This is the champion of oils. Because more than 90 per cent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated, it makes it pretty heat resistant. The oil actually goes solid at room temperature and it has hugely powerful health benefits. High in Lauric Acid, it can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria, and the fats in coconut oil can help boost the metabolism and increase feelings of fullness. You can cook at high heats with coconut oil, so it’s great for curries and stir fries – unless of course you don’t want the taste of coconut running through it!
Saturated fats have been demonised a lot for being unhealthy, but actually it’s now shown that its the processed stuff that’s really bad. Butter is actually not as bad as we may previously have thought, and it contains vitamins A, E and K2. Another benefit of butter is that is contains CLA – Conjugated Linoleic Acid and butyrate. CLA can lower body fat and butyrate can improve gut health.
The benefits of olive oil have been well-documented, and is believed to be key in a healthy heart diet. Olive oil can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL (the bad) cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. Make sure to choose quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has far more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. It also tastes much better. Reach for the olive oil for your everyday cooking and anything Mediterranean, with tomatoes, basil, fish and meat. Also, use it to drizzle over salads and make dressings with. Think pesto, hummus and other dips.
The avocado itself is a superfood, so it goes without saying that the oil is pretty good too. The composition of avocado oil is similar to that of olive oil. It is primarily monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in. You can cook with it, or use it cold.
Fish oil is a brilliant way to get Omega-3 fatty acids, the best being cod liver oil which is also rich in vitamin D3. However, despite its benefits when taken as a supplement you should never cook with it.
This is the plant-based version of fish oil, containing Omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not vegan, fish oil is still the best way to get your Omega-3, but flax is a good alternative for those who don’t eat fish. Again, due to the high amount of polyunsaturated fats within flax oil, it shouldn’t be used for cooking.
Although a poor choice for cooking with, due to the high levels of polyunsaturated fats, nut oils can taste delicious as dressings. The one exception is macadamia nut oil which can be used in medium or low-heat cooking due to it being mostly monounsaturated fat.
Anything partially hydrogenated should be avoided – such as soybean oil – as partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats which are the least healthy fats we can consume. They are basically used to preserve food for longer and are not a good choice for cooking.
There is some consternation over the harvesting of palm oil as it has been suggested that it is part of the cause of major deforestation and climate change. Palm oil is found in many processed foods and contains high ratio of saturated fat. Studies show that palm oil may raise the risk of heart disease.
I check the ingredients of all processed food and try to minimise hydrogentated oils. They are definitely on the decrease, which is great.
I would love to buy more of these oils but they are expensive. It's ok if you live on your own but add a family of hungry children and you can whizz through a bottle of avocado oil in a few days!
butter is good? Fantastic! There's nothing like the taste of butter-fried mushrooms or eggs. All in moderation, of course.
I love stuff cooked in olive oil, although I think you have to be careful not to overheat it. Also delicious poured on that Greek salad.
Coconut oil is great. My wife has a tub she bought from Amazon for about £12 and uses it for cooking as well as just for spoonfuls here and there. It's also a good hair conditioner and good for skin (apparently I'm told!),