What’s So Great About Alternative Oils

What’s So Great About Alternative Oils

Have you strolled through the cooking oil section of your grocery store lately? Sweet Jesus! You know you’re getting older when you start any sentence with “back in my day” but seriously, back in my day you either bought canola oil or olive oil and moved on. The boyfriend and I seriously spent about 15 minutes this past Saturday debating over pistachio oil versus avocado oil, walnut or sesame. Finally after staring at the choices like the proverbial deer in the headlights, we emerged, exhausted and about fifty dollars lighter. Now what to do with all this variety staring us down from the kitchen counter. (We also welcome any suggestions for amping up the romance of our Saturday outings!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to be alarmed, olive oil is still a good choice, full of healthy omega-3 fats and antioxidants. But all olive oils are not created equal and some are highly processed and less healthful. Generally, virgin and extra virgin are a better choice than olive oils labelled refined. The virgin label usually indicates that the oil was not processed with any chemicals or heat (although that standard is mostly voluntary so it’s worth looking for the International Olive Council code (IOC). Recently, some nutrition experts have suggested it might be even better to look for the words expeller or cold pressed to guarantee that no heat has been used in any stage of the extraction process since heat can destroy some of the polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that have made olive oil the gold standard. But the problem with olive oil is its smoke point. That is the point during the cooking process when the oil will begin to smoke and create potential carcinogens. For olive oil, that point is about 320 degrees F. making it a good oil for dressings and light sautéing but less so for baking or broiling. Canola oil’s smoke point is 220 degrees, no bueno.

So, in the interest of school starting in the next few weeks (booooo!), let’s do this old school style; report card time!

OIL

SMOKE POINT

UPSIDE

BEST USES

DOWN SIDE

TASTE

SCORE

AVOCADO 520 Mono-unsaturated fats lower bad cholesterolHigh smoke point High temp.cooking such as frying/broiling Don’t like avocado, you likely won’t love the oil Subtle, mild A
SESAME 350 Helps to lower blood pressure Salad dressings Strong flavour can overpower Strong B-
PISTACHIO 325-350 Unique: emerald green colour and strong flavour If you want to showcase the flavour and be a little daring! Lower in omega-3’s than some other oils Pungent C+
WALNUT 320 High omega-3 content Dressings, sauces Low smoke point, not great for cooking Nutty B-
PUMPKIN SEED 320 High in zinc and vitamins B and D Finishing oil Low smoke point A little high in Omega-6 C+
COCONUT 450 Lauric acid supports immune function Sparinglybaking High in saturated fat* Coconutty! B-

*The saturated fat in coconut is primarily medium chain triglycerides, an arguably healthier, plant based saturated fat than the kind we are more familiar with in things like meats and butter. But the jury is out and there isn’t enough science based evidence that this particular saturated fat won’t contribute to heart disease and weight gain so for now, use sparingly, like all oils

But wait! It turns out I missed possibly one of the best oils nobody’s using! In trolling the interwebs for all things cooking oil, I noticed Macadamia Nut seems to be everybody’s darling. One post even suggested that macadamia nut oil is the new olive oil…gasp!

Macadamia oil has one of the best fatty acid profiles in that it is abundant in Omega 3’s with a balance of almost 1:1 omega 6’s. Plus, it has one of the highest smoke points between 400 and 420 degrees. Last minute addition to the report card and straight to the head of the class: A+.

 

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