Cooking with moderate amounts of oil is a great way to add in some heart and brain-healthy fat to a meal, not to mention the differing additional flavors from the likes of coconut, avocado and olive oils.
In the Plantable kitchen, we primarily use olive oil for our meals, and if a meal necessitates a differing oil profile, we would look to avocado, sesame or coconut. However, in most restaurants and certainly in packaged foods, the most common oil is canola, due to its neutral flavor, high smoke point and cheap price point.
The health impact of canola oil has been subject to debate. Here we will shine a light on the good, the bad and the truth surrounding this popular oil.
Canola oil is comprised of 28% polyunsaturated omega 3 fat— aka the “good” fat. Additionally, these fats are essential—meaning our bodies cannot synthesize them, so we must obtain them from our diet. Many studies have found omega 3s to be important in reducing cardiovascular disease risk since they are able to lower LDL (our “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. There is also evidence of omega 3s being helpful for decreasing joint pain in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
However, canola oil contains double that amount of omega 6 and an overabundance of omega 6 verse omega 3 provokes chronic inflammation. Furthermore, canola oil is highly processed and refined. The canola plant (an off-shoot from rapeseed, which is toxic) is grown to produce oil and canola meal which is fed (cheaply) to animals. The extraction of oil from the canola plant includes treating it with synthetic chemicals and hydrogenation which introduces trans-fat notorious for impairing heart health. This all represents a very different route to table than fresh pressing olives for extra virgin olive oil. And to top it all, in the United States, about 90% of our canola oil is genetically modified.
Because the risks of GMOs are not yet clearly understood, we recommend avoiding canola oil in absolute. You will keep your inflammation in check and not mess with GMOs.
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and is a major player in the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to many health benefits. Because it has a smoke point under 400F, it is best to use extra virgin olive oil as a salad dressing, to top off an already cooked dish, or for roasting vegetables at a temperature under 400F.
Avocado oil also contains healthy monounsaturated fats. With a higher smoking point than olive oil, avocado oil can be a great alternative to cook with.
Let's get cooking!