Sometimes it’s hard to get quality information about what’s healthy and what’s not. Things are sensationalized on TV and then there are issues of business and profit and politics, and it’s just hard to know what’s a healthy food choice.
Especially now that we have kiddos, we try to make healthy choices for our family. That’s why a few years ago we stopped using vegetable or canola oil. We now use primarily coconut oil, butter from grassfed cows, and olive oil (there has been some debate about cooking with olive oil but I’m convinced it’s safe to cook with though). And quality of the oil DOES matter: you’ll want organic, virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined oil (thanks Costco for making all of these so affordable!). Occasionally, I use avocado oil in stuff like homemade mayonnaise, but I haven’t looked into it enough to recommend it as a primary cooking oil.
What’s wrong with canola and vegetable oils?
Well, I’ve read a lot about problems with canola oil, but I took the approach of a newbie and googled “dangers of canola oil” to see what someone new to this whole idea would find. The first several links weren’t research-based and appear to freak-out about the dangers (this kind of extremist approach usually makes me more skeptical instead of winning me over), but Dr. Axe and Dr. Gangemi at least provide sources from scientific journals.
After reading and listening to blogs about the dangers of canola oil, here’s my very unscientific summary of the problems: canola oil is made with GMO seeds that are sprayed with harmful pesticides. The oil-making process consists of lots of high heat, resulting in rancidity (e.g., a rank smell because it’s no longer fresh). Since it’s rancid, chemicals and deodorizers are used to remove the stink. Then it’s packaged and sits on the shelf to get more rancid. That just sounds unhealthy. I’d rather stick with organic, virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined olive and coconut oils, especially since they’re more accessible now.
Oh, and I checked on sites like snopes, and I didn’t get an up-to-date answer since most sources were from the 1990’s and were from somewhat biased sources like the Canola Council.
What’s right with coconut and olive oils?
People and health professionals are mostly in agreement about the benefits of olive oil. But coconut oil is a bit more controversial, probably because there are fewer studies on coconut oil and it’s higher in saturated fat; the fear of saturated fats comes from a several-decades-old study linking saturated fat and heart disease, but those fears about saturated fat have been refuted many times. Mainstream media doctors are starting to argue for coconut oil benefits. One of my favorite bloggers, Wellness Mama, explains how coconut oil is beneficial.
Here’s my unscientific summary of the benefits:
- Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, vitamins A and K, and antioxidants. Mostly, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which I’m finding is a common link between good food and bad food (anti-inflammatory=good; inflammatory=bad).
- Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (which are easy to absorb) and lauric acid (which is found in breast milk and increases immunity).
- Grassfed butter is loaded with the vitamin K2 (which is supposedly one of the most important nutrients; Weston A. Price fans are big on vitamin K2).
Some health professionals are still leery about coconut oil, but so far, I’m convinced. If you’re not convinced though, hopefully these resources are a good starting point for even more research. As you can tell from all the links, this topic is still pretty controversial. I’d love to hear your comments below about what you’ve found and what oils you use.