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Time for an Oil Change? The Best Cooking Oils for Gut Health

The healthiest and unhealthiest oils might surprise you.

Confused about which cooking oils are healthiest and best for your gut health? You’re not alone! There's so much information out there about oils. Here's a quick breakdown to make things easier.

Dietary fats and oils are essential nutrients that supply energy to our body, promote cell growth, are vital for brain and skin health, hormone production and vitamin absorption, and keep our body warm. Some oils are more processed than others, which strips them of any nutrients. Oils that are higher in monounsaturated fat or omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil, are great choices for anti-inflammatory oils. While a small amount of omega-6 fats is essential for overall health, too much contributes to chronic inflammation, which can lead to serious health conditions and digestive problems. Many foods naturally fight inflammation and promote healing, such as the go-to oils below.

Go-to Cooking Oils

For cooking, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are best. For finishing oils and dressings, sesame, walnut, flaxseed, and extra light olive oils are good go-tos, as they have low smoke points. All of these oils contain antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and high in monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. These oils lubricate your digestive system, making it easier for stools to pass and easing constipation. They also support the balance of good gut bacteria.

Oils to Use in Moderation

Coconut, peanut, canola, grapeseed, sunflower oils, and butter. All of these oils are higher in omega 6s and can increase inflammation in large amounts.

Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties, and is a rich source of fatty acids that may help brain function, metabolism, and hair and skin health. Coconut oil is also higher in saturated fat, which in large amounts can lead to high cholesterol, increasing risks of heart disease and stroke. Whole coconut (found in coconut butter) has more health benefits than most processed coconut oils.

Oils to Avoid

Margarine, soybean, corn, partially hydrogenated, cottonseed, and palm oils. These are the most processed oils, contain the least nutrients, and increase inflammation, even in small amounts. Earth Balance is a great non-dairy/vegan alternative to butter.

General Oil Tips

  • Know the smoke point of each oil you're using. Smoke point is the temperature where fat begins to break down and oxidize. For optimal taste and nutrition, oil shouldn’t be used above its smoke point.

  • Don't let oil burn - that's when it becomes unsafe to eat.

  • Cold pressed oils are best.

  • Choose oils in a dark, glass bottle, which prevents rancidity from heat or light.

  • Store oils away from heat and light.

  • Read ingredients lists and check for a quality certification to ensure you're getting only the oil you intend to buy.

Looking for recipes?

Check out a wide variety of tasty, gut-friendly, allergy-conscious meals, desserts, and snacks, using the go-to oils here!

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share with others who might benefit!

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