What Makes Some Oils Dangerous When Cooking?
Most people use cooking oils regularly in all sorts of dishes, but did you know that some oils are worse for your health when you heat them? Determining the healthiest cooking oil all depends on the type of cooking you’re doing. An oil’s smoke point is “the threshold at which the oil becomes unstable.” This means If you heat an oil past its smoke point, it not only harms the flavor and can unintentionally give your food a bitter taste, but many of the nutrients in the oil degrade—and the oil will release compounds called free radicals.
These harmful compounds can have negative health consequences and even cause cellular damage that may lead to disease. This is why It’s important to carefully consider whether the oil you are using is still healthy to consume after it has been heated. If you’re cooing with high heat, such as a stir fry, you’ll want an oil that has a high smoke point — “oil that is stable under higher temperatures, meaning it won’t get oxidized, smoke, and become rancid and potentially harmful for consumption.”
There is an abundance of cooking oils out there, and it may feel overwhelming to figure out which one is best for you. Luckily, we have made a list of the worst 6 cooking oils that you should avoid when cooking with heat.
Oils to Avoid When Cooking at High Heat
1. Walnut oil
Walnut oil is made from walnuts that are pressed until all oils have been extracted from the nuts, says Spruce eats. It has a nutty flavor that becomes astringent when used at high heat. Walnut oil has a low smoke point, so it’s not the best choice to use for cooking at high heat. However, it can be used in plenty of other ways. It also has a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which helps keep inflammation in check, says Time.
2. Extra Virgin Olive oil
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Unprocessed extra virgin olive oil has a much lower smoke point of 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to refined olive oil, and you get to avoid the “processed” aspects of the oil. When looking for the high smoke point olive oil, choose the bottle that says “extra-light olive oil,” which means it can “withstand hotter temperatures before breaking down.” For the unprocessed extra virgin olive oil, go with the roasted veggie or soup recipes or low-heat, slow simmer recipes such as Red Lentil Potato Soup, Roasted Eggplant. and Cauliflower Curry, Pea Risotto With Roasted Asparagus.
3. Flaxseed oil
Flaxseed oil comes from flaxseed. Specifically, the oil — also called linseed oil — is cold-pressed from ripened flaxseeds. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Flaxseed oil should not be used for cooking at high heat. IT has a relatively low smoke point — around 225 degrees Fahrenheit — “which doesn’t make it the best bet for high-heat cooking or roasting.” Not only can it lose some of its crisp, nutty flavors when cooked at high heat, but it can burn and become bitter and less appealing. Consuming flaxseed oil raw and avoiding heat is best, not only when it comes to taste, but also for your health.
4. Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil comes from sunflower seeds. Specifically, sunflower oil is sourced from “pressing the seeds of the Helianthus annuus plant.” You can find sunflower oil in “both refined (neutral-tasting) and cold-pressed (buttery, nutty) forms. Unrefined, or low oleic sunflower oil has a much lower smoke point and contains higher levels of polyunsaturated fats than high oleic oil, which makes it more prone to oxidizing, or going rancid, says simply recipes. When sunflower oil is introduced to heat repeatedly — specifically, temps over 180 degrees Fahrenheit — it releases “potentially toxic compounds,” specifically aldehydes, “toxic compounds that … contribute to conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.” Low oleic sunflower oil is best used raw and on top of salads.
5. Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil comes from grapeseeds and is neutral in taste. Its high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids make it unsuitable for high-heat cooking, such as frying. However, it is okay to use it for sauteing, stir-frying, and pan-frying. Grapeseed oil is known for its clean, light flavor, making it ideal for use in dressings, baked goods, and delicately flavored dishes. Like other cooking oils, grapeseed oil is best stored away from heat and light.
Margarine is a man-made food product that was created as a “low-fat,” and “healthier” alternative to butter. Margarine is made from refined vegetable oil, which is commonly made from genetically-modified soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, and safflower. When this oil is exposed to high heat temperatures, it can become rancid and it’s best to be avoided when cooking at high temperatures.
What Should You Use Instead?
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Oils with high smoke points are good for high-heat frying and stir-frying. These include peanut (smoke point of 450 degrees F), sesame (smoke point of 410 degrees F), and soybean oil smoke point of 453 degrees F), says Mayo Clinic. Avocado oil is another great option with a high smoke point of 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
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