Last week I made a comment to my friend about how I would never eat anything cooked in vegetable oils. She stared at me with wide eyes and said, “What’s wrong with vegetable oil? I thought it was made from vegetables, so it’s healthy…”
In that moment, I decided I needed to address this issue IMMEDIATELY and set the record straight.
Backing up for a sec. I know a lot of people get intimidated when it comes to starting a healthy lifestyle. When you’re in college and are faced with the daunting task of cooking for yourself, it can be overwhelming. You suddenly have to make a bunch of decision about what to buy, how to cook, and what to cook, and not everyone knows what the best options are.
I wanna help.
It’s all about making small changes that add up to create an overall healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to switch from In N’ Out to green smoothies overnight, and you don’t have to give anything up forever. Just make little adjustments that will eventually add together to improve your overall health and well-being. One of those small, easy changes that will massively change your health is cooking with the right oils.
NOT getting rid of fats. We NEED fats in our diets. I can write a whole post on this if you want, but we’ll leave it there for now. We need the GOOD fats.
Misleading as it is, vegetable oils are not what you want to be cooking with if you’re tryna hop on the health train. Once again, I’m going to try to keep this as non-sciencey as possible, but I want you to understand why vegetable oils are not my ish. Hang tight with me.
Vegetable oils include canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and other oils that come from the seeds of plants. Vegetables oils, and margarine (which is made from vegetable oils), are made in factories through a bunch of chemical processes, and they’re more often than not created from genetically modified crops that have been sprayed with lots of pesticides. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of exactly how they’re made, but the point is that these vegetable oils are processed foods themselves. They’re not real foods. Most contain added chemicals that harm our bodies and have been linked to hormone imbalances, reproductive problems, kidney damage, high cholesterol, weakened immune systems, and other health issues.
Familiar with the whole good fats vs. bad fats thing? Vegetable oils are “bad” fats. They have super high levels of polyunsaturated fats, which are very unstable and oxidize easily. So when your body tries to use those fats to repair cells (because, again, our bodies NEED fats to function), it can cause cell mutations and major inflammation, which can lead to longterm health issues like skin cancer, PCOS, and heart disease.
Another thing you might have heard of – our bodies need to have the right balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats in order to function optimally. Most people have waaaaay too much Omega-6 in their diets, and vegetable oils are a main reason why. Vegetable oils have really high levels of Omega-6 fats, which oxidize easily, and having too-high levels of Omega-6 fats can cause different types of cancer, increase overall inflammation in your body, and lead to other health problems like heart disease, diabetes, IBS, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
Vegetable oils are the oils that are put into pretty much every processed food on the market, and they’re the oils that are used in most restaurants here in America (lucky us!). Basically, they’re bottles of inflammation, IMO. I personally do my best to avoid them completely, but we live in a world where that’s almost impossible. Limiting your consumption of corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, margarine, any other fake butters, and any other vegetable oils will radically improve your health. I noticed digestive and skin improvements immediately after taking these out of my diet.
So, check your ingredients and try your best not to consume foods that contain these oils. You can find vegetable oils in a lot of salad dressings, sauces, chips, cookies, and other “snack” food. I doubt you’re surprised…
At the very least, stop cooking with vegetable oils! It’s one thing to have limited control over the foods you’re served at restaurants (which you absolutely DO have control over, but I’ll discuss that another time), but don’t make the choice to buy an inflammatory, toxic product and cook with it every day! That’s basically torturing your body.
When you go to the grocery store, you have the choice to buy a cooking oil that will make your body happy and make you feel amazing. If you cook with healthy oils most of the time, then it won’t be a big deal when you go out to eat with friends and get something that was cooked in vegetable oil. It’s all about BALANCE.
SO. What are the good oils?! Because YES, we definitely need healthy fats in our diets!
My absolute favorite oil to cook with is COCONUT OIL. First of all, it’s delicious. I eat coconut oil plain, which I know is not for everyone, but just saying. It’s filled with medium chain fatty acids, which are very easily digested, and it’s one of the best sources of saturated fats in the game. It’s great for cooking at high temperatures because it doesn’t oxidize easily. It’s also been known to increase your metabolism, decrease inflammation, and improve cholesterol levels, amongst other things. Make sure you get it in a glass jar, and it should be organic, virgin, and cold-pressed.
(P.S. If you don’t want a coconutty taste, go for refined coconut oil. It has a much milder taste. The “refined” part doesn’t mean it’s bad, I promise.)
Real, grass-fed butter is a great choice if you can tolerate dairy. If you don’t eat dairy, ghee is another great option. It’s great for high-heat cooking and gives your food a rich, dense flavor. Like coconut oil, ghee has also been linked to fat burning, improved digestion, and increased energy. YAAAS.
Olive oil is amazing. But make sure you use REAL olive oil. Extra virgin, cold-pressed, and in a dark, glass container. Olive oil is ideal for salad dressings or tossing over some steamed veggies. It shouldn’t really be used for cooking at high heats because it oxidizes at high temps, but let’s be real, I cheat on that all the time. Cooking at high heats with olive oil isn’t amazing, but it’s 5 billion times better than cooking with any vegetable oil.
Palm oil (sustainably sourced), lard, and other animal fats are other great fats to cook with because of their saturated fat content and heat stability. I personally use these much less often (basically because I’m just obsessed with coconut oil), but they’re fun if you want to switch up the flavor profile of your food. Some palm oils are questionable, though, (long story – can explain another time…) but still better than vegetable oil.
Avocado oil is another one of my favorites, but I tend to only use this for salad dressings or to put on top of already-cooked veggies. Again, it’s not as stable at high heats as my one true love, coconut oil, but I cheat with this too. I love anything avocado.
Flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and macadamia nut oil are also great in salad dressings or on top of veggies, but they should be eaten in moderation because they do have really high levels of Omega-6 fats. However, they have other amazing health benefits, so these are definitely healthy oils as long as they’re not over-consumed. These aren’t good for high-heat cooking, though, so keep ’em cool.
Let’s recap. Avoid vegetable oils as much as possible. Buy organic, virgin, cold-pressed oils in glass jars. Keep them in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard. My top faves are coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil, but go with what you like. (Although if you don’t like coconut oil, I think you need to get your taste buds checked!) Cook with them, throw ’em on your already-cooked food, eat them plain, WHATEVER. Just get them in your diet and take the other oils out. I promise you’ll feel SO much better.
And remember, it’s about the little choices in life. <3