I’m sitting in a restaurant – it could be any of the dozens of restaurants I’ve traveled to around the country – and ask what oil is used in the salad dressing. Nearly every time I get a reaction that is a mix of “stunned inability to answer” and “eye-roll for the crazy lady” and “who cares anyway?!?!”. I care. Since my severe degenerative osteoarthritis diagnosis in 2015, I have been consuming a no grain, no dairy, no sugar diet. Certain grains increase my pain. This is not about being gluten-free or participating in a “fad” diet, this is fundamentally about my ability to reduce my pain with my diet. Grain oils affect me the same way eating bread does – pain caused by inflammation in my joints. This post features some tips for which oils are grain-free.
Oils are made and processed from many different products – meat, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and fruits – and vary in their benefits to our health. Types of fat make a difference when considering what oils are best for you (see below list).
Saturated Fat – Is solid at room temperature. According to the American Heart Association, “From a chemical standpoint, saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.” Dairy, chicken with skin, pork, and fatty beef products often have quantities of saturated fats. Coconut oil also has saturated fat.
Trans Fat – This is typically solid at room temperature. Trans fats are mostly artificially created with partial hydrogenation, which is a way of converting liquids to solids. Common products with trans fats include margarine and shortening.
Polyunsaturated Fat – Is liquid at room temperature. This fat is naturally occurring in many foods such as sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and tuna or salmon.
Monounsaturated Fat – Is liquid at room temperature. This fat is naturally occurring in many foods such as olives, nuts, nut butter, and avocado.
Add to this concern – GRAINS – and we have several oils that we might consider using over others. In the chart (above) you can see a comparison of oils and fat content which might guide you when considering which oils to cook within your kitchen. For me — I’m allergic to peanuts, so eliminating peanut oil is first on my list. Then grain oils include corn and soy. Dairy is butter, so that must be eliminated because of my diet. If you are a vegetarian you might eliminate animal fats as well. This leaves several choices for my own kitchen which might work in your kitchen also. Choosing my favorite tasting oils out of the healthier common choices in the chart above makes sense. I prefer sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil (see the oils from left to right in the top photo seen in the beautiful Perigord Tumblers from LaRochere).
Sunflower and light olive oil are great for cooking because they have a high smoking point. I primarily use coconut oil for cooking onions and cruciferous vegetables that appreciate a bit of a flavor kick, but I do not use it as the main oil in my diet. Virgin olive oil and sunflower are great flavor enhancers for salad dressings and vegetable drizzling, plus they tick off the lower saturated fat content requirement. Avocado oil is not listed in the chart above, yet it is another one I really enjoy.
With all this knowledge secured tightly in my “healthy backpack of information”, we must jump to an event in my memory where I am walking to my speaking stage at one of the Mother Earth News Fairs and I run into the Century Sun Oil people at a booth. When I think of fields of sunflowers growing to produce the oil, I feel happy (see below). They have samples of a high oleic, cold-pressed, GMO-free, certified organic, and locally grown sunflower oil to try. I’m absolutely mad for sunflower seeds so expect the oil to taste like seeds, but it does not. The flavor is fresh, light, and neutral – absolutely perfect for salads and cooking. I have been testing the oil out all season in dozens of recipes and like it best simply whisked with vinegar, thyme, and a little salt and pepper to be used as a chicken marinade or salad dressing. I give it two thumbs up and if you want to try it, you can order this cooking oil for a grain-free diet at www.centurysunoil.com.