Which Oil to Use – Can cooking with the wrong oil give you cancer?
We have all seen it. You have everything assembled to make a nice stir fry. You add a few drops of oil to your skillet, turn on the heat, and then the doorbell rings. After politely purchasing a coupon book from your local Boy Scout troop, you return to a kitchen filled with blue smoke that burns your lungs, stings your nose and brings tears to your eyes.
Your oil had passed its smoke point.
When cooking with oil, it is important to know the oil’s ‘smoke point’ – the temperature at which the oil begins to degrade and produce bluish smoke. If you don’t, you could be left with not only bad tasting food, burning eyes and a smoke filled kitchen but, there is some evidence that cooking oil past its smoke point increases free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and contribute to your cancer risk. In fact, even inhaling this blue smoke could be dangerous. To prevent this, make sure you are using the right oil for the job.
Here is a table of the smoke point of some commonly used cooking oils:
When oil reaches its smoke point, the glycerol is converted to acrolein, a known cancer causing agent. Not only can inhaling this harmful chemical damage a cell’s DNA, the fatty acids in the oil also become oxidized, forming even more free radicals. This renders useless any free radical fighting value of the oil.
In short, don’t cook oil past its smoke point. Just don’t.
I have included primarily the smoke points of unrefined oils as refined oil has been processed to increase its shelf life and lacks many of the health benefits of oil in its unrefined state. Our goal for weight loss and optimum health is to eat our food as close to its original state as possible. This is especially important when trying to lose weight and burn body fat. Refined oils have a higher smoke point, but I don’t recommend using them.
Flax seed oil is another healthy oil, but it becomes very unstable when heated, and should not be used for cooking.
A note for the paleo dieters out there: Peanuts are a legume and should be avoided if one is strictly following a paleo diet. The vast majority of your cooking should be done with ghee, coconut oil, lard and butter.
So, now there is another reason for choosing the right oil when you are trying to lose weight and make a healthier you.
Feng Z, Hu W, Hu Y, et al: Acrolein is a major cigarette-related lung cancer agent: Preferential binding at p53 mutational hotspots and inhibition of DNA repair. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103:15404-9, 2006, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17030796