The 5 best cooking oils for a healthy gut (and 3 you should avoid)
The foods you eat are a major factor in maintaining a healthy and balanced gut microbiome. But how you prepare and cook these foods can be as important to the health of your gut. Whether you are grilling, baking, sauteing or frying, the oil you choose matter. Fats and oils are a necessary component of the human diet, but not all oils are equal. And as far as your health goes, there are “good” fats and “bad” fats. Knowing this, you can look in your cupboard and swap out your unhealthy cooking oils for healthy cooking oils. We’ll help you get started by discussing five healthy options to try and three unhealthy options you should avoid.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD FAT AND BAD FAT?
Healthy fats are those that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while saturated and trans fats are the unhealthy fats we want to avoid.
Saturated fats are generally from animal sources like lard and butter. They contribute to high levels of cholesterol and are a risk factor for heart disease. Trans fats are hydrogenated, the result of an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oils to solidify it. These fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are rich with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which your body can’t make for itself. These fats improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. They help to regulate many body processes, and they also contribute to the absorption of fat-soluble Vitamins A,D, E and K.
So where do you get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats? One way is to get them from healthy cooking oils.
HEALTHY COOKING OILS
Extra virgin olive oil is famous as one of the most healthy cooking oils. It requires extraction from the olive fruit without using any heat or solvents. With its blend of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, olive oil boasts their various health benefits. And it’s also rich in polyphenols, which may aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. Inflammation is one of the main causes of indigestion and other gut woes. Further, recent evidence shows that polyphenols may also help probiotics — one of the keys to good gut health — thrive in your microbiome.
Almond oil is another healthy option to maintain good gut health. It comes from pressing ripe almonds using minimal heat. This unrefined process maintains the nutrients that exist naturally in almonds. Like olive oil, almond oil is anti-inflammatory. It also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that help maintain healthy cholesterol.
Avocado oil comes from pressing the pulp of the avocado and is rich in healthy fats. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid, a monosaturated fat. These are the same fats present in olive oil, and they work much the same way in avocado oil to promote good gut health. Avocado oil also contains chlorophyll, which is a natural source of magnesium and helps detox your organs. Its unique mix of vitamins, minerals and monosaturated fats help with nutrient absorption and improve digestion. Finally, avocado oil has a very high smoke point. Smoke point is the temperature at which a cooking oil begins to smoke. An oil begins to lose nutrients when it’s hot enough to smoke. Thus, oils with higher smoke points are better for cooking at high heat.
Ghee is another name for clarified butter. You make it by heating butter over low temperature so the milk and water separate and leave a pure fat behind. It is generally found in butter form, but you can also buy it as a cooking oil. It has high levels of butyrate, or butyric acid, which soothes inflammation. Aside from reducing inflammation, butyrate also contributes to a healthy gut by aiding in healing and repairing the stomach lining and provides energy to cells in the colon. Ghee also boosts your body’s absorption of vitamins A, E and K. That’s especially good for anyone suffering from leaky gut syndrome, IBS or Crohn’s. People with these gut issues may have trouble absorbing those vitamins on their own. Because the clarification process removes the dairy, ghee is also a great choice for the lactose intolerant.
Coconut oil comes from pressing either fresh or dried coconut meat and is a great choice for a healthy cooking oil. Virgin coconut oil uses fresh meat only and less processing so will be your healthiest option. It’s different from other oils in that it is rich in medium chain triglycerides or MCTs. These are a type of saturated fatty acid that your body is able to digest easier than other fats. The way your body processes MCTs allows them to help improve the gut lining and microbiome which in turn ups metabolic function, helps prevent leaky gut and bloating, cramping and constipation.
UNHEALTHY COOKING OILS
Canola oil is the product of a flowering plant called rapeseed and uses chemicals in the extraction. Further, to increase stability, canola oil is highly processed and partially hydrogenated which lead to increased inflammation. Inflammation is thought to be at the root of many diseases and health issues including poor gut health. While it is healthier than other vegetable oils, you’ll be better off substituting this oil with one of the above mentioned.
Corn oil is expeller-pressed then extracted using a chemical process. It is a highly refined oil with high levels of omega-6 acids and low levels of omega-3s. This imbalance can often lead to a rise in inflammation if you consume too much of this type of oil, and inflammation is the leading cause of many health problems including in the gut.
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the seeds of the soybean. Like other vegetable oils, it is highly processed and hydrogenated to increase its stability and shelf life. It also has an imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, leading to possible increased inflammation which can, and often does, lead to digestive issues.