Which Fats and Oils to Use

Over the years there has been mixed messages and much controversy  about which fats and oils we should be eating, spreading and cooking with.  Over the next few days I hope to publish some articles and comments that will help you to not only know which are the best oils to use, but understand the reasoning behind those choices.



First of all it is important to realise that we need fat in the diet, but it must be the right kind of fat in order to benefit health.  The role of fats are many and diverse; they are an important source of energy, they insulate the body’s organs, they provide and carry the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), they keep toxins out of circulation, they are involved in hormone production and they are important for cell membrane structure and function. A low fat diet therefore, can lead to a number of health issues.



There are three main types of fats, (these can then be further subdivided).



Saturated fat, found in animal fats but also coconut oil and palm oil.  These are solid at room temperature. In the chemical structure of saturated fat all the carbon molecules  are linked or ‘saturated’ with hydrogen, which means that this is the most stable fat for cooking.




Monounsaturated fat, found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, goose, duck and chicken fat, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts and pecans. These are liquid at room temperature but may solidify in the fridge. In the chemical structure of monounsaturated fat not all the carbon bonds are ‘saturated’ with hydrogen, so this is not so stable for cooking.  Use only at low temperatures and preferably ‘steam fry’ – adding a tablespoon of water with the oil and cooking with a lid, to keep the oil from getting too hot and oxidising.



Polyunsaturated fat, found in nuts and seeds and their oils.  These are liquid at room temperature.These oils should not be used in cooking as they may oxidise very easily and trans fats may be created.




Each of these fats can be beneficial to health if used in the correct way.  Tomorrow I will look further at the best type of fat for cooking.