Cooking with the wrong fats
Cook with olive oil — but only for certain foods. Butter is back — but is butter better? And then there’s coconut oil — actually, there are many reasons not to cook with coconut oil. So what are the healthiest fats for cooking? Maggie Michalczyk, registered dietitian in Chicago, recommends doing your homework before buying a jumbo jug of one particular oil and using it for everything. “These oils have different smoke points — that’s the temperature at which they begin to burn — and once they start smoking, the fat breaks down and they can release harmful free radicals into the air,” she says. Oils with high smoke points that are great for high-heat cooking include avocado oil (refined), almond oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil. Regardless of smoke point, you’ll want to limit soybean and corn oils, which studies have linked to diabetes. Also, keep portions of oils in check when cooking to prevent additional calories (most serving sizes are two tablespoons).
Overheating healthy oils
Oils with low smoke points are better for salad dressings or adding to already cooked foods — but not for high temp cooking. “Certain oils, like olive oil and coconut oil, contain nutritional compounds that can be destroyed when heating to high temperatures above their smoke points,” explains Ben Roche, Michelin-star chef and director of product development at Just. For general cooking at home (sautéing, frying, roasting), he recommends using a neutral oil, like grapeseed or sunflower. For flavoring cold sauces and drizzling over prepared food, he suggests using extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil to preserve flavor and nutrition. Just make sure you’re not buying fake olive oil.
Frying your food
It might taste downright delicious, but consuming deep-fried food on the regular can be deadly. “The act of frying turns otherwise healthy foods, like vegetables and lean meats, into unhealthy, trans-fat-laden treats,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist. Additionally, consumption of fried foods has been linked to a myriad of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. If you can’t shake your fried-food obsession, Kimszal suggests purchasing an air fryer. This device does not require any oil to cook your food, so you can still enjoy your favorite foods without all the trans fat that will hurt your health.