Oils and Oxidation
When it comes to cooking oil, oxidation is a bad word. That’s when, upon heating, the oils breakdown into free radicals, which are bad for our health. High temperatures, along with the type or pan you’re using, can contribute to this.
Polyunsaturated fats such as those from soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn, and most margarines will oxidize the greatest during the cooking process, while saturated fats such as butter, coconut oil, palm oil, poultry fat, meat fat and lard will oxidize the least. But they contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats like peanut oil, avocados, canola oil, and olive oil are less stable but studies show that olive oil especially can help lower our bad cholesterol and raise our good HDL levels. Those Italians may have it right! Studies also show that eating tomatoes with olive oil raises plasma antioxidant activity.
Polyunsaturated fats oxidize less then monounsaturated fats and much is determined by fruit variety, harvest time and extraction methods.
The Oils (and Cooking Temps) You Should Be Using
The key is to choose a healthy oil, but don’t heat it above it’s smoke point, or the temperature where it begins to give off smoke. Excessive heat and over cooking not only increases free radicals in oils but will denature animal proteins, leach out important water soluble and heat labile nutrients like vitamin C. Textures can be overly softened, moisture and flavors are lost, changed or destroyed and vibrant colors are turned into drab hues of their former beauty.
Here are 12 of some of the healthiest oils and their smoke points. I recommend you heat below those points.
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