Oil is a household staple and an essential ingredient in every kitchen.  For years, home cooks have reached for a bottle of handy-dandy ubiquitous olive oil to satiate their needs.  Well, we’re about to turn that trend on its head.  This day and age, there are much better options available.

Avocado oil is a healthy fat gaining momentum in natural health circles. Unrefined versions are cold pressed and help retain natural flavor and color. Not only is it extremely versatile, but numerous studies have linked it to powerful health benefits. The high smoke point makes it ideal for cooking.

As a result, avocado oil has quickly become a mainstay in the UpGood Testing Kitchen.  We reach for it time and time and time again.  But, at this point, we’ve only scratched the surface.  Take our hand and follow us over to the edge of the rabbit hole.  Then, you can decide how far down you really want to go.

Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

Thanks to modern technology, and the information superhighway, most people know that there is a difference. For most, however, the distinction stops there.  Let’s break it down slightly further without getting scientific.

Trans Fat: Bad. Linked to heart disease, obesity and now banned by the FDA.  It’s an artificial fat created in an industrial process.  Look for “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels.  May be found in processed foods, snacks, crackers, fast-food and baked goods.

Saturated Fat: Medium. Solid at room temperature.  Common in the American diet, and can drive up total cholesterol counts.  May be found in red meat, dairy products, and commercially prepared baked goods.

* Coconut oil can be a high source of saturated fat

Monounsaturated Fat: Good.  Liquid at room temperature.  May be found in vegetables, nuts and fish.

Polyunsaturated Fat: Good.  Liquid at room temperature.  An “essential” fat that doesn’t occur naturally in the body and required for normal body functions.  May be found in fish and nuts.

For reference, the bottle of avocado oil currently in the UpGood Testing Kitchen contains 0g Trans Fat, 2g Saturated Fat, 10g Monounsaturated Fat, 2g Polyunsaturated Fat   

Avocado Oil Has a Higher Smoke Point Than Most Oils

If you’re cooking at higher temperatures, then avocado oil is your best bet.  Think searing, grilling, frying, sautéing or roasting.  This fine oil does it all, and that’s why we love it so.

The smoke point for Avocado can be reached at approximately 500°F

The smoke point for Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be reached at approximately 375°F

The smoke point for Coconut Oil can be reached at approximately 350°F

Avocado oil for the win!

This is of vast importance because oil can and will burn.  At this point, the oil will start to break down and decompose.  If neglected for too long, it can turn rancid (bad for your food), release free radicals and possibly produce carcinogenic compounds (bad for your body).

To combat this, many store-bought oils are often refined for the consumer.

Refining and Pressing Methods

While refining can produce higher smoke points, and extend the shelf life, it can also lead to additional processing and reduced nutrient content.

There are two basic methods:

  1. Industrial – some vegetable oils like soybean and corn can use toxic chemical solvents to extract the oil from the crops.  Then it can be “washed” and “scorched” with additional chemicals to enhance mass production, remove impurities and improve the smell.
  2. Mechanical – a costly extraction process using machines to cold-press or expeller-press the oil.  It produces lower yields, but results in higher quality.

Extra virgin is the highest grade oil may receive.  Extra virgin olive oil, for example, is made with olives from a first pressing and does not use chemicals or extreme heat to extract the oil.  Hence the term cold-pressed.  In contrast, regular virgin oil may contain a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils.  So, any oil that does not meet the strict standards of extra virgin may be further refined to reduce impurities and blended to create a cheaper, less expensive version.

Therefore we recommend looking for terms like organic, pure, cold/expeller pressed and/or extra virgin on the packaging.  Refined doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be avoided (it does help remove impurities after all), but as a general rule of thumb, less is better.

For further consideration, light and oxygen can also expedite the break down of oil.  That’s why better products are packaged in dark glass or opaque containers.  Your first red flag is a clear plastic bottle.  If you see oil in a container like this, stay away!  Some estimates in the industry posit that more than 50% of all mass-produced olive oils may already be spoiled when consumed.

So why do manufacturers still use industrial processes and cheap packaging?  This is most likely due to profit margins, shelf life, and increasing yields.  And, with many consumers none the wiser, who cares?  Well, we do!

Comparing Popular Oils

This could be an entire essay in and of itself, so let’s offer, if we may, a quick comparison.

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO):

  • Good combination of fats and nutrients
  • Medium heat tolerance
  • May impart a taste that doesn’t pair well with some foods
  • Best for salads and dipping

2. Coconut Oil:

  • Higher in saturated fat (health benefits inconclusive)
  • Lacks in mono/polyunsaturated fats
  • Turns chunky at room temperature
  • Low heat tolerance
  • May impart a taste that doesn’t pair well with some foods
  • Best for baking

   3. Avocado Oil:

  • Good combination of fats and nutrients
  • High heat tolerance
  • All-purpose and extremely versatile
  • Subtle, delicate nutty flavor
  • Best for all applications

4. Canola Oil:

  • Good combination of fats
  • Usually packaged in clear plastic containers
  • Tends to be genetically modified
  • Chemically extracted
  • Degrades quickly and less stable
  • Best for: no thank you

 

Well, that was certainly interesting!  For the skimmers out there, let’s summarize the benefits of avocado oil:

     Packed with vitamins and minerals

     Rich in healthy fats

     High smoke point

     Delicious, subtle flavor (milder than olive oil)

     Fantastic for cooking, baking, salads, dipping and finishing

Now, if that doesn’t get you on board the avocado train, let’s try discussing a few more potential benefits.  While the science may be questionable, the claims still exist:

Heart Health and Cholesterol

Some studies in animals have shown links between avocado oil and increased levels of HDL (the good cholesterol).  As well as lowering LDL (the bad cholesterol) and blood pressure.  Anything that could help keep the arteries clean and improve overall heart health is fine by us.  Thanks to the presence of Omega 9 and 3 fatty acids.

Skin Care

Applying avocado oil to the skin is a great way to fix dry or flakiness.  Adding avocado oil to a regular skincare routine can potentially reduce skin damage from the sun, and help with age spots. Also, avocado oil can be rubbed on scars to slowly reduce their appearance over time.  That’s why you may see avocado oil listed as an ingredient in some creams and cosmetics.

Detoxification

Magnesium is a natural aid in filtering poisons such as mercury and lead from vital organs such as the kidneys and liver.  In fact, magnesium can even do the same thing for our brains.  A great source of magnesium is chlorophyll, something that can be found in – you guessed it – avocado oil.

Maintaining Healthy Blood Pressure

By making avocado oil a regular part of your diet, you’re adding vitamin E and potassium, two important nutrients that play a role in keeping arteries and blood vessels in good shape. This will help regulate blood flow and pressure.

Stimulate and Improve Hair Growth

Routinely applying avocado oil to the scalp can help protect hair, and promote new growth.  Although doing this is very greasy, so a clarifying shampoo is highly recommended after an avocado oil treatment . . . or just leave in for your best Danny Zuko look.

Oral Health

Using avocado oil can help reduce inflammation and potentially protect your teeth from periodontal disease by blocking a protein called IL1B.

Nutrient Absorption Assistance

Some nutrients, like cartenoids for example, need fat to be absorbed by the body.  That means that your body can’t effectively absorb them on its own, and you’re getting fewer benefits from the carrots that you’re eating.  Cartenoids are also found in other fruits and vegetables as well.  Since they typically have low-fat content, adding avocado oil can possibly help improve overall cartenoid uptake by roughly 5-15 times.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t guessed, avocado oil is far and away our personal favorite for all applications in the kitchen.  The versatility is unmatched, and we cringe every time other culinists nonchalantly reach for their cheap bottle of olive oil.  After reading this article, it should be clear why we chose it as the “Best Oil for Cooking.”  On that note, we also love Ghee just as much (if not more) but that’s a subject for a different day!

Don’t forget, here in the UpGood Kitchen, we’re chefs, cooks and enthusiasts – not nutritionists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, or the next Dr. Oz.  While we do like to delve into all aspects of food and cooking, we tend to back away from the highly scientific, engineer types and the hotly debated topics that ensue.  That just isn’t fun for us, takes time away from cooking, and frankly, can get a little dull.  For every scientific study you can find to support a claim there are countless others that will contradict or discredit your point of contention.  Questionable research practices and flawed methodology can poison any study.  Therefore, we shy away from cherry-picking cases to prove a point and remain open to various views, perspectives and opinions.  If something is of enough importance we might test it in our kitchen or research it further.  But in the end, we just want to help you make good choices, level up your game and have fun doing it.  We prefer to provide a healthy dose of good sense with a splash of science to keep everyone happy and balanced.  Consider such topics a starting point to peak your interest and encourage your own additional research.  Then, when you’ve found the information you’re looking for, we’ll be back here at the stovetop waiting with open arms.

– Have Fun In The Kitchen