Cooking Oils and Fats: How to Use Them In Your Diet

Hi, I'm Dr. Marie Starling.

At The Healing Center, we help people like you reach their full potential.

I specialize in adjunctive care for internal disorders, autoimmune conditions, IBS, thyroid symptoms, diabetes, and other complex health issues.


By: Mary Beth Gudewicz, CNTP, MNT

There is so much information on the market about which oils and fats can be used for cooking and which ones should be used in a salad or drizzled on top of cooked vegetables. Handling of nuts, seeds and their oils require extreme care. When oils and fats are either heated past their smoke point or used in high heat cooking, the fats start to break down releasing free radicals. Free radicals will attack your body’s cells leading to inflammation and eventually diseases such as heart disease, cancer, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and rheumatoid arthritis. Oils, nuts and seeds that are not properly stored or packaged go rancid. For example, flaxseed oil needs to be stored in the refrigerator and must be kept in light, protective, opaque containers. On the other hand, olive oil does not need to be refrigerated. Some oils should be used in high-heat cooking and others in medium-heat cooking (200-300 degrees Fahrenheit) and others should only be used in low-heating conditions such as when you make soup or as part of your salad dressing. Believe it or not handling fats and oils requires extreme care, so let’s explore which ones are best for the job.

The key is to choose unprocessed fats over processed fats because processed fats are chemically unstable and prone to oxidation leading to inflammation in the body. You want to avoid all genetically modified fat sources such as corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine and shortening. The oils and fats to include in your diet are coconut oil, palm oil, lard, tallow, lamb fat, duck fat, olive oil, sesame oil, nut oils (walnut, pecan, macadamia), flaxseed oil (in moderation), avocado oil, nuts and seeds. If you can have dairy in your diet, ghee and organic, grass-fed butter are great choices. The fats and oils that are great for hot uses are coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, lamb fat and duck fat. The cold use oils and fats are olive oil, sesame oil, nut oils, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, including the butters.

Light, heat, water and air are enemies of cooking oils and oils such as avocado, hazelnut, sesame, flaxseed and walnut oils should be refrigerated to prevent rancidity. All other oils should be kept tightly sealed in a cool, dark place. You can wrap any translucent bottle in tin foils to extend its shelf life. Also remember to never, ever store your oils and fats over the stove.

There is much discussion around smoke points. The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature point where the oil stops shimmering and starts smoking. This is the point to take your pan off the heat. The higher a fat’s smoke point, the more cooking methods you can use it for.

Below is a chart that outlines the smoke points of common fats and oils. It is from a combination of sources, The Professional Chef and Modernist Cuisine.

Type of Fat,Smoke Point
Light/Refined Olive Oil,490 degrees F / 260 degrees C
Clarified Butter (Ghee),450 degrees F / 260 degrees C
Beef Tallow,400 degrees F / 250 degrees C
Lard,370 degrees F / 185 degrees C
Avocado Oil (Virgin),375-400 degrees F / 190-205 degrees C
Chicken Fat,375 degrees F / 190 degrees C
Duck Fat,375 degrees F / 190 degrees C
Sesame Oil,350-410 degrees F / 175-210 degrees C
Butter,350 degrees F / 175 degrees C
Coconut Oil,350 degrees F / 175 degrees C
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil,325-375 degrees F / 165-190 degrees C


Myhrvold, Nathan, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet, and Ryan Matthew. Smith. Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Bellevue, WA: Cooking Lab, 2011. Print.

The Professional Chef. New York: Wiley, 2002. Print.

Enig, Mary G. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol. Silver Spring, MD: Bethesda, 2000. Print.

Achitoff-Gray, Niki. “Cooking Fats 101: What’s a Smoke Point and Why Does It Matter?” Serious Eats: The Destination for Delicious. Serious Eats, 16 May 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014. <>.

Liska, DeAnn, and Jeffrey Bland. Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, WA: Institute for Functional Medicine, 2004. Print.

Mercola, Josephs. “AHA’s Recommendations on Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats.”, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.

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