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Know your cooking oils

EN Photo / Alex Newman

Thanksgiving is officially over, and it’s finally off to the winter holidays.

More often than not, Christmas, Hanukkah Kwanza and the New Year all involve some type of cooking.  Whether it’s baking, grilling or frying, we are all ready to dust off the old family recipes and get to work in the kitchen.

Breaking out the butter, margarine or Crisco may lead us to heavily consider new health trends and how we make our family’s recipes.

Truth be told, particular cooking oils may not be able to handle the high temperatures that our holiday cooking may require.

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When oils reach a particular temperature, a chemical reaction occurs, creating a smoking effect.  The originally healthy oil releases toxic by-products as a result The Mayo Clinic confirmed in an article published in January 2016.

Homemade sugar cookies mixed with added free radicals doesn’t sound too mouth-watering, does it?

The truth may hurt; nonetheless, there are plenty of alternative options available at your local grocery store that are health conscious, without sacrificing the delicious taste of your grandmother’s homemade cookie mix.

While olive oil is very popular substitution, it isn’t always the best option for baking, due to the oil’s opportunity to alter the sweet treat’s flavor.

According to an article published by The Cleveland Clinic in October 2014, the healthiest oil to use, that won’t alter the taste of your baked good, is canola oil.

Unlike other oils, like grapeseed oil and macadamia nut oil, canola oil contains low levels of saturated fats, as well as higher levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  The proportionate levels of fats make it an overall heart-healthy, not to mention gut-friendly, option.

Baking isn’t the only concern, however.  When it comes to sauteing or frying vegetables and meats, an oil with a high smoke point is essential.

A very popular, and personal favorite, replacement is avocado oil.  Avocado oil has a very subtle taste and boasts an impressive 520°F smoking point, making it one of the top contenders for high temperature cooking.

After all is said and done, the most important thing you can do for your health and holiday cooking is to know the smoking point of the oil you plan on using.   

The Baseline Health Foundation offers an extensive list of oils and their smoking temperatures, found at

Happy and healthy holiday cooking, my friends.

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