Cooking Oils Explained: When To Use Olive Oil, Avocado Oil & More

You often hear me talk about avoiding processed, inflammatory oils, like canola, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil. Instead I tell you to replace those with better for you oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, virgin coconut oil, grass-fed ghee.

But a lot of people say, “Bobby, that’s great, but when do I use them? How do I know when to use extra virgin olive oil vs avocado oil? When do I use ghee?”

So we’re going to walk through some common situations where you use oil and I’ll explain what each oil is for and when to use it.

Cooking Spray:

Let’s start with something very interesting, because so many people use it: cooking oil spray. This is the undisputed champion, even back in the 80’s when I was growing up I remember this being everywhere.

First off, this is processed, inflammatory canola oil in here. That’s bad enough. But how does the oil come out of the canister? Let’s check the ingredients:

At the bottom it says it comes out with a chemical propellant, but they don't tell you what the propellant is. But when you research it online, you’ll find out: it’s butane and propane. Propane, the same stuff that comes into your gas grill, and butane, the same stuff they spray to get the deodorant out of the can.

What’s even worse? The problem with butane is that it's often linked with benzene, a known carcinogen. You don't want that coming out of your oil spray onto your pan, then onto your food.

You’ll also notice another interesting ingredient here called dimethyl silicone. It's the Cujo the Dog of ingredients: an anti-foaming agent. That's so this thing doesn't get all sudsy and foamy. Ew, yuck, no!

So what do you do instead? It’s easy: choose cooking sprays that use a healthier oil, and don’t have any propellants or anti-foaming agents. For example, this avocado oil spray has only one ingredient: avocado oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

Welcome to the meat alternatives section of the frozen food department! This is where plant-based can really go wrong, in my opinion. 

Let's say you want meatballs, but you’re plant-based. You might pick up these Classic Jack Meatballs:

By Jack, they mean jackfruit, which is a good plant actually, but I can promise you it's not just jackfruit. Let’s take a look at the label:

So jackfruit is the first ingredient, but the binder is soy flour, the oils are coconut (good) but then there’s canola oil (bad), plus there's “natural” flavors, which as I’ve told you, are anything but. So you hoped for something plant-based, but what you got instead is soy, inflammatory canola oil, and what really are artificial flavors.

“Choose cooking sprays that use a healthier oil, and don’t have any propellants or anti-foaming agents.”

Chicken Tenders:

Here’s another product from  a very popular brand you’ll find at many grocery stores:

These crispy chicken tenders look lovely in the photo. But what are they made of? Let’s take a look:

Enriched wheat flour is the main ingredient, but are the problem ingredients; soy protein isolate and canola oil, followed by a ton of other unsavory ingredients. 

Why does soy keep coming up, you wonder? Oftentimes you’ll find all of these imitation products are made with soy. And here's the funny thing; a lot of people eat plant-based because they think it's better for the environment. But soy is a monocrop. Soy and corn are the biggest monocrops that we grow in this country. 

Monocropping is when you grow the same crop over and over every year on the same land. The problem is monocrops are really bad for the soil, particularly the biodiversity of the soil. 

So if you’re eating plant-based for environmental reasons, and you’re eating foods that are full of soy and corn, it’s actually bad for the environment! It's bad for you as well, because soy is usually GMO, and even when it’s not, it's still high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are very inflammatory. You don’t want it in your body.

Chicken Breasts:

Let’s move onto plant-based chicken breasts. Here is an example of what you’ll find:

Looks okay on the package, right? But before we even look at the ingredients, let’s just peek at the actual product:

Does that look appetizing to you? I know it's plant-based, but that just looks like something's wrong with it! People might see plant-based chicken breasts, no artificial flavors, non-GMO, and think it's good to go, but now it’s time to look at the ingredients:

So what’s even in here? Chickpea flour is the main ingredient, coconut oil is okay but we also have canola oil, and then methylcellulose, sodium alginate, carob gum, xanthan gum, and natural flavors.

As far as I can tell, this is not a plant-based chicken patty, this is basically a  plant-based oily starchy patty! Sodium alginate, carob gum and methylcellulose are used to bind the processed inflammatory canola oil with chickpea flour. This is not how you do plant-based. I’d argue there's no real plants in here at all!

My friends, I have no problem with veganism or plant-based eating when it's done the right way; eating whole fruits, vegetables, and foods that are in their whole form. But when you take plants and concoct them into something that is  Frankenfood, with essentially  all fake ingredients and oils and no plants, that is not good plant-based. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for the environment.