Beware of oil!
Taking any sort of food and frying it in a pool of boiling oil is NOT good for your nutrition for several reasons and should be avoided. Period. This is fairly common knowledge and doesn’t take much convincing. However, the thing that some people don’t know is simply cooking with most oils is not a part of how to cook healthy meals and is a no-no in the kitchen.
The most commonly used oils in restaurants are vegetable oil and canola oil. Both sound good right? I mean, vegetable oil, need I say anymore? Vegetables are a staple in plant-based nutrition, and any healthy eating. Vegetables are good for you, so shouldn’t vegetable oil be good for you too? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In fact, a very big no…
Before I go into the specific reasons why vegetable oil is especially bad for you, I want to get a word in about oils in general. The oils that people buy from the store have been processed in order to come in the purely liquid form (not in the form of a whole food). In this form, without the fibers and two things called sterols and stanols (Mattes), the fat in the oil is far more absorbable by the body.
With the lowered nutrient density of oils, along with oil being completely made of fat, an excess amount of oils in your diet is not in line with healthy eating. Some oils are better than others, like coconut oil, but limiting any oil intake that doesn’t come directly from whole foods, like avocados, nuts, and seeds, is recommended.
OK, so on top of what you just learned about oil in general, vegetable oil is partially hydrogenated. You may be thinking, what the heck does that mean?
Well, in order to get the oils to have a longer shelf life, the oil companies add extra hydrogen atoms to the oils so that oxidation does not take place and make the oils go rancid. The problem with this is that partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fat, which negatively impacts your cholesterol levels in your body (Berkeley Wellness).
The other problem with using vegetable oils is that when heated to a specific temperature, oxidation takes place and the molecular structure become susceptible to picking up free radicals. Free radicals play a large role in our bodies and are far too versatile to label them only bad or good, however, in this case, they are NOT a part of healthy eating. Free radicals are highly reactive and can quickly cause excess damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA (Devasagayam).
The only oil that this doesn’t happen to is coconut oil because of its medium-chain triglyceride chemical structure.
In summary, oils are healthy when they come directly from whole foods. Dicing up some avocados and olives and putting them in your salad is a great way to get some of those oils. Healthy fats from good sources are a major component of conscious living. Adding some nuts and seeds to your green smoothie or to your meals is another way to get the benefits of oils and their healthy fats. Try to intake processed oils in smaller amounts, keeping in mind that they are not as regulated by fibers and other nutrients as those from whole foods. And if you are going to cook with oils, use coconut oil.
Devasagayam, T. P. A., J. C. Tilak, K. K. Boloor, Ketaki S. Sane, Saroj S. Ghaskadbi, and R. D. Lele. “Free radicals and antioxidants in human health: current status and future prospects.” Japi 52, no. 10 (2004): 794-804.