Healthy Oils for a Healthy You!

Healthy Oils for a Healthy You!

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to get healthier? Instead of starting off with a huge overhaul of your lifestyle, take baby steps and slowly integrate more healthful choices in ways that won’t affect how much you enjoy your food.

One of the easiest ways to clean up your act is by switching to more healthy oils in your cooking and baking.

These changes can be virtually unnoticeable, but can have a positive impact on your health. This chart provides a simple guide to choosing the most practical and healthy oils for different uses, helping you make better choices based on your common cooking needs. Think about what types of dishes you make most often and invest in a high quality healthy oil for each of your most common needs. If you feel like getting fancy and adding in a few more, go for it!Healthy Oils

Some things to keep in mind when choosing healthy oils:

  • For salads, choose an unrefined version of pumpkin seed, safflower, flax, walnut, or hemp oil. Be sure to shop for shelf-stable or refrigerated oils.
  • Monounsaturated fats are good! These types of oils will stay liquid at room temperature and turn cloudy in the refrigerator. These are good options to use instead of margarine and shortening for baking purposes. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and is a surprisingly delicious alternative for baked goods.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are also good and stay liquid even in the refrigerator.
  • Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and should generally be avoided.
  • Coconut oil is a great replacement for butter or other oils in dishes with strong flavors, like curries. It can also be used in baking, but keep in mind that it will impart a bit of coconut flavor to your goodies (not a problem in my book!)
  • Store all of your non-refrigerated oils in dark containers or in a cool, dark cabinet. If you like to keep your most common oils out by the stove for convenience, invest in some small ceramic bottles and only keep out what you can reasonably go through in a couple weeks. Keep them away from direct heat.
  • Don’t buy in bulk if you aren’t going to use it. While it might be tempting to bring home that very reasonably priced jug of oil from the warehouse store, if it’s going to go bad before you can use it up, you’re better off buying a smaller amount of high quality oil that you can enjoy to the very last drop.

This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information to keep straight, but you can switch to more healthy oils without a whole lot of effort. Don’t freak yourself out about using the healthiest oil every time. Some things just taste better with butter! But if you’re cutting back on butter in general, you can afford to splurge for the good stuff when you do use it. Since I mostly use coconut or olive oil for my cooking purposes, I don’t feel bad about using really high quality organic butter when I make eggs (I realize how snooty this sounds, but I promise you the difference in flavor and quality is worth it).

I only keep a few oils stocked all the time and I find my supply perfectly capable of handling just about anything. Here’s my list:

  • Virgin Coconut Oil – I use this for light sautéing when I make anything spicy or bold, like Indian and Thai dishes. Coconut oil is a great accompaniment to tropical dishes as well and I find it’s delicious for just about any type of white fish. I use it in place of vegetable oil for baking. Coconut oil makes a great lip moisturizer, too!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I use olive oil for most of my daily cooking. I don’t buy the fanciest, most expensive available (but feel free to buy that for me), but since I use it for dressings and drizzles, I do like to keep a nice bottle around. There is nothing quite like dipping freshly baked bread in a nice, bold olive oil! Throw a little sea salt and rosemary in there and I’m set for life!
  • Avocado Oil and/or Peanut Oil: Because of their high smoke points, these both make great options for stir fry, searing meat, and other high temperature cooking.
  • Flax Oil – I keep this around for salad dressings. Flax oil has a nice nutty flavor and lots of health benefits.  I only buy this from the refrigerated section, as it doesn’t have a very long shelf life and you just never know how long it has been sitting out at the store, or if it was kept in a hot truck or warehouse. When flax oil goes bad, you will know. Trust me.
  • Safflower Oil – This is relatively flavorless and works great in dressings with a separate star ingredient. Safflower is my go-to when I do sweet dressings like raspberry vinaigrette. Sometimes olive and flax are just too overpowering.

See? Incorporating healthy oils into your life isn’t so hard! What’s your favorite way to use healthy oils?

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