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Cooking Oils: The Good and the Bad

| 10/1/2019 9:16:00 AM

Photo by Mauro Pezzotta

The following is reprinted with permission from Judy’s cookbook and healthy eating guide From Chronically Ill to Vibrantly Well: Recovery Through a Plant-Based Diet

A strict whole-food, plant-based diet doesn’t contain any added oil because oil is considered a fragment of the whole food it is derived from. I ingest much less oil than many, but I personally haven’t given it up completely. Without a doubt, if anyone in my family had high blood pressure or any signs of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer I would stop using even small amounts of oil for salads and cooking. This cookbook contains a mixture of no-oil and low-oil recipes. If you’re going to consume oil, it’s important to make the healthiest choices based on the following: plant sources, extraction and processing methods, whether the oil has been hydrogenated or not, and smoke points. All oils are not created equal!

Sources of Cooking Oils

Stay away from oils produced from GMO crops –– namely canola, corn, soy, and cottonseed. In addition to being genetically engineered, these crops are all heavily sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (the next chapter goes into more detail). Canola oil is particularly troublesome and has permeated our food chain. It comes from a hybrid of the rape plant. Rapeseeds were originally grown for their oil during WWII to supply lubricant for ships and steam engines. After the war, there was no more demand for rapeseed oil. The plant was then hybridized to be lower in erucic acid so the oil could be consumed by humans –– and canola was born. A recent animal study shows significant weight gain and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from chronic consumption of canola oil.1 Others show it depletes vitamin E. 2 Sadly, this cheap oil is used heavily in processed foods, prepared foods, hospitals, schools, cafeterias, and restaurants; it is even contained in some of the foods sold at health food stores.

I suggest using olive oil as your “go-to” oil in the kitchen. It has been safely consumed for centuries and has been researched extensively. Olives and thus olive oils contain antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin K, and essential fatty acids. It is primarily a monounsaturated fat. Please note that fraud is a real problem in the olive oil trade. The bottle may say olive oil but it may in fact be diluted with canola oil or other oils! Only buy olive oil that has a respected stamp of approval such as COOC (California Olive Oil Council) or NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association), EVA (Extra Virgin Alliance), or Italy’s UNAPROL 100% Qualita Italiana. Also, if the olive oil has won contests you know it is pure. The annual NYC award winners can be found online , and so can the CA winners.

Refined avocado oil has the highest smoke point and is a good choice when cooking at high temperatures. Choose avocado oil that’s been refined without chemicals. Sesame oil has a sweet, nutty flavor and is well suited for Asian cuisine. Coconut oil is touted as being a healthy choice, but it’s 90% saturated fat and lacks omega 3, vitamins, and minerals. For those reasons, I rarely use coconut oil and wonder if it will eventually be looked at as a fad.

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