think of oil, what comes to mind? We think of French vinaigrettes, fried chicken
and perfectly sautéed veggies, just to name a few. And thankfully, these
favorite foods are made all the better with oils, the kind that are an integral
and essential part of our diet.
centuries, people have rendered fat, squeezed olives, collected cream and
savored fish to obtain the fatty acids their brains, nervous systems, immune
systems and body cells need to function well. Luckily for us, things are a bit
easier these days and the oils we need for good health are available on the
shelves at Whole Foods Market. Thankfully no squeezing is required!
Many Oils, So Little Time
oils are created equal. In fact, no one oil can be used for all things; instead,
each has its distinct place in the kitchen. Keep these basic categories in mind
when you're cooking:
Coconut, palm, canola and high oleic safflower and sunflower oil work best.
Because they stand up well to the heat, avocado, peanut, palm and sesame oil are
ideal for frying.
Many oils are great for sautéing, including avocado, canola, coconut, grapeseed,
olive, sesame and high oleic safflower and sunflower oils.
For dipping, dressings
When it comes to making dressings and marinades, or finding oil that's perfect
to serve alongside crusty bread for dipping, you're looking for terrific flavor.
For this purpose look to flax, olive, peanut, toasted sesame or walnut oil.
there are a lot of oils on our shelves! Here are a handful of our favorites,
along with quick details on how they're made and the best ways to serve them:
Pressed from avocadoes, this smooth, nutty oil is more than 50% monounsaturated,
making it a heart-nourishing choice. Use it in salad dressings or to sauté
fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.
Canola is actually a cousin to cabbage and Brussels sprouts. In fact, it's a
variety of rapeseed that's part of the mustard family, which includes those
above-mentioned veggies. It's beneficial for heart health thanks to its fatty
acid profile and omega-3 and low saturated fat contents and perfect for light
cooking, sauces and desserts like homemade mayo or tender cakes.
Pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is ideal for light
fair and subtly flavored dishes. This oil is particularly mouth-watering to use
for making popcorn and hash browns.
Most corn oil is extracted only from the germ of the corn kernel and is golden
yellow in color; unrefined oil will have a darker color and richer corn taste.
Use in salad dressings and dips with stronger flavors like peppers or garlic.
Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a byproduct of the
wine-making industry. Use it on salads and raw veggies or in dips, sauces and
salsas. Mix grapeseed oil with garlic and basil, then drizzle it on toasted
A mainstay of the Mediterranean diet and one of the oldest known culinary oils,
olive oil contains predominately heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Extra
virgin olive oil results from the first cold-pressing of olives while mild
"pure" olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin
olive oil. Drizzle over hummus or grilled vegetables.
Peanut oil comes from where you'd expect…peanuts! It's relatively high
monounsaturated content makes it heart-healthy. Peanut oil is superior for
frying, light sautéing and stir-fries.
The seed of the sesame plant provides sesame oil, which has a high antioxidant
content. Unrefined sesame oil is great as a key flavor component in sauces or
dressings. Use refined sesame oil for high heat applications like frying and
toasted sesame oil for stir fries and Asian sauces and dips. (Still need a
little convincing? Lemon Sesame Asparagus will prove our point.)
To: Storing and Heating Oil
Where should I store
oil in my kitchen?
Unfortunately, oils aren't like wine; they don't improve with age. Heat and
light can damage oils, particularly polyunsaturated ones, so keep them in the
refrigerator to avoid rancidity. For the record, you'll know your oil is rancid
if it takes on a characteristic bad taste and smell, in which case you should
toss it and buy fresh oil.
Why does my olive oil
get cloudy when it's cold?
Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy or solidified when refrigerated.
Not to worry; it doesn't affect their quality at all. A few minutes at room
temperature and things will be back to normal.
I hear people refer to
a "smoke point" when they talk about cooking with oil. What's that?
Heating oils beyond their smoke point — the temperature at which the oil
begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals — is never a
good idea. Always discard oil that's reached its smoke point, along with any
food with which it had contact. Unsure of an oil's smoke point? Most labels on
bottles of oil will give you the correct temperature.
or Not to Refine?
are refined to make them more stable and suitable for high temperature cooking.
Keep in mind, though, that the process removes most of the flavor, color and
nutrients from the oils, too. That's why refined oils are perfect for baking and
stir-frying, where their high smoke point and neutral flavors are a plus.
other hand, unrefined oil is simply pressed and bottled so it retains its
original nutrient content, flavor and color. Unrefined oils add full-bodied
flavor to dishes and are best used for low- or no-heat applications. (Want to
taste the difference? Make this Shiitake Lemongrass Miso Soup.
Well That Ends Well
ever been called a "fat head," we think we can help. Did you know that
your brain is made up mostly of fats, and that fats — including saturated fat
— make up the cell membranes that protect the integrity of your cells and
oils also play crucial roles in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing raw
materials for making hormones and contributing to a healthy immune system. Think
of oils as your body's humanitarians; there's really no end to the good they can
do. But remember what your grandfather used to tell you, too: everything in
moderation. Since all fats are calorie-rich, remember not to overindulge.
Facts on Fats
had a bad reputation in the past, but people are starting to realize that we
need them to stay healthy. Fats are one of the three major nutrients of the
human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and protein.
are here to stay, and that's a good thing because fats also make a large
contribution to the taste, aroma and texture of food — those things that give
us such satisfaction when dining.
get down to the details on fats and how they work in the body, you should
realize that fats and oils are one and the same. The only difference is that
oils are liquid at room temperature and fats are solid. Now, let's move on to
stated, triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body.
Think of fats as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape.
Every triglyceride "brick" consists of a mixture of three fatty acids
— saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (the "tri"), and
one glycerol molecule. Thus, the name "tri"-"glyceride."
particular fat is defined by the combination of fatty acids that make up its
"bricks." The triglyceride bricks in olive oil, for example, have many
more monounsaturated fatty acids than it does saturated or polyunsaturated fatty
acids, making olive oil a monounsaturated fat.
fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while
lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are more chemically stable than
polyunsaturated fat but not as stable as saturated fat. This means they keep
better than polyunsaturated oils but not as well as saturated oils. They are
most appropriate for light cooking or used raw in salad dressings and the like.
Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut,
sesame, lard and duck fat. When stored at room temperature, monounsaturated fats
are typically liquid, but they are likely to solidify when stored in the
oils are generally considered to be the healthiest overall, but it's important
to note that all three types have distinct advantages and disadvantages — not
just for health but for flavor and culinary characteristics as well. Olive oil
seems to have been anointed the "perfect oil" by some in the media,
and while it is quite versatile, it cannot be all things to all cooks.
their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids are more
susceptible to rancidity than saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids,
especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are
predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish
oils. These are liquid at room temperature.
experts don't recommend polyunsaturated oils for cooking because they are so
easily damaged by heat. They are best used in their raw form, and used quickly
at that. Never keep polyunsaturated oils beyond their expiration date. If
cooking is necessary, use low temperatures. Polyunsaturated oils should be
stored refrigerated in dark bottles.
fats are the most chemically stable, giving them a long shelf life and the
ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. Typically solid at room
temperature, saturated fats are found primarily in animal fats and tropical
general, animal fats such as butter, cream and tallow are predominantly
saturated, however, two of the most highly saturated fats — coconut oil and
palm kernel oil — come from vegetable sources. Furthermore, animal fats like
lard, chicken fat and duck fat are predominantly monounsaturated, while fish
oils are predominantly polyunsaturated. And it is interesting to note that the
fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the
fats have their place in the kitchen. Many believe that lard makes the best pie
crust, and several traditional Hispanic dishes rely on lard for their
distinctive flavor. Butter is the most common animal fat in the kitchen and good
quality butters abound, as do cream and other dairy-based products used in
cooking. Some producers are now creating high quality lard as well.
Fats: The Very Worst Kind
fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially
hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th
century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat and pressure. This
saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical
configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids.
This is done to make vegetable oils, which are normally liquid at room
temperature, solid and more chemically stable, thereby extending the shelf life
of products in which they are used. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur
naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.
fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL
(bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In
fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than
diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the
(a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are
not safe to consume in any amount. An easy way to avoid trans fats is to shop at
Whole Foods Market — we stopped selling products that contain trans fats in
Trans Fat Labeling Law
since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must
declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional
food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But
trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food
vendors who are not affected by the labeling law.
products from sources other than Whole Foods Market stores may still contain
significant amounts of trans fats include: margarine, shortening, baked goods
(pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers
and snack foods such as potato chips.