Oil and the Art of
Using the right cooking
oil is vital for optimum health and weight management -- and delicious
Choosing cooking oils should not be simply a matter of taste but also
health. The right oil used correctly can offer many health benefits.
Stated another way: Using even a healthy cooking oil incorrectly can
transform it into something unhealthful.
Cold-pressed and unrefined oils are the best quality oils for
consumption, as they’re the richest in nutrients and haven’t been
transformed by processing into bad oils. However, using them
appropriately is crucial—these oils can become unsafe if cooked at or
above their smoking points.
All oils have what are called “smoking points”—once they reach certain
temperature during cooking due to high and extensive heat they’ll burn
and become altered at the molecular level, releasing free radicals and
acting as harmful
trans fats in the body.
The smoking point determines the level of heat tolerance a particular
oil can withstand. Being knowledgeable about oils will enable you to use
the best-suited oil
(most nutritious and most stable) for the specific
temperature and cooking method you use.
For example, for high heat cooking or deep-frying, refined oils such as
Naturals’ Super Canola oil, high-oleic Super Safflower and avocado
oils are better suited for temperatures of up to about 500ºF.
Rapunzel’s sunflower oil can
also be used for temperatures up to about 440ºF. Note that deep frying
food robs it of nutrients and loads it with high fat and extra calories.
Saturated oils, such as coconut and palm oils, can also withstand high
temperatures. But consumption of saturated fat should be limited as many
of the foods we regularly eat such as eggs, dairy and meat are high in
Butter and margarine are not ideal for cooking and should be avoided or
consumed moderately. Butter should not be used for high-heat cooking, as
it burns easily. While butter is high in saturated fat and cholesterol,
some margarines contain harmful hydrogenated oil and additives. It's a
very good idea to eliminate
or reduce the amount of butter and margarine in your diet. If you do use
them limit consumption and use mainly as spreads—certain oils are better
and more nutritious alternatives for cooking. If you must, choose
natural margarine with low saturated fat, no trans fatty acids, no GMOs
and no preservatives.
Although a cold pressed, unrefined oil such as Rapunzel’s organic extra
virgin olive oil is better for you because of its many health benefits
(rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E) is only appropriate
for light sautéing at temperatures under its smoking point of 280ºF.
Letting any oil reach its smoking point is hazardous.
Spectrum Naturals also produces cold pressed organic flax oil, the most
potent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids of all oils. Flax oil is
best suited for salads, dressings, dips, spreads or already cooked
meals. Heating flax oil with temperatures above 210ºF will cause
molecular changes in the oil making it harmful for the body. Flax oil is
very unstable and should be kept refrigerated.
Typically, unrefined oils may be used for low to medium heat cooking as
they can only withstand temperatures of 250 to 350ºF, depending on the
specific type of oil and manufacturer.
Rapuzel makes organic oils using true cold pressed methods. Here are the
smoke points and suggested uses for some of their oils as suggested on
Rapunzel Organic Cold Pressed Oils (Unrefined)
Suggested Cooking Methods & Temperatures
Cold salads, dressings, garnishes & light sauté
Cold, sauté, low-medium heat
Cold, ideal for sauté, low-medium heat
Cold, sauté, low-medium heat
Low, medium and light frying
Best cold, or light sauté
Spectrum Naturals makes many types of oil including organic, cold
pressed, unrefined and refined. They do not provide specific smoking
points. However, their oil bottles have temperature labels, which
indicate the oils’ correct cooking temperatures.
Eating the right kind of fat in the right quantity is only one of
factors in optimizing your health. To achieve total wellness, eating a
healthful and varied diet as well as living an active life style is also
I'd love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!
The 15 Rules of Oil
Being oil savvy and adopting certain habits in the way you use and eat
oil will not only help you keep a healthy heart and prevent other
chronic ailments but will also help you lose excess pounds and maintain
a healthy weight.
1. When shopping for oil,
read the label carefully. The most nutritious oils are organic,
expeller-pressed or cold-pressed, unrefined and unfiltered oils such as
extra virgin olive, flax, safflower and canola oils
2. Always heat oil over very
low heat before adding food when cooking to reduce the absorption of oil
by the food
3. Reduce the amount of oil
in cooking, but increase the variety (not quantity) to include moderate
consumptions of oils such as olive for light sautéing and salads,
flaxseed oil for salads and dressings, safflower for medium
temperatures, and canola and sunflower oils for higher temperatures
4. Eliminate oils high in
saturated fat -- from both your diet and your kitchen
5. Keep oils stored in dark,
dry and cool places, as exposure to heat, air and light will shorten the
life of oil and may precipitate rancidness
6. Refrigerate oil if
possible as cold temperatures slow down the oxidation process and will
lengthen its shelf life or durability
7. Never expose
polyunsaturated oils to high or prolonged heat
8. Avoid using high heat
when cooking. If you must cook in high heat, choose a refined oil that
can take the heat
9. Never allow an oil to
reach its smoking point. Know the smoking points of the specific oils
you use in cooking and use a cooking thermometer to check and control
the correct temperature
10. Avoid buying prepared
salad dressings and prepared convenience food; make your own salad
dressings and cook your food from scratch using the least amount of oil
11. Reduce the amount of
spreads and dressings you add to your sandwiches and salads
12. Never eat food processed
with hydrogenated oils (trans fatty acids)
13. Avoid food containing
palm kernel or coconut oil higher in saturated fat than animal products
14. Avoid eating butter, as
it’s too high in saturated fat and cholesterol
15. Avoid margarine, but if
you must eat some then choose one with no hydrogenated oil (no trans
fatty acids), with more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat than
saturated fat—read the label.
Q: Dear Amira,
Thank you for putting up www.vegetarianorganiclife.com. I think of it as
a resource to healthy living. Great job.
I have had this question for a few days now, ever since I heard from a
friend of mine that microwaving is bad. Is that your opinion too? This
whole microwaving issue is really contentious. What is your stand on it?
R. P., Boston, MA
A: I’ve gotten this question from several readers and it's an
important one. Microwaving food per se is not supposed to be bad for
you. It is also believed that microwaved food retains most of its
nutrients and even that fewer vitamins are destroyed than with conventional methods.
A microwave oven cooks or heats up food with high-frequency radio waves
at high speed causing food particles to vibrate, which creates friction
at the molecular level that generates heat.
In bulky food, the center of food gets heated through heat conduction
because microwaves only penetrate about one inch of the surface of food.
This can be a problem when cooking, for instance, a turkey or a large
piece of meat because some parts of the food can remain undercooked allowing
bacteria to survive and causing food poisoning when ingested.
Microwaves travel fast from all directions simultaneously, which is why
food heats up quickly. Turntables distribute the radio waves, and the
heat, more evenly. These microwaves can only pass through non-metal
containers such as glass and ceramic.
Some of the obvious advantages of using a microwave oven is that it's
doesn’t use much energy and doesn’t make the air hot like a conventional
There aren’t a whole lot of studies on the effects of microwaving food.
There is a school of thought based on old European studies that
microwaves are extremely damaging and alter food in ways not fully
understood, and some believe the consequences can include memory loss
and even cancer.
I don’t like to use microwave ovens a whole lot because it's not
entirely safe to be near them when they're cooking -- especially when you look through the
window. But I have used them occasionally to steam frozen
While there are no recent studies that show the effects of microwaved
food and human consumption, I know that cancer is the number two killer
and that there are plenty of carcinogens we ingest and get exposed to on
daily basis. For now, I’m choosing to play it safe and try to avoid
using microwaves altogether, just as I try to cook my meals in the
lowest possible heat temperatures. The bottom line is that moderation is
always a safe bet.
Words of Wisdom
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the
Click on the picture for a closer look!
Lentil and Tofu Stew (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6
This nutritious combination of lentils and tofu make an exquisite meal
with a marvelous Indian flare. Lentils, a staple food of India and much
of the Middle East, offer great health benefits such as
cholesterol-lowering fiber, which also aids in controlling blood sugar
and digestive disorders. Lentils are available all year-round and
provide high nutritional value containing folate, calcium, vitamins B1,
B6 and B5, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Serve with
sliced lemon for added tangy flavor as an option.
Ahead of time: Brown lentils (see cook’s tip below for preparation in
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food
processor or blender
Get ingredients ready: (use organic ingredients if possible)
2 tablespoons unrefined safflower or canola oil
½ medium onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 Red medium bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips (substitute with
any color bell pepper)
1 (20-oz) fresh firm tofu cut in ½ inch cubes
2 cups cooked brown lentils (rinsed and drained)
1 (14-oz) can light coconut milk (about 2 cups)
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric seed
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garam masala
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil on a large pot or pan over low heat. Meanwhile, process
garlic and onion in the food processor or blender until finely chopped.
Put the garlic and onion mixture in the pot stirring and sautéing for 3
minutes. Add bell pepper and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add tofu, toss
well cooking for 4 minutes.
2. Add lentils, coconut milk, turmeric, paprika and garam masala
stirring well. Cover with lid and cook over low heat for 10 minutes
stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. No need to serve
immediately as it will taste better after it sits for a while. Leftovers
kept in the fridge last 3 days.
Dairy lovers: if you must, eat it with a small amount of plain low-fat
Cook’s tip: Lentils are sold dried, don’t need to be presoaked and take
less time to cook than larger beans. Here’s how you can prepare them
ahead of time.
- In a large pot, bring water or vegetable stock to boil, use 1½ cups of
liquid for every cup of lentils.
- Meanwhile spread lentils out on flat surface and remove debris.
- Put lentils in a strainer and rinse them under cool running water.
- Add lentils to boiling water (for easier digestion), cover and simmer
over low to medium heat until desired tenderness (about 30 to 45 minutes
depending on required consistency or use, i.e. soft for soups and firmer
for salads). Cool and store in their liquid in the refrigerator for up
to a week.
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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.
Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.