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what's the healthiest oil to cook with?

sammijean06 Mar 31, 2010 11:41 PM

So, I may be quite ignorant on this topic - but it's fairly hard to find a solid answer, so I figured, I'd come to you for help. Recently, I've heard quite a lot of raves about coconut oil and it's healthy benefits, as opposed to "don't eat the saturated fats!". All the information I find relating to this is telling me not to use vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower, etc), nut oils (peanut, walnut, hazelnut, pine nut, etc.), or melon oils such as pumpkin seed oils (which is relatively hard to find anyway). Which exactly is healthy? Or is it basically - use as you must, but always in moderation? I can understand that, and the marketing scheme to promote their product rather than their competitor's, but I personally have absolutely no idea. What cooking oil do you use, and for what type of cooking (frying, baking, salads, etc)?

  1. l
    LauraGrace Apr 1, 2010 06:56 AM

    Honestly, it depends SO MUCH on whose info you believe.

    The Weston A. Price folks will tell you that unrefined animal fats, butter, and unrefined virgin coconut oil (NOT the terrible hydrogenated garbage used in factory processing) are practically essential for your body's absorption of nutrients. The mainstream wisdom is in the direction of vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature, and away from animal fats, butter, and any fats that are solid at room temp.

    My own opinion is that less processing is probably better, so I don't use factory processed or hydrogenated oils of any kind. I do use olive oil, butter, bacon grease, and virgin coconut oil (which is also amazing for your skin!). Mostly I use coconut oil and butter for baking, olive oil and bacon grease for sauteing. Coconut oil is great for popping popcorn!

    I think ultimately you have to decide which information seems the most sensible, unbiased, and compelling. I'm a pretty skeptical person, and especially when it comes to a government agency that drastically changes its nutritional recommendations every ten years, so... ;)

    Good luck!

    4 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace
      Beckyleach Apr 1, 2010 08:14 AM

      Very good answer. I'm trying to recover from a lifetime of being "fed" the misinformation about hydrogenated oils (I was a '50's baby, raised on margerine and crisco. ACK!) and keep reading up on this matter, learning all I can. My new appreciation for some of the Real Foods/Weston Price trends has me adding (judicious) amounts of saturated fat to the olive oils and (now only expeller-pressed) canola oils we've used the past decade. I've TOTALLY dumped all forms of margarine (yeah!) and have switched to pasture butter and even started rendering my own lard (from organic, pastured hogs).

      An interesting read: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Appreciatio...

      1. re: Beckyleach
        tarteaucitron Apr 1, 2010 01:58 PM

        Bravo to you! I am sad when I still see my own mother, in her 60's, go through tubs and tubs of margarine, thinking that she is doing her health a favour. It's too bad some people's beliefs are hard to change, thanks to some very successful media and advertising :-(

      2. re: LauraGrace
        tarteaucitron Apr 1, 2010 01:54 PM

        I am happy to say I have finally clued in in the last few years, and am on pretty much the same track about fats and oils! Except that part about coconut oil, which is quite new to me. I am hoping to explore on that in my cooking, especially with the extra incentive that it is good for the skin as you mentioned! Using coconut oil for popping corn reminds me of the processed deep-fried snacks from Asia, which mostly use palm and coconut oils (and so they cannot be that bad either!) The most I have been using coconut for was in its cream form, in increasingly liberal amounts as the creamy component in curries and stews.

        I am curious, would the coconut flavour overwhelm the dish if I start cooking with the oil?

        Agree so much about those national guidelines too. After enough decades of shifting recommendations, we should finally figure out they just don't know what is the best ;)

        1. re: tarteaucitron
          LauraGrace Apr 2, 2010 07:30 AM

          The coconut flavor is very mild, tarte. The only times I can *taste* it and identify it as such is if I use it as the only fat in baking, but most of the time that's a GOOD thing -- great for subtly-flavored baked goods. In savory cooking I can't taste it at all.

          There are plenty of online sources for virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil, and that's the route I'd recommend if you're interested -- the prices are just so much better. I use it for just about everything (practically every cooking application, plus as a moisturizer, shaving cream, deodorant, and toothpaste!) and so buying it in little jars from the health food store would just be insanely expensive.

      3. MandalayVA Apr 1, 2010 06:50 AM

        For cooking I use butter, chicken fat, tallow and coconut oil. I use olive oil on salads. Here's a good guide to "healthy" oils, maybe it'll get rid of the fat phobia that seems to be everywhere:


        2 Replies
        1. re: MandalayVA
          sammijean06 Apr 1, 2010 06:21 PM

          Thank you for that website, I had not come across that one before. I read about the oils he talked about, and then went to the websites that he had given as references. A lot of very good information. I like the fact that while he praised the health benefits of coconut oil, it wasn't the only oil that he recommended. I just wish he could have done every oil out there, but I guess overall, tropical oils are the best for "every day use" along with olive and fish, seeds and nuts, while there are healthy benefits to some, some are not so healthy at all! (ie: soybean, peanut, sunflower seed, flax seed, etc.) That's when it's hard to figure out which of the seed/nut oils could qualify as "healthy". Does anyone know the health benefits of the following? : almond, cashew, hazlenut, pecan, pine nut, and pumpkin seed oil. Would you not recommend any of those and for what reasons?

          1. re: sammijean06
            MandalayVA Apr 1, 2010 08:09 PM

            I don't think there's any "magic bullet." If it tastes good to you, eat it.

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