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Vegetable Oils

My mom loved to cook with Canola Oil.. 

My mom, as most Indians, love to cook with Canola Oil. When I would tell her that it was unhealthy (very gently), she’d point to the “vegetable” in vegetable oil and tell me to get out of her kitchen. There is just something disarming about words like “corn”, “safflower”, “peanut”. It can be reasonable to assume anything, like oil, that comes from a healthy food, would be…”healthy”! But don’t be fooled, the oils derived from these sources are far from good for you. And too much, can set you up for some major health issues. 

My mom’s cooking was the BEST tasting…BUT…

Q: What types of Oils are we talking about?

A: They are called Vegetable/Seed Oils. Canola Oil, Safflower, Peanut, Sunflower, Corn, Cottonseed, Soybean Oil, these have been linked to chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. 

Q: If they are so bad, why are they used so much? 

A: They are great for cooking. They have high “smoke points”, meaning they can be cooked to high temperatures before they start breaking down (great for frying), they also have a neutral flavor (cooks love that), and they are less expensive (who doesn’t like a deal?. They can also be used multiple times, so you get more use from one serving. My mom would literally save her oil to cook with for weeks! 

Q: Why are they bad for us? 

A: These oils contain a high concentration of PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fats). You might have heard that unsaturated fats are always good for you (they are not, that’s a topic for another email), but when heated these fats oxidize quickly and create free radical stress.  This can wreak havoc on the body. Next, they have a high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, these can be very inflammatory to the body. And oils in general, all kinds, are very dense in calories, you can rack up a lot of calories without any effort! 

Q: But Omega-6 is essential, your body requires this nutrient?

A: Yes, but only in balance with Omega-3. The proper ratio of Omega 3 to 6 is critical, around 1:1. Our diets are already high in Omega-6, it’s found in lots of foods, so adding a highly concentrated source, as vegetable/seed oils, throws off the whole balance and makes it very inflammatory. 

Q: What oils should I cook with?

A: If you want to cook with oils, choose Coconut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. These oils have a higher concentration of saturated fat, fat that does not break down and oxidize very quickly, have higher amounts of Omega 3, and are loaded with other valuable nutrients and antioxidants. 

Q: What about Avocado Oil?

A: That’s another great oil. Avocado has a very similar calorie, fat, and nutrient profile to Olive oil, almost exact. Avocado oil has slightly more PUFA’s, but the difference is insignificant. Avocado oil has a slightly higher smoke point as well, so it’s better to fry with or be under high heat for a longer period of time. 

Q: Do you cook with these oils?

A: No, I cook with grass-fed Butter. Butter has a high amount of saturated fat, almost 70%, and contains high amounts of Vitamin A, E, K, and other nutrients. I don’t cook in really high temperatures (e.g. frying) anyway, so even though butter has a slightly less smoke point than vegetable/seed oils, it’s completely fine.