Traci L Golden is a health food enthusiast and specializes in researching and reporting on ways to lead a more wholesome life.
What Makes Vegetable Oil so Bad?
Before jumping into the different varieties of cooking oils and how they are each used, let’s look at what exactly vegetable oil is, why it is bad, and why it’s important to have alternatives. Vegetable oil became a manufactured commodity when Proctor & Gamble rolled out its new product, Crisco, in 1912 as an alternative to animal fats.
Little did the public know, this product was toxic to animals and was previously considered waste. The public was also not made aware of the health hazards until the 1990s. What makes vegetable oils bad is the way in which they are extracted. During extraction, there are chemicals added and there are many studies that have concluded that it is not a healthy substitute.
Common Vegetable Oils to Stay Away From
The suggested alternatives don’t consist of harmful extraction methods, and in fact, will either consist of simple pressing or animal fat sources. For reference, some common examples of vegetable oils that are extracted through a very unnatural process include canola, cottonseed, soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, and peanut oils.
The Importance of Processing and Extraction
Choosing oils that are pressed rather than chemically extracted and unrefined or refined not using chemical processes are the best to use for both health and flavor quality. You’ll find that these oils have a better nutritional value and are most recommended by health experts.
Vegetable Oil Alternatives for Cold Applications
These vegetable oil alternatives can be used for salad dressings, dips, sauces, and drizzling.
While not ideal for cooking with over the stove or for use in baking, flaxseed oil is great for drizzling over foods and to make salad dressings with. It is an excellent source of linoleic (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic (an omega-3 acid).
Hempseed oil has a low smoke point and is excellent for drizzling, making dips and sauces, and is loaded with nutritional value. It contains a lot of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids has a nutty flavor and must be stored in the refrigerator.
3. Pumpkin Seed
Rich in carotenoids, antioxidative substances, zinc, unsaturated fat, fat-soluble vitamins, health experts claim an impressive range of benefits from the use of pumpkin seed oil. It is known to reduce the risk of cancer, improve memory, aid in decreasing anxiety symptoms, support heart health, and help with treating diabetes.
Almond Oil is commonly used in cosmetics and skincare products, but it is very nutritious to include in your diet. It contains an abundant amount of monounsaturated fats, while low in saturated fats. While it is not ideal to use for high-temperature cooking, it is excellent for salad dressings and cold applications.
5. Unrefined Walnut Oil
This delicacy has a lush nutty flavor and is best used to flavor food and use for cold sauces and dips rather than for cooking over high-temperature. It has a smoke point of 320° F. It has been shown to balance cholesterol levels, is a major source of Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Alternatives for High-Temperature Cooking and Cold Applications
Sesame oil is produced as either dark, or toasted, and light. It has a rich nutty flavor. While mostly used for seasoning and sauces, it can also be used for cooking thanks to its smoke point of 410° F. It contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and supports heart health, skins, and mental health.
7. Unrefined Shea Butter
Shea butter is an excellent alternative to regular butter and can be used as a spread and for the same cooking purposes. It is a fabulous source of essential fatty acids, contains antioxidants, and vitamin E. It does not have much flavor, but is a great alternative to butter for vegans due to the similar texture.
Avocado oil is a delicious alternative to vegetable oil and one that might just make you never look back. It is great to cook with at hot temperatures and it is packed with benefits, including monounsaturated fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Avocado oil also contains carotenoids, lutein, oleic acid, phytosterols, and vitamin E.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, butter got a bad rap. Despite widespread belief, it is also a much healthier option. For starters, butter contains a lot of healthy saturated fats, the fatty acid Butyrate, and is rich in conjugated Linoleic Acid fat. It also contains fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, and K2. When compared with its ugly imposter, Margarine, butter lowers the risk of heart attack.
It is also the most delicious alternative to vegetable oil, turning flat toast into a delicious staple, potatoes into comfort food, and giving life to many breakfast dishes. It has a smoke point of 350° F and can be used for low to medium temperature cooking.
10. Cacao Butter
Cacao butter is a great staple to have. While often known as an ingredient in cosmetics and skincare products, it is also used to cook with. Cacao oil is derived from cocoa beans which are full of antioxidant properties, including polyphenols and flavonoids. The oil retains many of these great properties and is a healthy saturated fat. When cooking with it, you do not need very much, and it cooks well in high temperatures.
Coconut oil contains an ample amount of healthy saturated fats and other medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). The MCTs found in it have long-term weight loss benefits, have been shown in studies to improve memory, curb appetite, and work as a natural antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial. Coconut oil can be used for baking and just about any cooking since it’s smoke point is relatively high.
Ghee is clarified butter. The main difference is the removal of milk solids and water. It has many benefits over butter thanks to its high smoke point and shelf-life. It lasts a long time, without refrigeration and can be used for high-temperature cooking and frying. It’s great for people who are lactose-intolerant. Ghee is full of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, choline, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Olive oil contains a high amount of healthy monounsaturated fats and contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. It also has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and properties. Extra-virgin olive oil is healthiest but has a smoke point of 375° F and Virgin olive oil has a slightly higher smoke point of 391° F. Both are fine to cook with, but extra-virgin is better for lower temperatures and sautéing.
Palm oil is also made from the African oil palm tree and is specifically made from the fruit’s flesh. It is pressed in a way similar to olive oil and is free of trans fat, rich in vitamins E, K, and A. It is known to boost energy levels and hormonal balance. It has a smoke point of 450° F and can be used in a wide range of cooking methods at higher temperatures.
15. Rice Bran
Rice Bran Oil can be used for high-temperature cooking. It has a smoke point of 490° F. It has a neutral taste, has a balanced fat ratio, contains the antioxidant oryzanol, which supports heart health, and it lowers cholesterol. It also supports weight loss, skin health, and contains vitamin E. It is fairly new as a cooking oil and is produced mostly in India. It can be used to cook almost anything due to its high smoke point.