Which Oils are Best for Cooking?

Nutritional Therapist
Detox Specialist

When it comes to cooking, not all oils are created equal.

Here's the bottom line: some oils are better suited for cooking than others.


Smoke points and harmful free radicals

The first question you need to ask yourself is: which oils create harmful compounds when heated?

Let's start with the smoke point first.

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it goes over the edge of safety and starts smoking.

When an oil is heated past its smoke point, it releases free radicals – it reacts with oxygen to form harmful compounds. You definitely don’t want to be consuming or breathing in these.

Free radicals can injure cells and DNA in your body.

Beware of HNE, a nasty compound

One harmful compound that can be produced when heated is called HNE. This compound is linked to the pathogenesis of vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.

The nasty thing with HNE is that the longer you heat the oil, and even the more you reuse that oil, like restaurants do, the more HNE it will accumulate.

Bad for the body.

Oil stability is revealed in saturation levels

Regarding the saturation level of fats in cooking oils, consider the types fatty acids they have. This will give you a big clue in both their heat tolerability and overall stability.

Oils with saturated fatty acids are the top choice for cooking. These oils are olive oil, avocado oil, clarified butter (ghee), refined palm oil, and coconut oil.

They are stable because the fatty acids are basically packed tightly together. They’re not loose, in other words. They can tolerate high heat well.

At the other end, there are oils with polyunsaturated fats. These are oils like soybean, corn, canola, sunflower, and safflower. They're unstable fats – they’re not bound together tightly at all. Because they are unstable, they can produce higher levels of free radicals when they're heated.

And, as we said before, we don't want too many free radicals in our bodies.

Okay, in summary, which oils should you use?

Based on the above, here are the best cooking oils to use in the kitchen in order to reduce free radical exposure and toxicity. The simplest way to break this down is by the level of cooking heat you are using.

This first group is for high-heat cooking. These are specifically for frying, sautéing, grilling, pan roasting, searing, stir-frying, and caramelising. Here are a few safe choices:

  • light or refined olive oil (here the word 'refined' means without the combustible solids found in extra virgin oil, which can degrade into harmful oxidation products during high-heat cooking)
  • avocado oil
  • clarified butter (ghee)
  • refined palm oil (here the word 'refined' also means without combustible solids)
  • coconut oil

All of the above have a higher smoke point and are lower in polyunsaturated fats.

If you are leaning towards just medium-heat cooking, such as gentle sauté, stewing, baking, or braising, all of the above would work, as well as butter.

How about off-heat options, such as over a finished dish, after it's been cooked?

For maximum flavour, you can go for unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and unrefined or toasted nut and seed oils.

Nutritional Therapist

Detox Specialist

What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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