4 Alternative Cooking Oils That Belong in Every Kitchen

These good fats are essential for healthier cooking.

By Emily Main

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#2: Coconut oil. Coconut oil has gotten a bad reputation because it's has so much saturated fat, as much as 92 percent. "But there are a lot of health benefits that go beyond just what kind of fat it is," Cates says. For instance, coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a nutrient our bodies need to help our immune systems. One of the only other major dietary sources for lauric acid is breast milk. "But I'd only use a teaspoon," she cautions. That way you get the health benefits without overdoing the fat. Coconut oil comes in a variety of forms, so you want to be sure you get the right kind. Extra-virgin centrifuged coconut oil has a light coconutty flavor, making it good for baking (if you want a little extra flavor in your cookies or cakes), whereas expeller-pressed coconut oil has no flavor at all and is a good substitute for butter or shortening. You can buy certified-organic coconut oil online from Wilderness Family Naturals.

#3: Ghee. "If people are trying to choose between a hydrogenated oil and butter, definitely go for butter," Cates says. "We would be better off if we got back to using butter and less of these refined oils." Ghee is essentially clarified butter, made by melting down butter until all the water evaporates and just the butter solids are left. The process concentrates the conjugated linoleic acid, a healthy cancer-fighter, found in butter. "When you clarify butter like that, it does seem to handle a higher temperature, as well," Cates says, i.e. it becomes more stable and won't oxidize when heated. The key to good ghee is making sure it's organic. "When you're talking about fats and dairy products, all the environmental toxins concentrate in the fat," she says. Ghee, however, like coconut oil, is high in saturated fat, so use just a teaspoon when cooking. You can find organic, grass-fed ghee through Pure Indian Foods.

#4: Olive oil. There's seemingly no end to the health benefits of olive oil. It's good for your heart, high in healthy monounsaturated fats, and it just tastes good. But the healthiest high-quality, extra-virgin olive oils don't handle heat well, so Cates recommends reserving them for salad dressings. Lower-quality refined olive oils that can withstand high heats (sometimes labeled "pure" or "extra light") have been heavily processed using heat and chemicals, and contain as much as three times less of the polyphenols and antioxidants that make extra-virgin olive oil so healthy.

 

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