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Why I’m Having an Affair

Not with a man of course! Stop thinking so scandalously!

I’ve been doing a lot of research about the kinds of oil we should cook with and eat. Growing up, I always knew that ‘olive oil was best.’ But I didn’t realize two fundamental flaws with this theory: one,  there are other oils besides olive oil that are great to eat! And two, that so many refined and bad oils are in the foods we eat without even realizing it. It’s lead me to leave some old affairs and start afresh with a few new ingredients (yes, that’s where today’s title comes to play). After doing some research, I’ve figured out why exactly certain refined oils are bad for you and what oils you should opt for instead. 

Why Are Refined Oils All That Bad?

I’ll admit that I grew up eating corn oil and canola oil. I used to eat potato chips and think ‘Hey, these are fried in sunflower oil. That’s healthy, right?’ WRONG! Keep in mind these three facts the next time you reach for a bottle of refined oil:

  • Oxidation–The process for refining an oil like soybean or corn takes tremendous time and energy. All sorts of chemicals are used during the process. But perhaps the worst part of it is the high heats that are used when making the oil. These high heats lead to an oxidation process which releases a ton of free radicals, the same free radicals that damage cell DNA and lead to premature aging. Arguably, you could say that consuming refined oils are like drinking liquid free radicals.
  • Unnatural--Think about it: when did corn ever produce that much oil? Do you think American colonists were using soybean oil 300 years ago? What I’m trying to get across is while these oils may come from vegetables and grains, the process by which they are derived from is by no means ordinary or natural. Corn wasn’t meant to be consumed as an oil. It was meant to be ground into meal, boiled, grilled, etc. That’s why I prefer oil sources from naturally fatty foods. Avocados, for instance, are primarily made from fat. So it MAKES SENSE to consume avocado oil because I know where that oil is coming from.
  • GMOs–Did you know that canola isn’t even a real food? This ingredient was developed in a Canadian lab for the specific purpose of creating a cheap and affordable oil for many processed food companies. (I know Dr. Oz might rave about the benefits of canola oil, but so far I’m not convinced.) Anyways, with refined oils, there’s a 99.99% chance that you’re consuming oil from a genetically modified food. This isn’t to say that conventional olive oil doesn’t have GMOs in it (it probably does), but the likelihood is still less. Look at it this way: would you rather consume an oil you know for sure is unnatural, full of free radicals, and fraught with GMOs? Or would you rather consume an oil that sure, might have some GMOs, but is a natural fat source that has been used for thousands of years. You know where olive oil came from, it’s pretty foolproof.

 

Tips for Oil Purchasing

Besides being one of my favorite and most inspiring food blogs, 100 Days of Real Food has a great article about refined oils. This blog repeats a lot of what I just told you but also gives you a nice list of what oils you should buy. Here are a few tips I’d like to add:

  • Beware of organic foods. Don’t assume that because it’s ‘natural’ or even organic that it doesn’t have refined oils. There have been plenty of times that I’ve almost bought a jar of organic tomato sauce only to read the label and find ‘organic soybean oil’ listed in the ingredients. Even if it’s organic, don’t eat it!
  • Try to find oils in glass bottles and jars. The BPA in many plastic bottles and containers could potentially leak into whatever oil you buy. Fats usually absorb the chemicals from plastic the most, hence why I recommend glass as the best storing option. So not only is that corn oil loaded with free radicals and GMOs, it also has BPAs and all sorts of other chemicals from the plastic container it’s stored in.
  • Read the ingredients list. Like I stated earlier, refined oils have a way of sneaking into foods you wouldn’t normally consider. Since when was soybean oil needed to make bread? Last time I checked, bread was simply flour, water, and a little yeast. So besides reading the nutritional data for a product, it’s important to check out the ingredients list. If you see any refined oils, don’t buy it! It’s that simple.

red palm oil

My Latest Love Affair

Although I’ve been using cold-pressed extra virgin organic olive oil (say that five times fast) for years, I’ve recently come across a new beloved: red palm oil!

I really like this oil because of its versatility. Red palm oil is great in a lot of my Persian dishes, and it’s naturally orange hue goes well with spices like turmeric and saffron. I’ve been using it in soups, stews, and other braises and it’s turned out delicious. It gives a really nice consistency to sauces without adding a ton of fat. It’s popular in the foodie community to use when popping popcorn, but I’ll admit I haven’t tried that quite yet. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this product if you’re looking for a cooking oil makeover. It’s not hyped up as much as other oils like olive or coconut, but I still think it’s a great choice for all you healthy foodies out there.

What kinds of oils do you use on a regular basis? Ever tried red palm oil before? We’re Talking About Food enjoys hearing about your culinary experiences and foodie journeys, so let me know!

Photo credit: Nutiva

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