Dear Pharmacist: I heard you say that cooking with “vegetable oil” was your least favorite oil. It’s all I’ve ever used. Why don’t you like it, and what oils should we cook with?
— R.E. Austin, Texas
A: I think Americans lack the right fats in their body, for example, a healthy balance of linolenic acid, omega 3, 6 and 9s. Balance is key so I recommend oils that are rich in nutrients known to advance our health. I’m not thrilled with yellow-colored lard alternatives to butter, you’re better off with natural butter or ghee. Now here is my list of healthy oils:
Flaxseed: Packed with essential fatty acids, like linolenic acid and omegas, flax is known to reduce toxic forms of estrogen in the body, thereby reducing your risk of breast or prostate cancers. It has a subtle nutty flavor and high quality versions are “cold pressed” rather than heated. Bear in mind any “cold-pressed” oil should not be heated beyond the smoke point.
Hemp seed oil: A study showed it may relieve symptoms of eczema. Pressed from the seeds of legally-grown cannabis flowers, this gorgeous green oil does not impart psychoactive effects and in fact it has regenerative properties because it is an incredible source of vitamin E, gamma-linolenic acid and omega 3s. It helps heart, immune and digestive function. It tastes nutty and because it’s cold-pressed, don’t fry with it.
Almond: Refined almond oil is great for cooking purposes because of its relatively high smoke point meaning the oil can be heated without destroying too many nutrients or creating harmful compounds. Almonds are rich in vitamin E and D. Just incredible!
Sunflower: Low in saturated fats and rich in vitamin E, sunflower contains oleic acid, which increases a gut hormone called GLP-1. If you read my diabetes book, you’d know that this hormone makes you feel full faster so you’re less likely to stuff your face! GLP-1 also increases insulin sensitivity and protects your pancreatic cells. Don’t overheat.
Avocado: The best source of powerful antioxidants like glutathione and vitamins A, E and D. Use it in salads or apply it to your skin- it helps eczema and psoriasis. Glutathione in avocados can clean out your digestive tract, especially your liver and pancreas. Okay to heat.
Coconut: So many uses for this! It fights candida, helps digestion and tastes like coconuts. It may also chase away viruses. I often saute veggies with this, but it’s great for cooking at higher temperatures. You can add to smoothies, apply a tad to dry elbows, heels or skin irritations.
Grape seed: One of my favorites because it has a mild taste and imparts strong antioxidants. Great for your heart, it raises good HDLs and lowers bad LDLs.
Olive oil: Use only extra virgin, cold-pressed oils which are high in essential fatty acids, and vitamins E and K. Olive oil can promote smooth digestion while protecting you from heart disease or circulation problems.
This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” For more information, visit www.dearpharmacist.com.