Answers to All of Your Cooking Oil Questions

 Due to popular request (thanks, Jill!), I've decided to talk a bit about oils today. I figure if I am asked something several times in one day, then that makes for a fairly decent blog post topic. ;)

So here goes...some of the most frequently asked questions and my answers. Live and uncensored.

Q: Why do you call for both extra-virgin and regular (for olive and coconut oils) in your books?

A: Although the extra-virgin variety of both is the healthiest choice, you don’t always want your food to taste like olives or coconut. For those times when you just need a neutral-flavored oil, the non-virgin varieties of both are your healthiest choices.

Q: Why don’t you recommend grapeseed or canola oil?

A: Unless you can find organic grapeseed oil, I do not recommend it. Grapes, if commercially grown, contain one of the highest levels of pesticides, which are even more concentrated in their seeds. Therefore, the oil extracted from the seeds makes for a chemical cocktail! Canola is another oil, like non-organic grapeseed, that has been marketed as a “health food” but really isn’t as it’s highly refined. Additionally, canola oil is considered toxic according to Chinese medicine.

Q: Why do you call for coconut oil? Isn’t that a saturated fat?

A: Yes, it is. But ironically, coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you could choose. For one thing, it has very high levels of medium-chain fatty acids, the kind that are not stored as fat in the body. Furthermore, coconut oil has been shown to improve metabolism and immune system function. The reason coconut oil got its reputation as a bad guy was because it had always been studied along with animal fats as part of a saturated fat group. Once coconut oil parted ways with the offending party (lard) and was studied on its own, it was found to be innocent of all charges.

Q: What do you use in your kitchen as far as oils go?

A: Personally, I minimize oils, as my body type can't handle a high-fat diet. However, I do enjoy healthy oils in moderation. In my cupboard, you will find the following:

   *Toasted sesame oil - I use this to flavor Asian foods such as stir-fries, dressings, and noodle dishes.
   *Coconut oil (regular, not extra-virgin) - I use this as an all-purpose oil for many things (when I don't mind having a solid versus liquid oil). It can stand higher temperatures and does not create trans-fats when heated.
   *Extra-virgin coconut oil - for those times I want a tropical coconut flavor. Mmmm. Balmy.
   *Extra-virgin olive oil - I use this as a semi-all-purpose oil. It's perfect in raw kale salads, whole grain pastas, etc. However, I only use this when I want an olive flavor. (I learned this the hard way when I used it in a birthday cake 20 years ago...chocolate + olives = yuck)
   *Regular olive oil (not extra-virgin) - This is another all-purpose oil that works well for just about anything and everything. It's nice for when you want a liquid oil that tastes neutral (the alternative neutral oil being coconut, which is a solid at room temperature).

I hope this helps, friends! And if you still have questions, list oil of them here (in a reply to this post). Happy cooking!