A Doctor’s Guide to the Best & Worst Oils.

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For decades, experts suggested vegetable oils were best to cook with, yet now we hear cooking with butter or coconut oil is healthiest. No wonder we’re so confused!

For instance, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults get no more than five percent of their calories from saturated fat, urging people to use vegetable oils instead.

They also advise people to eat at least 5 to 10 percent of their calories from polyunsaturated fat (PUFAs). Unlike saturated fat, the AHA rationalizes that PUFAs lower LDL cholesterol levels.

As a result of this and other poor nutrition advice, Americans consume at least twice the amount of omega-6s today than they did in the 1960s.

More omega-6 vegetable oils mean we under-consume omega-3 fats, increasing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, pre-diabetes, IBS, arthritis, asthma, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other issues.

That’s because omega-6 fats fuel our body’s inflammatory pathways and counteract the benefits and availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, creating even more inflammation.

These ubiquitous omega-6 fats like vegetable oils also undo any health benefits omega-3 fats provide. They reduce the conversion of plant-based omega-3 fats (called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) into active forms of omega-3s (called eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid or EPA and DHA) by about 40 percent.

Consuming too many omega-6 fats also increases mental illness, suicide, and even homicide. In fact, studies show a connection between increased omega 6s, mental health, and inflammation.

We need to eliminate these highly processed vegetable oils and eat more plant-based and animal fats such as butter, coconut oil, and even lard. Based on that information, let’s look more closely at our best cooking choices.

For one, we want to eliminate refined oils except extra-virgin olive oil.

When cooking, we want to use extra-virgin coconut oil, avocado oil (both of which can be used at higher temperatures because these are highly stable oils), and even ghee (clarified butter).

Ghee has a higher smoking point at 400˚to 500˚F and provides the same nutrients in grass-fed butter, like cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Ghee and butter are also high in vitamins D and A, omega-3 fats, and butyric acid, which can boost immunity and help inflammation as well as protect against colon cancer.

Coconut oil tolerates temperatures up to about 350˚, so it’s great for most baking and medium-high heat sautéing. Olive oil is best for low-heat cooking or used raw for dressing salads. Avocado oil, macadamia oil, and walnut oil also are wonderful raw and make great dressings.

We should always go for organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, or expeller pressed oils. Do research and don’t be afraid to contact the company directly to ensure the product is truly cold-pressed. Organic production prohibits GMOs and the use of hexanes for extraction in oils.

Storage and shelf life become crucial with cooking oils. Store oils in dark, not clear, bottles and keep in a cool, dark place away from light and heat. Don’t store oils on kitchen counters or next to the stove. Always close the lid tightly and immediately store oils after using them because oxygen contributes to rancidity.

Oils go bad over a span of months depending on the type. I recommend only purchasing the amount we can actually use within two months.


To further learn how to cook with healthy fats and which fats to choose, my new cookbook, Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook, contains over 175 delicious healthy fat recipes. 

What are your go-to oils? Do you steer clear of vegetable oils now that you know they’re unhealthy? Share your thoughts below on my Facebook page.


Author: Dr. Mark Hyman

Image: Marjan Lazarevski/Flickr; Pexels

Editor: Emily Bartran

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About Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience. Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show. Dr. Hyman works with individuals and organizations, as well as policy makers and influencers. He has testified before both the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine. He has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention, and participated in the 2009 White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa nominated Dr. Hyman for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. In addition, Dr. Hyman has worked with President Clinton, presenting at the Clinton Foundation’s Health MattersAchieving Wellness in Every Generation conference and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as with the World Economic Forum on global health issues. Dr. Hyman also works with fellow leaders in his field to help people and communities thrive—with Rick Warren, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Dr. Daniel Amen,he created The Daniel Plan, a faith-based initiative that helped The Saddleback Church congregation collectively lose 250,000 pounds.  He is an advisor and guest co-host on The Dr. Oz Show and is on the board of Dr. Oz’s HealthCorps, which tackles the obesity epidemic by educating American students about nutrition. With Drs. Dean Ornish and Michael Roizen, Dr. Hyman crafted and helped introduce the Take Back Your Health Act of 2009 to the United States Senate to provide for reimbursement of lifestyle treatment of chronic disease. Dr. Hyman plays a substantial role in a major documentary, produced by Laurie David and Katie Couric, called Fed Up (Atlas Films, September 2014)which addresses childhood obesity. Please join him in helping us all take back our health at his website, follow him on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.


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