Heading to the grocery store and figuring out what to buy can be challenging, especially when it’s time to grab ingredients to try a new recipe. Most product labels have tons of ingredients and claim they are healthy, but what do they really mean? Newbies who are new to the keto diet may be stocking up on fats and healthy cooking oils (which is excellent), but it’s important to know which ones that may be better left alone. Let’s get into cooking oils and which ones are healthy and which ones you should avoid! And while you’re at it, check out the Body Reboot book which is a great resource to learn more about the keto diet and what foods are suitable to eat!
Before we dive into which oils are the best to use for cooking or however else you’d like to use them, let’s learn about the good and bad fats in a nutshell, according to Tasteaholics.
Saturated Fats = Good
Found in red meat, butter, ghee, lard, cream, eggs, coconut oil (MCTs) or palm oil
Monounsaturated Fats = Good
Found in extra virgin olive oil, avocados, avocado oil and macadamia nut oil
Natural Trans Fats = Good
Found in meat from grass-fed animals and dairy products
Natural Polyunsaturated Fats = Good (specifically Omega-3)
Found in fish, fish oil, flaxseed and chia seeds
Warning: Be wary of foods high in Omega-6 like nuts, legumes & seeds (eat in small quantities)
Ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 should be as close to 1:1 as possible
Keto Domain says it’s all about the smoke point when it comes to selecting the correct oil. They argue that oils that have the best nutrient value are the most important. Read on to find out why.
Whether or not you’re on a keto diet, it’s important to choose the correct oil for the cooking application. Since a higher proportion of your total calories will originate from fat when on a keto diet, it’s even more important to choose wisely. You’ll want to make sure you’re choosing oils that give you the most nutrient value, and that won’t break down at high temperatures and therefore induce inflammation.
To choose the healthiest cooking oils for a keto diet, you need look at an oil’s smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which a cooking oil begins to break down and degrade. As oils degrade they become carcinogenic, release free radicals, and can also trigger inflammation in the body.
Reducing inflammation happens to be one of the main reasons for following a ketogenic diet because it is a risk factor for obesity. So, it would be a huge mistake to use the wrong cooking oils for high temperature cooking and accidentally induce inflammation. Plus, as oils degrade they simply taste bad.
Now, let’s go through which vegetable oils are harmful according to Keto Connect:
Look on the back of any bottle of sauce in your fridge and unfortunately, you'll probably find there's a refined vegetable oil in it. Vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil are highly refined oils that are widely used in baking, deep frying and hundreds of other processed foods.
Don't be quick to trust a label that says, “Made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil” or “Made with Avocado Oil”. Read the ingredient list on the back if the bottle because most of the time, the first ingredient on these products is canola oil!
Refined oils undergo high heat, bleaching, and deodorizing to produce a neutral, mild tasting cooking oil. Even olive oil and can be refined and stripped of its nutrients, so it's important to know which kinds to buy.
Since olive oil tends to be a favorite for keto dieters, is there anything to keep in mind when purchasing it? Keto Domain outlines which olive oils have the most benefits and what to look for when shopping for some.
Olive oil tends to be highly popular due to multiple health benefits. Many of these health benefits are believed to be the result of the polyphenolic compounds in olive oil which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and could result in a lower risk for developing atherosclerotic plaques. In addition, studies have suggested that oleic acid, a primary component of olive oil, could directly reduce the levels of inflammatory markers.
However, it’s important to recognize that these benefits are only associated with olive oils that contain a high polyphenol content. As olive oils are refined, aged, or cooked at a high temperature, they lose their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. For this reason, extra virgin olive oil is the best choice to get the most health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil is primarily composed of monounsaturated fatty acids, and has a smoke point of 375° F, which is relatively low compared to other cooking oils. Given its low smoke point, it’s best used in recipes that require a low simmer like some vegetables, or as a base for homemade keto salad dressings.
Coconut oil is another oil that comes highly recommended while you’re on the keto diet. It’s better for low-heat cooking, and that’s not all. Ketogenic explains more about coconut oil and why it aids in ketosis.
Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides which have been shown to aid in boosting metabolism and stimulating ketosis. Because of its high concentration of lauric acid, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has a longer shelf life than most unsaturated cooking oils. It also may have antibacterial and antifungal benefits.
Like EVOO, coconut oil has a low smoke point, making it better for low-heat cooking. Coconut oil pairs well with seafood, baked foods, and is traditionally used in many Southeast Asian recipes.
You may not think of using oil in a smoothie, but adding coconut oil to a Mocha Cookies & Cream Smoothie is a great way to add a hint of tropical flavor and add valuable keto diet nutrients. For a meal with some Asian zing, check out this Curried Cauliflower side dish. This vegetable is easy to make and pairs well with high protein meal options. And lest we forget, the Pan-Seared Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce has more flavor than you could imagine!
Even though on the keto diet it’s important to eat a lot of fat (it is, after all, a high fat, low carb diet), you should still pay attention to the amount of saturated fat you’re consuming. The lower the saturated fat, the better, but don’t be afraid to purchase oils that have a lot of fat and unsaturated fat because that’s what you need to eat on a diet to become keto-adapted. Heart.org has a list of cooking oils that have less saturated fats but be warned that some keto blogs may disagree. Do your research and decide on cooking oil that will work for you.
Here’s an alphabetical list of common cooking oils that contain more of the “better-for-you” fats and less saturated fat.
Blends or combinations of these oils, often sold under the name “vegetable oil,” and cooking sprays made from these oils are also good choices. Some specialty oils, like avocado, grapeseed, rice bran and sesame, can be healthy choices but may cost a bit more or be harder to find.
In general, choose oils with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, and no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
Live Science supports Heart.org by arguing that saturated fat is better than unsaturated fat. The site discusses how an advisory panel of individuals addressed which cooking oil is better and why. What they revealed is interesting:
Many consumers are confused about which types of dietary fat experts encourage or discourage in order to promote heart health, said Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy and director of the cardiovascular nutrition laboratory at the Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston. Further complicating matters, there's been hype about coconut oil, and claims have circulated that “butter is back,” Lichtenstein said.
Lichtenstein was part of an advisory panel for the American Heart Association that wrote a report on dietary fats and cardiovascular disease. For the report, which was published in June in the journal Circulation, the panel did a careful review of the scientific literature to clarify some of the controversies surrounding dietary fat, she said.
After evaluating the evidence, the panel recommended that Americans decrease levels of saturated fats (fats that come from meats, poultry, cheese, dairy products and tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oils) to reduce their risk of heart disease. People should replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, Lichtenstein said.
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