Healthy oils – where to find them

Most people I know use vegetable oil for cooking. I grew up thinking that they were the healthiest. I mean, they were from plants right? How fatty can they be? I learnt that ghee was bad for me. I learnt that margarine was better than butter. But when you eat paleo style, you realise that these beliefs passed down from our parents are wrong!

First, vegetable oils tend to come from genetically modified plants such as corn and soybean. They also contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes them easy to oxidise through contact with air or heat. When that oxidation happens, these fatty acids release free radicals that damage our bodies. Margarine is made from these vegetable oils and faces the same problem. To find out more about the problems with vegetable oils, go here. To find out what kind of oils are good oils, go here.

The good oils are the ones that contain saturated fatty acids and monosaturated fatty acids. This makes them shelf stable and they do not turn rancid as easily as vegetable oils. To start with, we have:

Coconut oil

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These were purchased from Nutrimax Organic shop at Golden Landmark. They sell two brands. The one of the left is from the Philippines and the one on the right is from Thailand. I paid $20 for 500ml. I’m quite surprised that it’s so expensive actually. Maybe I haven’t been buying them from the right places.

EDIT:  I stumbled upon Naturaworks, which is an online store selling the same 500ml coconut oil for $17. They also have another brand that is selling for $24 for 1000ml.

I love coconut everything so this is my favourite oil for cooking and baking. It gives off a sweet smell when heated and conjures images of rustling palm trees at the beach for me! Its health benefits are numerous too. It contains lauric acid, which helps to boost our immune system. Most importantly, according to Dr Oz:

“One 2009 study found that women who consumed about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.”

If there is anyone who needs help with her abdominal fat, that is me!

Armed with knowledge of all these health benefits, I told my mum to buy coconut oil for cooking and she said, “No, it will make you fat!” Looks like coconut oil has truly been villainised. This article explains why the oil gained such a bad reputation in the past.

Macadamia oil

Macadamia oil Fairprice

This bottle of macadamia oil was purchased from NTUC Fairprice. It’s cheaper than coconut oil. I think I bought it for about $8.

I love macadamias! They are my favourite nuts – so buttery and satisfying. So when I saw this at Fairprice, I thought it would make a great oil for Paleozilla to cook with (Yes, the man cooks in this instance and the woman cleans.)

Macadamia oil has a high smoke point so it’s good for cooking. The smoke point is the the temperature at which it begins to break down, losing nutritional value and releasing potential carcinogens. The taste is also less strong than coconut oil so it won’t overwhelm the food you’re cooking. From a nutritional perspective, it has more monosaturated fats than olive oil and seems to contain some amount of antioxidants.

Avocado oil

unrefined_extra_virgin_cold_pressed_avocado_oil

I have also seen avocado oil in Fairprice but have not purchased it yet. This will be next on my list once our macadamia oil runs out! It’s also more expensive than macadamia oil so I didn’t purchase it. The smoke point is higher than olive oil, which makes it more appropriate for high-heat cooking. It would be interesting to use this in baking as well, I think, to see what kind of flavour it will impart to my paleo bread.

Nutrimax Organic sells a bottle of 375 ml avocado oil for $21, excluding shipping.

Olive oil

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Olive oil, or more specifically extra virgin olive oil, has been touted for its numerous health and beauty benefits. I’ve read about people using it to remove makeup on beauty blogs (no need for a $100 bottle of Shu Uemura cleansing oil!). When you are not slathering it on your face, consuming olive oil will purportedly help protect your cells from damage, thanks to the high content of polyphenols antioxidants.

I like the mild taste of olive oil, although some people have suggested that we shouldn’t use it for cooking because its smoke point is not as high as the other oils. That being said, it’s still a good oil to drizzle on salads and with vinegar as a paleo bread dip.

Ghee

Sunflower

Out of all the oils I ate while growing up, ghee was the most demonised. I remembered my mum telling me not to eat too much Indian food because it was cooked in ghee and was bad for my heart. Ghee is similar to butter; they are both made from the fats of whole milk, but ghee may be preferred by people who are lactose-intolerant because there are no milk constituents.

I read somewhere that most roti prata stalls here in Singapore now use hydrogenated vegetable oils instead of ghee because the vegetable oils are cheaper. I’ve even seen signs at stalls saying that they don’t use ghee. This is quite sad since ghee is part of traditional Indian cooking and is actually much better for our health.

Let me end here with this hilarious quote about oil:

“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.” – George Bush, Sept. 25, 2000

7 thoughts on “Healthy oils – where to find them”

    1. Thanks for the links! That’s great especially since we can’t really find organic ghee here. The only issue I have with iherb is that I ordered from them for the first time last month and my package hasn’t arrived yet. Arghh… I don’t feel like ordering another package until then.

      Also have you heard of “coconut butter”? Some of my baked recipes have been calling for this and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was until I searched on paleohacks. It’s basically just creamed coconut, which is available from the Kara brand, although I haven’t seen it in supermarkets yet.

      1. Hello! If you use their global priority mail, it usually takes at least 3 weeks. They have never lost any of my orders, so hang in there! Additionally, they are currently offering free shipping using global priority mail and heavily discounted DHL shipping this month, so you may want to stock up.

        Yes I have heard of coconut butter. It isn’t sold in Singapore; if you want to order some, you’ll have to from the US.

        Artisana’s tastes the best http://www.iherb.com/Artisana-100-Organic-Raw-Coconut-Butter-16-oz-454-g/27155

        Nutiva’s is a cheaper alternative http://www.iherb.com/Nutiva-Coconut-Manna-15-oz-425-g/24380

        You can try making your own, but will have to get hold of shredded / flaked coconut, which is also cheaper in the US http://www.marksdailyapple.com/10-tips-for-making-the-best-coconut-butter-ever/#axzz2VsKjbhyc

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