed Oil 215
Grapeseed Oil 216
Almond Oil 220
Coconut Oil 232
Avocado Oil 220-250
Ghee 250

These figures are guidelines only, as the smoking point can vary according to the following factors:

• Quality

• How oils are treated (refined oils have higher smoking points)

• Where the fruit or seeds are grown • The length of time the oil has been heated

• The number of times the oil has been used

• The presence of impurities like salt

• Improper storage

• Whether or not the oil is a generic blend 

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

In a time when strange viruses are making headlines around the world, perhaps it's time you knew about the most powerful natural antiviral around - coconut oil. The antiviral activity in coconut oil is remarkable, even among the most resistant viruses, and the best part is, if it's virgin and organic, there isn't a man-made chemical in the mix. Think it's too good to be true? Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle1 says "Laboratory tests have shown that the MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) found in coconut oil are effective in destroying viruses that cause influenza, measles; herpes; mononucleosis; hepatitis C and AIDS; bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers; throat infections; pneumonia; sinusitis; urinary tract infections; meningitis; gonorrhoea and toxic shock syndrome; fungi and yeast that lead to ringworm; candida and thrush; and parasites that can cause intestinal infections such as giardiasis." The antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of coconut oil are directly attributed to the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in the oil, including capric acid and caprylic acid, and the powerful lauric acid. These fatty acids are concentrated in coconut oil; they make up over 60 percent of all that's in the oil. 

Medium chain fatty acids are unique and found in only a few places in nature. Interestingly, another place medium-chain fatty acids are found is in mother's milk. In mother's milk, these medium-chain fatty acids are what protect the infant as his/her immune system is developing. And the more the mom has in her body, the more protection the infant will receive. 

As antiviral and antibacterial agents, medium chain fatty acids work as follows: like humans, viruses and bacteria have a skin, or outer coating to keep foreign invaders out. Most viruses and bacteria have a malleable, fluid-like skin that is composed of a fatty substance. Inside this fatty skin resides the rest of the organism, including the organism's DNA. 

Because the fatty acids in coconut oil are similar to the pathogen's (micro-organism’s) own skin, the fatty acids are attracted to the organism and are easily absorbed right into it. Once inside, the pathogen finds that the medium chain fatty acids are actually much smaller than the fatty acids that make up its own outer casing and this begins to break apart the pathogen's casing. According to Fife, the smaller medium chain fatty acids "weaken the already nearly fluid membrane to such a degree that it disintegrates. The membrane literally splits open, spilling its insides and killing the organism." And it does this all without causing any harm to human cells or tissues! 

1. Coconut Oil Miracle, Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. Coconut Cures, Bruce Fife, N.D.