The Smoke Points of Cooking Oils


Many people have a long held belief that corn oil and sunflower oil are better than the saturated fats in animal products. According to this study, that isn’t true at all. Cooking with vegetable oils releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other chronic illnesses, according to leading scientists, who are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard.

According to The Telegraph:

Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils leads to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to cancer, heart disease and dementia. Martin Grootveld, a professor of bioanalytical chemistry and chemical pathology, said that his research showed “a typical meal of fish and chips,” fried in vegetable oil, contained as much as 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organisation.

Why should you cook with oils?  The CaveManDoctor offers a lot of good information about fats. Here are several benefits of adding them to your food:

  1. They add flavor.
  2. They help avoid burning of your food.
  3. They provide fat as an energy source.
  4. They provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA.
  5. They provide cancer-fighting conjugated lineoleic acid (CLA).
  6. They help keep you full after you eat.

But when choosing an oil to cook with, one of the most important things you want to consider is knowing the fat’s smoke point, the temperature at which it stops shimmering and starts to smoke. Heated past its smoke point, that fat starts to break down and release a substance called acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma. When acrolein is inhaled it can lead to a long list of lung and respiratory problems.

Interestingly, cooking in poorly ventilated kitchens has been associated with respiratory illnesses, weakening of the immune system, and lung cancer in rural China. It is conceivable that acrolein is co-responsible for these effects. Acrolein emissions from food cooking are far from negligible: the total acrolein emission from commercial kitchens in Hong Kong has been estimated at 7.7 tons per year.

The moral of the story is that the higher a fat’s smoke point, the more cooking methods you can use it for. Here’s a table that shows the smoke points of common cooking oils. Note the olive oil is in the middle of the list. Go here to see a time-sensitive offer from one of our sponsors, The Olive Oil Club. 


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