Food is my thing.
Not politics. Not sports. Not fashion.
Food is the thing that intrigues and entertains me.
I am fascinated by the pleasure it gives us, by its necessity, by the chemical transformations it undergoes, and by the effect it has on every cell in our bodies.
Food is one of the more complicated aspects of our daily lives. From day to day our appetites and preferences can shift and as we age the way our body processes food changes. We are constantly faced with choices, for which I am grateful although sometimes a little overwhelmed.
There is no area where I find it more important to be an informed consumer than with food. I am hungry for information about where a food comes from, it’s processing process, it’s history, it’s environmental impact, it’s health qualities, and it’s downsides.
All of this knowledge allows me to make informed decisions about what I consume. Does it stop me from eating that chip made from corn from Iowa that was shipped to China to be fried in trans fat and covered in artificial color and flavor? Often times yes, it makes it less appealing to me but if I’m in the mood I may eat it anyway but fewer and less often.
Many of the choices that I make as a consumer are about lessening my impact on the planet and limiting my exposure to potentially harmful substances. Not eliminating, just limiting. I have no desire to live in a bubble.
After some research many months ago about what happens to most fats when exposed to heat I pretty much quite cooking with anything but butter and coconut oil.
Saturated fats are some of the most heat-stable fats available; they won’t start to deteriorate and potentially cause a free radical free for all inside your body. And that old worry about cholesterol? The problem stems from the “modern” diet of trans fat, processed foods, sugar overload, and meat, eggs, and dairy that are not grass fed. Coconut oil and grass-fed butter can even have positive effects on your bad cholesterol by reducing inflammation in the body.
What about olive and canola oils, which are generally touted as ‘healthy’ choices?
I love olives and the flavor of olive oil but heat quickly destroys the benefits so it’s not suitable for cooking. My other concern with olive oil is regarding it’s purity. Nearly every week I come across an article, like this one, telling me that the olive oil I’m buying may be more like “olive-canola-safflower-oil”. I still keep it around for flavoring salad dressings or drizzling on cooked grains but I no longer think of it was the healthiest choice.
Canola oil requires both high heat and chemicals to extract the oil, a process that turns some of the omega-3 content into trans fat. Buying unrefined, cold-pressed (low heat processing), expeller-pressed (chemical free processing) canola oil helps avoid this issue but leaves you with an oil that isn’t suited for cooking on anything more than the lowest heat. Canola oil is also commonly genetically engineered so if you’re not down with that than you want to also add “organic” to your list of demands.
My bottom line is that coconut oil and grass-fed butter taste really good to me, aren’t very heat/light sensitive, and probably have health benefits. By using them both as my primary home cooking fats I limit my intake of potentially harmful overheated and over-processed oils.
yay for good fats! I use the same two as you and don’t think I’ll ever look back, love them both so much! Thanks for the great info here, makes me feel even better about cooking with butter.
All I ever use is butter…and the occasional olive oil…I’ll have to look into that now. I did stop using my canola cooking spray though after I read an article about canola…scary!
Thanks for the information. I use butter & coconut oil but also olive oil – it sounds like I need to save the olive oil for mostly salad dressings.
Also, regarding a different post – I tried your chocolate/mint recipe & loved it!
Lauren @ thetalkingkitchen
Thanks for the info, I guess it’s really true when they say everything’s always better with butter!
great post!! i’m anti canola oil now after doing a little research on it. i love coconut and avocado oil, and use it with high heat cooking along with ghee/grass fed butter. hemp and olive go on salads 🙂
Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf
Agreed. I only use butter, olive oil, or coconut oil in my food!
Fantastic information! I only cook with coconut oil now too, for the same reason. I love olive oil for drizzling though (& flaxseed oil). I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Earth Balance isn’t necessarily a healthier choice. We might switch back to (the most humane we can find) grass-fed butter when we need something more buttery than coconut oil. Thoughts?
What happens when fats are heated? How does that change the nutritional profile of the fat?
Both butter and coconut oil are saturated fats. I was under the impression that too high a consumption of saturated fats had consequences for ones health. How do you avoid that?
In my house, we use expeller pressed canola oil, which avoids the chemical issue you mention. Is that still bad?
Thanks for clarifying.
As any unsaturated fat is heated it starts to break down and diminish in flavor and nutrients. Saturated fats are very stable and can withstand high heat without becoming trans fats and decreasing nutrition. The issue of saturated fats being “bad” or “good” isn’t black and white. Animal products from animals that ate grass and grubs (in the case of chickens) have significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and significantly lower levels of fat than their grain fed counterparts. As far as coconut oil, it is very stable at high heat so you don’t lose any of it’s wonderful antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal properties or it’s high level of antioxidants. If you are interested in learning more, here’s some info on coconut oil http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html
Expeller pressed canola oil is best choice if you want to cook with an oil, I just find that I love the flavor of coconut oil and butter and the health benefits are worth it for me.
I’m no scientist but this is what I’ve learned over the years!
Thank you for the info Faith!! Once again you covered a topic that I needed a reminder about. Much appreciated!