Whether we’re preparing a stir-fry dish or whipping up pasta, so many of us utilize processed oils in our daily lives and can’t imagine cooking without them. After speaking directly with health experts and researching the suggestions of others, everyone seemed to agree on one thing— cooking frequently with (and consuming) processed oils can rack up extra deceiving calories that make it much more difficult to stay on track regarding healthy eating and weight loss.
This can be toxic or destructive to your health if consumed in excess. Read on to hear from experts and for healthier replacements to your favorite (but ultimately unhealthy) processed oils.
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Why You Should Be Wary of Processed Oils
So many recipes require the usage of olive oil or some other natural oil, and while these aren’t necessarily bad all on their own, it’s the processed kinds you need to look out for.
Arika Hoscheit, registered dietitian nutritionist told the New York Post That processed oils like grapeseed, soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn and vegetable oils are “generally detrimental to human health and should be avoided.” This, she said, is because they are heated to extremely high temperatures during processing, which oxidizes the oils.
“Oxidation produces free radicals that can cause damage throughout the body. As we age, our bodies have to work harder than they are used to in order to recover from insults,” Hoschiet explained.
She advised readers to “try to limit or avoid processed oils and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants.” Consuming plenty of antioxidants can help protect the body from any free radicals that are produced, Hoscheit added.
We spoke with health expert Jenny Branco, who recommends looking into the oils you use daily (including processed vegetable oils, canola oil, and soybean oil). “One common cooking mistake that makes weight loss so much harder is cooking with refined oils that oxidize at low smoke points,” Branco says, agreeing with Hoscheit’s tips.
Branco added that these inflammatory oils can “damage cell membranes and throw off insulin sensitivity,” which causes blood sugar dysregulation and keeps you from losing weight.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, agreed that “hidden calories” such as “poor quality oils, dressings and butter” can hinder your weight loss goals. “These are sources of lots of calories and fat that may make your meals taste a bit better, but they ultimately aren’t very filling considering how calorie-dense they are, nor do they provide a lot of nutrients,” he told us.
We also asked a nutritionist for healthier alternatives to these oils, and how you can still cook delicious meals either without them (or by using smaller amounts or less frequently).
Healthier Alternatives to Processed Oils
Nutritionist Lisa Richards explains that using oil in the cooking process can be replaced with water or low calorie sauces. “Most vegetables can be sautéed with water or liquid aminos rather than oil,” said Richards. “This leaves you with a much lower-calorie food because you haven’t introduced unnecessary calories from oil.”
Branco also suggests using “healthy fats with higher smoke points.” These include “avocado oil, ghee, butter, coconut oil or tallow for cooking and overall health,” she said.