There are so many oils to choose from. Your body and brain need fats. Some are considered good for you and others we need to stay away from. What do all these terms mean…refined, unrefined, expeller pressed, cold pressed, omega 3, 6, and 9, polyunsaturated? How do I decide which are the better choices? Let’s decipher this together. First, let’s look at what these terms mean.
Expeller pressed– Oil is extracted by mechanically squeezing the oil out instead of using chemicals. It is generally put in a screw press and the run off oil is collected. This process only extracts about 70% of the oil so it is less efficient for companies, making the oil more expensive.
Cold pressed– Cold pressed oil is also expeller pressed. However, when seed/nuts are expeller pressed it tends to produce heat through friction, which can change the properties of the oil. To keep that from happening manufacturers take steps to keep the oil’s temperature down. This helps preserve the aroma, flavor and nutrition.
Chemically extracted-Solvents are used to extract the chemicals, mainly hexane. This is the cheapest way to extract oil and it collects the most oil run off, about 90%. Hexane is a by-product of gasoline refining. The CDC calls it a neurotoxin and the EPA called it a hazardous air pollutant. The seeds are soaked in a solution containing hexane to release the oils, then they are heated to evaporate the chemicals from them. Some studies show that small amounts of hexane can be left behind in some oils. It was also found in soy products such as soy protien isolate and soy meal. They don’t know for sure, but they don’t think the levels are enough to be harmful. If you want to avoid the hexane all together, buy certified organic. Generally, if the label doesn’t say expeller or cold press, then assume it is chemically extracted.
Unrefined-After pressing, the oil is left in it’s natural state. Have more color, flavor and nutrients. Use at a lower cooking temperature, as higher temperature will alter it.
Refined– Removes the color, odor and bitterness by degumming, bleaching, and deodorizing. This strips it of most of its nutrients. Refined oils can be used with high temperature cooking.
Smoking point– Oils should not smoke. When oils are over heated, they breakdown creating free radicals which are bad for you. Choose an oil with a higher cooking temperature for high heat recipes.
Saturated fats– Saturated fats generally come from animal products. They are fats that are solid at room temperature. They used to advise staying away from saturated fats because they were thought to cause heart disease. Now reports are coming out that they may not be linked to heart disease, so this is questionable at this point. It is currently recommended that you limit your saturated fats to 16 grams/day depending on your total calories consumed. Saturated fats are recommend for cooking at high heat because they are resistant to heat damage. Coconut oil is also a saturated fat, however it is a medium chain triglyceride opposed to a long chain triglyceride. MCT are partially man-made, digested quicker and used for energy, whereas LCT from animal fats are stored in the body. This is why coconut oil is considered a healthier oil. It also used as medicine.
Polyunsaturated fats– These are also liquid at room temperature. These contain the “essential fats” your body needs (omega 3 and 6)
Omega 3– Essential fatty acid. Essential means our bodies can’t make it and we need to get it from other sources. Omega 3 reduces inflammation. Eat more of this.
Omega 6– Essential fatty acid. Promotes inflammation. Found in many processed foods. Also has many health benefits. We get too much of this in our typical American diet. Competes with omega 3 in our body. Cut back.
Omega 9– This is a non-essential fatty acid. Your body can make it’s own. Healthy oil.
Trans fats – This is processed unsaturated fat. It makes your cell membranes stiff. Avoid words like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Shortening and margarine contain trans fats. Cool whip has hydrogenated oils. Found in all sorts of processed/ fried foods, cookies, cakes, etc.
No fat is a pure fat. They all have some combination of the above items. For example, olive oil has both mono and polyunsaturated fats. There is some disagreement on some of the oils. I think it depends on their definition of healthy/unhealthy. The general consensus is as follows-
Oils to stay away from
- soybean oil
- corn oil
- safflower oil
- cottonseed oil
- canola oil
- hydrogenated oil
- vegetable oil
- rice bran oil
- sunflower oil
Better oil choices
- extra virgin olive oil
- coconut oil
- avocado oil
- unrefined, expeller pressed, organic canola oil
- walnut oil, unrefined
- grass fed butter
- flaxseed oil
- macadamia nut oil
Oils should be kept refrigerated to avoid spoiling. Don’t use oil that smells rancid. Coconut oil doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
Use a variety of oils.
What’s your favorite type of oil?
When you buy oil, do you consider the health benefits?
“…and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.” Job 29:6