You’re probably well-aware by now that the keto diet primarily consists of fat…

So, cooking oils play a key role in making sure you’re getting enough fat in your diet.

However, not all oils are equal. While some can provide numerous health benefits, others can prove harmful in the long run.

Although carbs aren’t a problem here, some oils are heavily processed, which means they tend to be full of unhealthy trans fats that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Another essential thing to bear in mind when using cooking oils is the temperature at which you’ll be cooking, as different oils have different smoke points.

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to degrade from the heat and, if it reaches this point, the oil can trigger bodily inflammation, release harmful free radicals and even become carcinogenic.

With these points in mind, let’s take a look at three of the best cooking oils you can use on the keto diet and some of the ones you should avoid.

#1 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil, simply put, is the oil derived from olives. Pretty obvious, hey?!

However, the process in which it’s produced can have a significant impact on the final quality.

Olive oil is generally defined as either refined or unrefined and, while refining makes it easier to remove flaws, it also strips the oil of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Extra-virgin is the highest quality of olive oil available, retaining more of the minerals, vitamins, and taste of the olives from which it’s made.

Health Benefits

  • Antioxidants

Extra-virgin olive oil is packed with biologically-active antioxidants that have wide-reaching benefits for your health. Antioxidants can help prevent blood cholesterol from oxidizing and fight inflammation, ultimately reducing the risk [1] of heart disease.

One of the leading causes of cancer is cell damage caused by harmful free radicals and the antioxidants in olive oil not only reduce this, but they’ve also been shown to fight cancer cells.

  • Fight Off Heart disease

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s biggest killer, so it’s important to do what you can to protect your heart.

Luckily, olive oil doesn’t just reduce inflammation, it also strengthens your blood vessels, stops LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and effectively lowers blood pressure. [2]

  • High in healthy fats

Almost 75% of olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which has also been shown to reduce inflammation and fight cancer.

A further 10% of olive oil is polyunsaturated fats, which are made up of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can improve your brain function and mental health, protect your heart and help fight auto-immune disease. [3]

Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is the healthiest olive oil you can buy, but it does have a relatively low smoke point, so it’s not suitable for high-temperature cooking.

While perfect for as a base for salad dressings, simmering vegetables or dipping bread into, you’re better off using standard olive oil when you need to turn up the heat.

#2 Coconut Oil

Extracted from the meat or kernels of mature coconuts, coconut oil is an excellent addition to the keto diet and is highly versatile. As with olive oil, there are different types of coconut oil out there, so it’s important to know the difference to ensure you’re making the healthiest choice.

Refined coconut oil is partially hydrogenated and contains trans fats, which are more likely to raise the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood and can increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Unrefined coconut oil is likely going to be free of trans fats, as well as any chemicals that are used in the refining process, so this is the best kind to choose.

Health Benefits

  • Weight Control

Coconut oil contains fatty acids known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can reduce your appetite, allowing you more control over what you eat and how you manage your weight [4].

MCTs can also boost your metabolism and increase the rate at which you burn calories, further aiding in weight loss.

Check out our article: MCT Oil Versus Coconut Oil: What is the difference?

  • Prevent Infection

Roughly half of the fatty acid content in coconut oil is made up of 12-carbon lauric acid which, when digested, forms a compound called monolaurin. Both monolaurin and lauric acid have been shown to kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi, making them powerful against potential infection.

  • Healthier skin & hair

While coconut oil is great for cooking, it doesn’t have to be reserved just for food. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer and can keep your skin healthy while reducing the symptoms of some skin conditions, like eczema.

Additionally, coconut oil can be used sparingly to protect your hair, as lauric acid has been shown to prevent it from losing proteins and becoming weaker.

Cooking With Coconut Oil

As it consists mainly of saturated fats, coconut oil can generally withstand higher temperatures than most other oils, so it’s great for cooking.

You also use it in combination with coconut flour when you’re baking keto treats to prevent them from turning out too dry. As with olive oil, remember that quality is key and organic, extra-virgin coconut oil is going to taste the best.

#3 Avocado Oil

Avocados have an extremely high oil content and the pressing process is actually quite similar to that of olive oil. In the same fashion, the quality of the oil can vary based on how it’s produced and extra-virgin avocado oil is the best.

Health Benefits

  • Protect Your Eyes

Avocado is an excellent source of a carotenoid called lutein, which is found naturally in our eyes. Lutein works as an antioxidant that can boost our eye health [5] and reduce the risk of ocular issues like cataracts or macular degeneration.

  • Better Nutrient Uptake

Carotenoid antioxidants are found in a number of plant-based foods but they require fat to be absorbed properly, something most of these foods are lacking. It’s been shown that by adding avocado oil to fat-free foods, like spinach and carrots, can help our bodies make the most of their carotenoid content.

Cooking with Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is extremely versatile and, while you can use it cold, it also has a relatively high smoke point perfect for high-temperature cooking. You can drizzle it over a salad, roast veggies with it or even add it to a keto smoothie.

Summary

With the three oils listed, you’ll have all of your cooking oil needs covered regardless of what you’re making, the flavor you’re after, or the temperature at which you’ll be cooking.

While you don’t have to be worried about any oils preventing you from achieving or maintain ketosis due to their lack of carbs, some can still cause adverse health effects and should be avoided.

Examples of these would be soybean, peanut, sunflower and corn oil, so steer clear of those and stick to the organic, unrefined ones above.

References:

[1] Beauchamp GK, Keast RS, Morel D, Lin J, Pika J, Han Q, Lee CH, Smith AB, Breslin PA. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature. 2005 Sep 1;437(7055):45-6.

[2] Psaltopoulou T, Naska A, Orfanos P, Trichopoulos D, Mountokalakis T, Trichopoulou A. Olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and arterial blood pressure: the Greek European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):1012-8.

[3] Löfvenborg J.E., Andersson T., Carlsson P.O., Dorkhan M., Groop L., Martinell M. Fatty fish consumption and risk of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. Nutr Diabetes. 2014;4:e139. [PubMed]

[4] Van Wymelbeke V, Himaya A, Louis-Sylvestre J, Fantino M. Influence of medium-chain and long-chain triacylglycerols on the control of food intake in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Aug;68(2):226-34.

[5] Abdel-Aal el-SM1, Akhtar H, Zaheer K, Ali R. Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 9;5(4):1169-85. doi: 10.3390/nu5041169.

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Jessica Cotzin is a freelance writer, web developer, and avid traveler. Born and raised in South Florida, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Multi-Media Journalism from Florida Atlantic University and currently resides in Miami Beach. Her passions lie in reading great literature and traveling the world, bumping blindly into new adventures.

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