Olive oil is highly regarded for its heart health benefits. However, olive oil should not be used in cooking.
Unrefined olive oil has a relatively low smoke point. What is a smoke point, you say? It is the temperature at which an oil or a fat breaks down into free fatty acids and glycerol. This causes the oil to oxidize and produce free radicals, which are toxic when inhaled. This means that you should cook with an oil that has a high smoke point above typical cooking temperatures (392°F). However, it's not quite that simple. While refined oils tend to have higher smoke points, their polyphenols have been removed along with most of the health benefits. The challenge, therefore, is to find an unrefined oil with a high smoke point for cooking.
Below is a chart of various oils in order of descending smoke point.
Ghee has been implemented in Ayurveda to improve the digestive and immune systems. A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that ghee enhances the availability of enzymes responsible for detoxification of cancer-causing substances and decreases the availability of those responsible for activation of carcinogens. The scientists conjectured that this could be due to the high content of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in ghee. Research on CLA has shown to up-regulate the tumor suppression gene PTPRG, and therefore may have cancer-protective qualities. In a randomized, controlled trial, consumption of ghee was also shown to improve HDL cholesterol levels and not adversely effect the serum lipid profile.
Ghee is also more fun than other oils. You can make it at home if you're feeling adventurous.
I will still be drizzling my salads with fragrant olive oil, and buttering my popcorn with sweet coconut oil. But for cooking, ghee is my favored option.
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Image courtesy of:
1. Food Renegade
I am not a certified nutritionist or doctor of medicine. I was not compensated monetarily or otherwise for this post.