Healthy vs Toxic Cooking Oils

There are so many options for cooking oils at the store. A lot of us don't really understand the differences in oils, when to use them, and how to tell the really good ones from the really bad ones. Let’s go over what to look for, what to buy, what to avoid, but most importantly why.

First - What To Avoid

Let's start with what I call the worst of the worst. If you're cooking with canola oil, Crisco, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil (any of the oils on this list), I want you to stop doing that immediately!

When you talk about vegetable oil or corn oil, there are a few problems, my friends:

  1. It’s GMO. All vegetable oils are blends that come from either corn or soy, and that's a problem, because it's GMO corn or soy.
  2. These oils are extremely processed and refined. The extraction process uses a chemical called hexane, a solvent that extracts all of the oil from the plant. They claim that none of the solvent is left behind, but I don’t buy it. They subject the oil to extremely high heat, which actually warps the fatty acids into something very bad for you, highly processed, and highly inflammatory.

I get why people use it. It's cheap to buy, because it's very cheap to make. It's also good for high heat cooking, and it adds no flavor to the food, which is good when you're frying chicken or making a stir-fry. However, it's so devastating to your health, and you need to avoid it at all costs.

If you still plan to cook with canola or sunflower oil, look for organic and expeller-pressed oils. They can't use hexane with organic seed oils, and the process of extracting the oils using the expeller-pressed method is much gentler than traditional means.

“If you still plan to cook with canola or sunflower oil, look for organic and expeller-pressed oils.”

What to Choose Instead

To replace those bad options, we need some good alternatives.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is the best substitute for canola oil. Once again, it's a neutral flavor oil and handles high heat well, because it has a high smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to degrade and burn, so the higher the smoke point, the more heat the oil can tolerate. With avocado oil, you can grill, sear, char, or deep-fry. 

Another really cool thing about avocado oil is that it raises your good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL). I use this stuff on a daily basis.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil gets a really bad rap, because somehow people believe that it degrades in very low-heat temperatures, or that it has a low smoke point that causes cancer. That is total nonsense.

Extra-virgin olive oil can have a smoke point from 350 to over 400 degrees; you can deep fat fry at 350 degrees. When I was in Rome in the Israeli quarter, I ate Jerusalem artichokes that had been fried in extra-virgin olive oil, and they came out wonderfully. 

But, it’s very important to know where your extra-virgin olive oil comes from. Many inferior oils can be blended from certain parts of the world that have lower quality oils, so check the back of the label for the country of origin. California extra-virgin olive oils tend to be purer than a lot of imported oils, so I highly recommend looking for the stamp of approval from the California Olive Oil Council.

I also recommend you avoid anything labeled “light.” They make it light by straining and processing the oil to get rid of that bold olive oil flavor to make it more mild. If mild is what you’re after, you're better off using avocado oil, so stick to the genuine article.


100% grass-fed ghee could be my favorite cooking oil. Unlike butter, ghee does not have any whey or casein; it's pure milk fat. The flavor is like butter times ten, and the smoke point is almost 500 degrees fahrenheit. From baking to making my scrambled eggs in the morning, I love this stuff. “4th & Heart” makes the best on the market.