The -cooking oil' debate has circulated the health sphere for decades and has remained a point of controversy in households across Australia. With an endless array of products on the shelf and aisles of choice, it's no wonder consumers are struggling to identify the best cooking oil. According to health expert, Fiona Tuck, the oils you know and love - avocado, coconut, canola and even olive - may not be as good, or bad, as first thought. She debunks five of the most common cooking oil myths.
Myth 1. Extra-virgin olive oil can be used for all cooking needs
'Olive oil is a class favourite and has been given a great rap by consumers and health specialists. The production process is natural, involves minimal levels of interference and it is processed at a temperature (30°C) that will not degrade the olive oil. With no chemicals or industrial refinement, it is easy to assume this product would be a great option for all your cooking needs, but the reality is olive oil has its limits. It is great as a salad dressing and perfect for bread dipping and drizzling over your dishes, but if you heat it in high temperatures, the vitamin E and polyphenolic compounds are compromised. Additionally, some olive oils are plant based and not pure olive oil so it can be a minefield out there to find one that is good quality."
Myth 2. Coconut oil is only available in solid form
'Despite its health benefits, the coconut oil market is limited when it comes to convenience. Coconut oil has a melting point of approximately 23 degrees Celsius and remains solid below that temperature. The majority of coconut oils on the market cannot retain liquid form, making it difficult for portion size and consistency in cooking. CocoEarth has introduced Australia's first Liquid Coconut Oil (LCO). The cooking oil contains only the healthiest part of the coconut and discards the long chain fatty acids that remain solid at lower temperature. LCO is the only coconut oil in Australia to stay in liquid form in all temperatures without going rancid. To create convenience for consumers, the company also has cold pressed extra-virgin coconut oil available in cube form. Shoppers should not need to make the decision between health and convenience, particularly given the over-saturation of choice on the market."
Myth 3. Unrefined oils are the only healthy option
'The general consensus is that unrefined oils are best, but refined oil should not be disregarded. Refined cooking oil has a unique composition that can offer extended health benefits when formed through a non-chemical process, like expeller-pressing. Extreme pressure is used to extract the oil from raw materials such as nuts and seeds which can be used in place of external heat and chemicals. When these nut-based oils are expeller-pressed they become potentially less of a trigger for allergies. Picky eaters can also rest assured that oils such as coconut will not overwhelm their tastebuds!"
Myth 4. When cooking all fat is unhealthy
'People underestimate the importance of dietary fats. They play a vital role in a balanced diet and can impart a wide range of positive health benefits. For a long time coconut oil was frowned upon for its high fat content, but some fats are essential to a healthy diet. The trick to finding the healthiest option lies in the type of fatty acid. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a unique form of dietary fat that have a shorter chain length (six to ten carbon links) than Long Chain Fatty acids (LCTs). The short chain structure offers unique properties and advantages and is a key component consumers should be searching for on the label. These MCTs provide consumers with a natural energy boost that can increase vital ketones and strengthen a person's immune system and metabolism. The accelerated rate of metabolic conversion means fat isn't stored but converted into fuel for immediate use by the body."
Myth 5. Canola cooking oil can give you cancer
'Although it is not the healthiest choice on the market, the claim that canola oil can give you cancer has no substantial evidence. There have however been numerous reports that link the genetically modified organisms (GMO) in canola oil to a number of health issues that affect the kidney, liver and neurological system. Over 90% of canola oil contains GMO, which means it is processed in an unnatural way that involves high heat, deodorisation and the toxic solvent hexane. Chemically or artificially enhanced products should not make the shopping list. Shoppers need to be extra cautious and know exactly what they are selecting off the shelf. Natural is always best, and it is important that the product you purchase ticks all the necessary boxes. The closer the product is to the source the better. Ingredients should be close to their roots and abide by organic and natural farming processes."
CocoEarth's Liquid Coconut Premium Oil contains more than 93% MCTs and is 1.5 times healthier than regular virgin coconut oil. It is 100% non-GMO, convenient to use and easy to digest. Its antimicrobial component, Lauric acid, can protect the body from harmful pathogens. Living up to its superfood name, CocoEarth's LCO has proven to be great for weight loss, stress relief, memory retention and controlling blood sugar levels.
Review: I made the Cacao, Coconut and Date Truffles with the CocoEarth Liquid Coconut Oil and they were delicious (if I do say so, myself). The CocoEarth Liquid Coconut Oil made the whole process every easy and I love the idea that the liquid form is "easy to digest and can metabolise into energy with ease". I also used the CocoEarth Liquid Coconut Oil to roast pumpkin, carrots and cook my salmon for dinner - all such a delicious and easy success!
- Brooke Hunter
For more information visit www.cocoearth.com.au
Question: Why are we all so confused about which oil to cook with?
Fiona Tuck: Shoppers are inundated with fancy marketing and impressive labels which can make it hard to know which oil to choose. Combine this with a multitude of conflicting information online and we can be left confused and bewildered. The trick with cooking oil is knowing which oil is best for different temperature cooking.
Question: Can you name some of the best oils, on our supermarket shelves?
Fiona Tuck: The Mediterranean diet is touted as the healthiest diet in the world which uses a lot of olive oil (high in polyphenols) so I do recommend using extra virgin olive oil for light, low temperature cooking and for dressing food. Rice bran oil is rich in antioxidants, particularly oryzanal and has a higher smoke point than olive oil which makes it good for high temperature cooking such as deep frying.
Coconut oil is fabulous to cook with as it has a high smoke point so again it is good for stir fry's and cooking. The down side to coconut oil is that it is a saturated fat and that it can leave a strong coconut oil flavour on food that isn't always required. The upside is that you can now get a liquid coconut oil that has the long chain fatty acids removed which decreases the coconut flavour and increases the MCT content. These MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) are easier to digest, making them more readily available to use as a fuel or energy source rather than get stored as fat.
Question: Which of these is best for cooking and why?
Fiona Tuck: When it comes to cooking at high temperatures solid coconut oil is a great option. It has a smoking point of 200oC and can be ideal for more heavy duty cooking. Despite the great health benefits, the convenience of the product is a major factor that can turn consumers away from the product, especially in winter. However if shoppers look in the chilled section of the supermarket they can find coconut oil available in cube form. This can help shoppers with portion control and allow them to have zero-waste with nothing left in the bottle. For maximum health benefits and to ensure a variety of nutrients in the diet it is best to mix or rotate your oils. Keep a variety of oils in the pantry such as coconut oil, rice bran oil, olive oil and avocado oil (avocado oil can be used for high heat cooking and is also fab to use as a dressing).
Question: Is there an oil that is best to be used in raw recipes?
Fiona Tuck: Coconut oil tends to be used most frequently in raw dessert recipes because not only does coconut add a pleasant taste to the cooking it solidifies at room temperature which can help to firm up some desserts such as mousses and raw food cakes.
Question: What are the health benefits associated with oil?
Fiona Tuck: Oil is a form of fat which is necessary to provide satiety. If we do not eat enough good quality fats we can feel unfulfilled after eating, which can lead to snacking and overeating after meals. Fats are essential for our general health and well-being. They are necessary for hormone production, a healthy nervous system, cognitive health, joint health and for fat soluble vitamin absorption.
Question: Can extra-virgin olive oil be used for all cooking?
Fiona Tuck: Olive oil is highly nutritious and has always been a nutrition saint. Its health benefits have been touted for ages – high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer…the list goes on.
Yet there's a popular myth circulating in the Paleo community that it's unsafe to cook with olive oil; that it isn't stable and oxidizes when heated, forming harmful by-products in the process. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and contains protective antioxidants so the trick is not to cook for long periods of time at high temperatures so it's easy to lightly sauté or for low heat cooking. Avoid heating olive oil to reach smoking point or for deep frying or stir fry's as this can cause the oil to start to breakdown which loses the beneficial health benefits of olive oil.
Question: How is it possible to buy a liquid form of coconut oil? Where would we use this?
Fiona Tuck: CocoEarth's liquid coconut oil is able to remain liquid due to the removal of the long chain fatty acids (LCTs). LCTs are chains of carbon atoms that are fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. This creates straight and rigid chains, making saturated fats solid at room temperature. Additionally, these LCTs are digested through a more complex route and can store fat in the body. By removing them and keeping the MCTs the oil becomes easy to digest and can metabolise into energy with ease. The liquid oil can be used for ease of cooking (no digging out rock hard coconut oil from the jar) in both savoury and sweet foods and can be used in raw food cooking for sauces and mayonnaise.
Question: What is the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil?
Fiona Tuck: Unrefined is a more natural process that involves cold-pressing, which means the oils are mechanically extracted by a machine which applies pressure instead of heat. This allows for the flavour and nutrient content to remain and in most cases makes for a healthier choice. A large percentage of refined oils are extracted using heat and a solvent, which are then bleached and deodorised. There is however a method of refining that can offer consumers extended health benefits. The non-chemical process, expeller-pressing relies on extreme pressure to extract the oil from raw materials such as nuts and seeds which can be used in place of external heat and chemicals.
Question: Can you talk us through how fat can be healthy, in our diet?
Fiona Tuck: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a unique form of dietary fat that have a shorter chain length (six to ten carbon links) than Long Chain Fatty acids (LCTs). The short chain structure offers unique properties and advantages and is a key component consumers should be searching for on the label. These MCTs provide consumers with a natural energy boost that can increase vital ketones and strengthen a person's immune system and metabolism. The accelerated rate of metabolic conversion means fat isn't stored but converted into fuel for immediate use by the body.
Question: What are the examples of good fats?
Fiona Tuck: Examples of beneficial MCTs are Capric, Caprylic and Lauric Acid. These MCTs are one of the most natural sources of nutrition and are a very rare commodity. These medium-chain fatty acids help to increase levels of high-density lipoproteins " HDL, otherwise known as the "good" cholesterol. HDL has anti-bacterial components that can help protect children from infections and toxins. Besides Coconut oil and Palm Kernel oil, the only place these MCTs are predominantly found is in breast milk.
EFA's of essential fatty acids are fats that we need to eat on a daily basis as the body is unable to manufacture them and we need to get them from food. EFA's are found in plant oils particularly nuts oils and flaxseed oils. Because of the delicate nature of these oils they are best used as dressings and not heated e.g. flaxseed oils, walnut oil etc.
Interview by Brooke Hunter