Choosing oils that are high-quality, unrefined, and cold-pressed will ensure you are getting the most out of them as possible. This post is all about how to buy, store, and use all of the great oil choices we have. If you want to learn more about fats in general check out this older post, They’re Good Fats!, to get up to speed.
There are so many choices out there when it comes to oils, I thought I would take some of the guesswork out of it for you. Oils can be very fragile products and therefore need special thought when storing and using them.
Functions Of Fat In The Body
When oils are cared for properly, they have many benefits, some of which include:
- Production of energy and hormones
- Insulation and lubrication
- Nutrient absorption
- Brain health
- Anti-inflammatory properties (if in the right proportions)
Check out the fats post for more information.
These are pretty intense reasons to eat fat, but just because you are eating enough doesn’t mean you are eating the right kind. I am just talking about oils right now, so here are some of the good oils you can add to your diet:
- Coconut oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Camelina oil
- Flax oil
- Walnut oil
- Avocado oil
- Hemp oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Toasted sesame oil
How To Buy Good-Quality Oils
When you are purchasing oils, there are a few things to keep in mind. These tips will help you pick the best quality oils and will last longer than other choices.
- Oils should be in dark glass containers rather than in clear glass or plastic. Fats are broken down by light, heat, and air, so to get them in a dark container will keep the light to a minimum. Glass is important as well because the fat-soluble chemicals in plastic containers can leach into the oil and be passed on to you.
- When looking at the name of the oil, check to see if it is cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. These are put through less heat and less heat means less breakdown. They are also processed without the use of solvents, which means less potentially toxic chemicals in your body.
- When choosing between pure, light, regular, or extra virgin oil, choose the extra virgin. It is less refined and will have more flavour, colour, and nutrients than the other, lower quality types. Extra virgin means that it is from the first pressing of the plant, which means it is less processed.
- Choosing unrefined over refined oils is also a good choice. Refined will have less nutrients and may even contain harmful free radicals.
- Check the harvest or production date and choose one that is closest to today’s date. Time is an enemy of oils because the more time the oil has been sitting around, the more time it has been exposed to air, heat, and light. Oil is like produce that way – the closer to the time of harvest and production you can get, the more nutrients that will be intact, and it will less likely be rancid or go rancid soon.
- Purchase only enough oil to last you for about 6 months. This will keep what you have fresh.
All of the points above will have you choosing the most expensive oils, but the idea is to have quality over quantity. You will use less of the good stuff, and you will get more benefits out of it than the poor quality, cheaper oils. You will be spending more money upfront, but then saving in the long run.
Storing Your New Oils
Most oils contain the same nutrients as the plant seed they are derived from, just more concentrated. Proper storing will ensure the nutrients remain intact. Heat is one of oils natural enemies because it causes it to go rancid faster and rancid means little to no antioxidants and the formation of free radicals.
(Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that will steal electrons from other stable, useful molecules. This reaction can cause skin damage, like premature aging, DNA damage, and cell damage. All unwanted.)
To store oils:
- Keep all oils away from light. It is one of the three elements that will cause an oil to go rancid before its time.
- Keep oils in the fridge. Heat is another element that damages the structure of an oil, and the fridge is the perfect place to prolong its shelf life.
- Olive oil and coconut oil are the two exceptions to fridge storage. They are stable at room temperature, so keep them in a cool, dark cupboard. Olive oil will solidify in the fridge, so if you want an alternative to margarine, this is a great one.
- Make sure the container has a tight-fitting lid to keep the air out because oxygen is the third element that will cause an oil to go rancid.
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Extra virgin coconut oil – medium to high-heat tolerant. Do not let smoke. Used for baking and frying.
Grapeseed oil – medium to high-heat tolerant. Do not let smoke. Use for baking and frying.
Extra-virgin olive oil – Low-heat tolerant. Do not use for high-heat cooking or baking. Great for salad dressing and medium-heat cooking.
Avocado oil – unrefined – do not heat. Refined – can use on low heat. Unrefined is preferable. Can use to finish salads and vegetables.
Sesame oil – unrefined – do not heat. Refined – can use on low heat. Unrefined is preferable. Great to finish Asian dishes.
Walnut oil – unrefined – do not heat. Refined – can use on low heat. Unrefined is preferable. Use on salads. Drizzle on vegetables and other dishes once they have been removed from the heat.
Flaxseed oil – do not heat. Great for salads. Drizzle on warm foods once removed from heat.
Hemp oil – Do not heat. Great for salads. Drizzle on warm foods once removed from heat.
Other Considerations When Purchasing Oils
Canola is a very popular crop these days, and because of this, most of the plants produced today are genetically engineered. Other than the fact we have no idea how the genetically engineered cells will behave in our body long-term, the fact that they are grown to withstand huge amounts of herbicide and pesticide causes worry.
The chemicals from these substances are introduced to our bodies when we consume the products made from them. Our bodies must then work extra hard to try to eliminate them or store them so they do not circulate freely. This can cause long-term health problems.
Canola oil is great for high-heat cooking, baking, and is high in the hard-to-get omega 3 fatty acids, so it would be a shame to give it up. The key with this oil is to make sure you look for labels that say organic (in Canada, this also means GMO-free), cold-pressed, unrefined, and raw. It still needs to be in a dark glass container and can be stored in the fridge. The middle bottle in the picture is the kind I get. The regular canola oil from the grocery stores is just no good for anybody. This is a small change that can have very positive results.
Another oil that deserves special attention is palm oil. It is used in processed foods, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and biofuel, and you can also buy the actual oil at the grocery store. The problem with this oil is the fact that it is so in demand right now, and when a lot of people want a product, a lot of people make it available.
Palm oil plantations are causing massive deforestation of rainforests that force out the biodiversity that was once thriving. Endangered species are being driven out of their natural habitat as are indigenous people who have called the land home.
This is a great product to remove from your life. In addition to not purchasing the raw product for your own cooking, check ingredient labels on foods (even ‘health’ foods can contain it), cosmetics (lipstick, shampoo, etc), and cleaning supplies (laundry detergent, etc). We don’t need this product, and we can do our part to not drive up the demand.
I Don’t Want A Bunch Of Oils
If you are overwhelmed by the information in this post, please take a deep breath with me and tell yourself, “It doesn’t need to be complicated!”
You can have one oil in your house that will be good for many uses, and the magical oil is… olive oil – extra virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined (any of those good words.) It can be heated a bit, just make sure it doesn’t smoke, and you can use it for dressings and dips with no heat.
If you love high-heat cooking and baking, add in an extra virgin coconut oil in a glass container. This will fill in the higher heat gaps of the olive oil.
Another option is to just not use oil for the high-heat cooking. When frying and sautéing, you can use vegetable broth or water.
One step at a time. Look at getting a really good quality olive oil and then try another when you are ready.
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5 Foods For Happy Hormones guide!
Fancy Pants Oil
One thing you may want to try with all your new found oil prowess, is flavoured oils. You can use any oil you like. Each one will have a bit of a different taste to begin with, so choose one that may be a little more neutral.
Pour oil into a little container (a small mason jar works great) and add your choice of herb – garlic, rosemary, hot pepper, ginger, thyme, lemon, etc. Make sure to smash, bruise, or slice the added food if needed, like rosemary, to let the natural oils release. Let it sit for at least 1-2 weeks in a cool, dark place. When ready, remove the solid pieces, and use on salads, pasta dishes, or drizzle over fresh bread. This is a great gift idea.
Getting good-quality oil will affect your body and your health. It is worth the extra money to get the good stuff now so you won’t be paying for doctors and hospital visits later. You are worth it!
Let me know about any new oils you have found and tried out in the comments below. There seem to be more coming out all the time. I am also happy to hear about any recipes you have tried that turned out amazing.
Have a good one!