When my sister first told me she wouldn’t eat the sweet potatoes I was making if I cooked them in olive oil, I thought she was crazy (not sure if you’re sensing a theme here yet with us). Then, however, she showed me what scientists have been researching about both the benefits of these different “healthy” oils as well as the risks of cooking these oils past their smoking points.
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the different options when I first started this journey. The Greek in me just wanted to use olive oil for everything from eggs to cake to popcorn, but I’ve actually come to enjoy using these different oils in my cooking and can appreciate what each oil does for my body. Here I’m going to break down what I’ve discovered about the three oils I use every day: avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil and talk a bit about the fat that I’m still working to incorporate into my diet: ghee.
Avocado oil is unique in comparison to other oils in that this oil is extracted from the flesh of the fruit rather than the seed. When doing my research, one cool thing I found was that avocado oil actually came about as a way to find a use for ugly avocado’s that couldn’t be sold in the stores. That might not necessarily be cool to some, but as a person who always feels bad for the ugly fruits of the world, I loved that the outcasts could be put to use 🙂
Why use it
Avocado oil has an insane amount of benefits due to the fact that they come from a very nutritious source: avocados (duh). Dr. Axe himself said that avocados should be ranked as one of the five healthiest foods in the world. Studies have shown avocado oil to do the following:
- reverse liver damage caused by sucrose intake (reverses that damage you already did. It’s not too late!)
- speed up cell regeneration (faster wound healing. we all want that cause wounds are gross)
- lower risk of cardiac disease (lower blood pressure, etc)
- reduce levels of free radicals in your body (this is a good thing that, to be honest, I am still learning about. right now I just know that it’s good and free radicals are bad)
- relieve symptoms of arthritis (not just for old people. Good to start now!)
Where to use it
Avocado is great to cook with because it has a really mild flavor. Like for the times you don’t want coconut flavoring on your steak? Avocado’s real strength in the kitchen, however, is its high smoking point of 500º. This is higher than any other oil, including ghee too, so it’s perfect for roasting or sautéing your vegetables. But, why does a high smoking point matter?
This is where that radical term comes into play again. When an oil reaches a certain smoking point, the fumes that are released are toxic, and the oil itself generates free radicals in your body (remember free radicals = bad). This is why avocado oil is so great for cooking. The smoking point is much higher than the other two oils I use in my house. Coconut oil and olive oil have a smoking point of around 350º which is lower than what I tend to cook at.
The coconut oil trend baffles me. People are obsessed with this stuff. They put it in their hair, one their face, use it to cook and even use it in the bedroom (you can use your imagination). Coconut oil is a bit controversial, but all oils are really. Perhaps coconut oil’s controversy is a bit more apparent because of the frenzy that has sent some eating coconut oil by the spoonful.
The thing about coconut oil is that it has the potential for a lot of amazing benefits which I’ve listed out below. The downside? A saturated fat content of about 90%. So, maybe don’t eat it by the spoonful, but, for me, the benefits definitely outweigh the fat (and good fat I might add) content within the oil itself.
Why to use it
I’ve already alluded to this, but coconut oil has a ton of benefits here. I’ve highlighted the ones that mean the most to be, but a simple Google search of coconut oil benefits will show you the vast amount of studies that have shown benefits of coconut oils or the ingredients in coconut oil (I think I read one article that said over 1,500 or something like that). Coconut oil:
- can help fight against flu symptoms and can kill harmful bacteria
- the fats in it turn into ketones which can reduce appetite
- can lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol (this is good! LDL=bad and HDL=good)
- protects from liver damage
Where to use it
The main place I use coconut oil is in baking! My 3-ingredient chocolate fudge is made with coconut oil, for example. It has a melting point of about 76º which makes it easy to work with (for the most part) when making “no-bake” items. I also use it to make fat bombs or energy bars for my hikes (hint: recipe coming soon)!
As I mentioned earlier, with a lower smoking point, I tend to stay away from using coconut oil for things like roasting vegetables or sautéing anything. That’s what the avocado oil is better for! I also don’t love everything tasting like coconut. Not as obsessed as most!
ALL HAIL OLIVE OIL. Not really, but kinda serious. I’m Greek (imagine me flipping my hair like I’m a big deal) on my mom’s side of the family, so I really love olive oil. That may seem stupid: me insinuating that Greeks love olive oil but it’s true. Ask any of them. For good reason too! Olive oil is like the grandma of all oils, or the great, great (I could go on) grandma. It has been around for essentially ever and was popularized by the Mediterranean diet, which essentially said you have to eat like a Greek goddess to look like one.
Why to use it
If you really have to ask why use olive oil, you obviously have never tasted it. It’s like an elixir from the gods (can you tell I’m a fan of it?). But in all seriousness, olive oil is crazy good for you. So good that there’s actually an Olive Oil Times dedicated to displaying news about the health benefits of this nutrient-dense substance, news that I’ll do my best to consolidate, and give you some of the main points. Olive oil:
- reduces inflammation which is one of the leading causes of disease
- protects against heart disease and levels out cholesterol (I’m not sure if that’s a term, but, hopefully, you get it)
- can fight off ulcerative colitis (gross but important because no one wants that)
- shields the brain from Alzheimer’s disease
- aids in preventing brain cancer
Where to use it
Since olive oil has a relatively low smoking point, a lot of these benefits are lost if you use it to cook at heats higher than 350º. Therefore, the main place I use olive oil is in dressings. Most of the time, it’s the only dressing I use for my salads: a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of lemon with salt and pepper is so good. I don’t know what I’ve been doing my whole life buying dressings. Now I make them! They’re so easy, so fresh, and you’re less likely to get bored with them because you can make a lot of variations.
A note on ghee
Ghee. Ghee is this weird substance that’s kind of like butter but not butter and not as bad for you as butter. It’s technically clarified butter, which is better that is heated until the milk solids are removed, so it’s lactose-free. Despite being new to me (and most of the Western world), ghee has actually been around for some time. It was used as an Ayurvedic method for healing.
Ghee is also great for cooking. Similar to avocado oil, it has a high smoking point of about 485º and is packed with loads of health benefits like fat-soluble vitamins and other ingredients which have shown to improve the health of your heart and help prevent certain diseases.
My thing with ghee, I don’t like the smell, and that can be problematic when eating something (I don’t think I need to explain that). I’m trying to work on incorporating it more in places where I would normally include butter since it has that higher smoking point and, without the lactose, doesn’t hurt my tummy like butter does. sauteing shrimp is a great example of this. Though my grandma would hate to hear I’m no longer cooking my shrimp in butter, I’ve found ghee is a great substitute that delivers the same delicious taste!
What oils do you use in your house? Let me know! I’d love to get more ideas 🙂