Vegetable oil, canola oil, margarine, and shortening are products I used to always have in my house. But you will never again see those things on my pantry shelves. Why? Well, let me explain.
First, let me start by saying that in this post I will only be scratching the surface on this topic. The following may be completely new information to you. So I ask that you keep an open mind, because you just may consider learning something new.
My intentions are purely to peak your curiosity, so that you may make your own decisions and seek out your own information on how to best nourish your body.
Alright, let’s jump in. I am the product of a “low fat” upbringing. I was raised on highly processed vegetable oils, margarine, shortenings, low fat milk and shelf stable nut butters cut with unnecessary, unhealthy additives.
Those foods appeared to be real, normal and healthy to me, because that was all I knew. But I made a promise to myself as I got married and had kids of my own. I vowed as the one who nourishes my childrens little bodies, that I would give them THE BEST nourishing foods.
Now this journey continues to grow. And the changes have been gradual as I learn and understand what good nutrition is.
A few years ago when I started reading books and hearing nutritionists talk about fats, my ears were in tune.
I started to question my own family’s fat consumption, as I found out that the vegetable and canola oils we would buy and consume were actually oxidized and rancid. I found out that these oils are toxic to our bodies and cause a great deal of inflammation within us.
So let me be frank in saying that you DO NOT want these oils in your body!
Fun, Important fact:
Let me share a fun fact to break the silence for a second. Did you know that our brains are 60% fat? So what do you think would be the best food to feed yourself, and your children’s growing brains? Ding, ding. If you guessed, FAT, congratulations!
Doesn’t it make sense to feed our brains what it’s made of–fat? In fact it’s crucial to our brains integrity and function to be fed fat.
Our cells also require fat to ensure optimal cell function, so it’s crucial to consume high quality fats for our cells to remain strong.
But let’s talk about WHICH fats and oils are essential and beneficial for us, because there are a lot of imposters out there, some of which I have already mentioned above.
Let’s talk about the imposter fats.
Let me start by giving you a picture of some of these harmful, inflammatory imposter oils I am speaking so negatively of. They are called industrial seed oils. There is a good chance you may be consuming many of these each day and in high quantities. You may cook and bake with them too, and unfortunately most of these can be found on processed food labels. The following are just a few that you may recognize. . .
- Vegetable oil
- Soybean oil
- Canola oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Corn oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Hydrogenated oil
Did you recognize any? Now you may be thinking that one or a few of those you always thought were actually healthy. I hate to be that bearer of bad news, but I’m going to explain to you that they are in fact not healthy.
What are PUFA’s?
Have you ever heard of PUFAs? PUFA stands for Polyunsaturated fats. Quick backstory: There are 3 kinds of fats.
- Saturated (which is a stable fat when heated)
- Monounsaturated (a little less stable fat when heated)
- Polyunsaturated (a very unstable fat when heated)
All fats and oils contain a combination of these. I’ll spare you from more of the science behind each one, but I encourage you to look up the difference on these types of fats.
Let’s focus on the latter: Polyunsaturated. As you see above, this one is most unstable. And unfortunately this is the most heavily used oil in our processed foods. Those industrial seed oils I listed above rank very high in the Polyunsaturated fat (aka PUFA’s).
Why are PUFA’s bad?
Our bodies do not thrive well when fed a diet of mostly polyunsaturated fat. These fats are unstable, because they can’t withstand high heat. They are highly processed when made, which damages and alters the final product. Then when they are used for cooking and baking, they become rancid.
When we excessively consume more polyunsaturated fats than we should they can become toxic to our bodies causing inflammatory reactions. And when our bodies are inflamed, they are more susceptible to sickness, and worst case scenario, chronic diseases.
When our bodies are inflamed, it’s hard for them to fight off the bad guys, aka sick germs, when they try to invade. When our bodies are so bogged down with these oils, they can become incapable of controlling that inflammation.
If it sounds bad, well, that’s because it is. Despite their natural sounding names, these oils are NOT natural. So please consider taking a look in your pantry and educating yourself on which foods may contain these harmful industrial seed oils.
Start with chips, cookies and granola bars and all those beloved condiments. You may be frightened to see that most things contain these harmful oils.
Then what IS good, healthy, real fat?
Well, I’m glad you’re still reading. And I know what your question is. What fats/oils are good for me? And which ones are best to replace what I’m used to?
Remember when I mentioned above how our brains need fat to thrive? The following are the REAL kinds of fat’s you want to be using when cooking and baking with. This is because they are stable fats and can withstand heat when cooked with.
I suggest purchasing ‘expeller pressed’ oil when seeking pre-made or pre- packaged foods. This oil has been less processed, and a much healthier less inflammatory option.
These are the oils I now always have in my pantry or refrigerator:
- organic extra virgin olive oil
- avocado oil
- organic cold pressed coconut oil
- beef tallow (from grass fed cows)
- lard (from pastured pigs)
- organic grass fed butter
- organic grass fed ghee
I use most of these on the daily. I cook with them, I bake with them, and I am not afraid to use them liberally. They give our food an incredible depth of flavor, and they are most nourishing for our bodies.
Remember, these fats have been used by our ancestors for thousands of years (unlike the recent lab created industrial seed oils I listed above).
Why are they good for us?
These fats are much better for us, first by the way they are processed. It’s a less intense process, and leaves the good fatty chains and nutrients still available.
When you take a look at the 3 types of fats I listed above, you will see that saturated fats are the most stable. So why would the food industry be telling us saturated fats are “bad” for us? It’s not rocket science so I’ll make this short, M-O-N-E-Y. They can produce large amounts of these industrial seed oils using cheap GMO grains and seeds (see why GMO is bad for us here). But remember, those oils are heavily processed and altered so much that they become unstable, and go rancid.
Let’s go back and highlight saturated fats again. These fats are PURE and able to withstand heat at high temperatures, while keeping the good nutrition and health benefits for us. Which allows our bodies to reap the good benefits of consuming a quality oil/fat, that our body needs (and actually craves) to be nourished and feed our brains well.
How should I cook with each oil?
Many bottles of oils contain their smoke point. This means that the oil is stable until it reaches the temperature of that smoke point. It’s important to note this information when choosing a fat before cooking or baking.
The following is how I cook and bake with the oils that I always keep stocked in my fridge and pantry.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The smoke point is around 375 degrees. Olive oil can actually become unstable at high temperatures. So it’s a better alternative when making something like homemade salad dressings. Which I always encourage because the grocery store dressings are filled with those BAD highly processed industrial seed oils!
Avocado Oil: The smoke point is over 500 degrees! That blew my mind when I found that out. I use avocado oil for most veggies and some meats that I cook or roast in the oven. The price is high, but it really is one of the best oils to always have on hand. It’s so versatile for all kinds of cooking, and its light taste is a win to me. Especially in my homemade mayonnaise!
Coconut Oil: The smoke point is around 350 degrees. Which makes it a perfect substitute for baked goods that may call for vegetable oil. It does not give off a coconut flavor, and is very versatile for your baking needs. I love using coconut oil in my sourdough recipes.
Beef tallow: The smoke point is over 400 degrees. I will use this when I am cooking with beef or searing steaks in the cast iron. It’s so deliciously fatty, and leaves your recipes tasting next level!
Lard: The smoke point is about 375 degrees. The thick texture allows your food to not stick to the pan, and gives it the BEST flavor. I love to use lard for sauteing veggies, in homemade pie crust and homemade tortillas. I also love using lard to fry up our farm fresh eggs (don’t knock it until you try it).
Butter: The smoke point is around 300 degrees. But it’s the high butterfat content that makes it so good for you. (you will get more butterfat from grass grazed cows) We love to spread our homemade farm fresh deep yellow butter on everything! There truly is nothing like it!
Ghee: The smoke point is around 480 degrees. This makes it a great option for cooking, roasting and searing meat and veggies at high temperatures.
Where can I source these better oils?
Costco carries great quality oils in large quantities. If you’re going to be using these kinds of oils (which hopefully after reading this, you do) then large quantities for the best price, is worth the membership to Costco in my opinion. I purchase my olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and kerrygold butter from Costco.
I am also a member of a farm fresh local food coop, and this is where I purchase my grass fed beef tallow, and pastured lard as well as many other amazing fresh products.
Search for a coop near you to purchase these quality fats as well as pastured eggs, chicken, pork and grass fed beef.
This is not only good for you to source this high quality food, but it’s so important for us to support our local farmers. They are what our country was founded upon, and it’s of such value to both parties when we vote with our dollars in supporting our local farmers.
I realize this is a touchy subject. But it’s one that I find completely fascinating because it goes against the cultural norm that “fat’s make you fat”.
I am not a doctor, or nutritionist. Just a regular mom who questions the narrative and strives to feed my family the best. And this is why I take the time to make my food completely from scratch. I want to know everything I put into our bodies.
When you look around here I hope that you find cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated, but rather simple, because that is gourmet.