Nutritionist, Herbalist, Ayurvedic practitioner, Closed Colonic Hydrotherapist, Lecturer, Speaker, Author, Registered Nurse - helping the community for over 30 years.

clean-eatingBy Michèle Wolff B.H.Sc Naturopathy, Dip. Colonics and Author of ‘Digestive Solutions’

Many people ask me what the best oil is to have as a staple in their pantry. With so many oils available, it would be simple to be able to choose only one oil to fulfil most of your kitchen needs, but my answer is always “it depends.”

The fats we eat are made up of a variety of fatty acids, each containing a chain of carbon atoms with two hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon. This explains why some oils are better for cooking than others. Understanding the fats can help you determine which oils are best for your kitchen needs.


Saturated fats are positive to the body and are very stable, so can withstand high temperatures so are great for cooking. The atoms are squashed together tightly which means the fat is solid, or thick. Most saturated fats come from animals or tropical plants like coconut and palm, and are important for taking fat-soluble toxins out of the body.

Coconut oil and rice bran oil are great options if you use oil over high heats. Coconut oil has a delicious flavour that works well with chicken and in curries, and is excellent in baking. It also has many recognised health benefits, including lauric acid, which boosts the immune system; insulin control and energy increase; and helps manage thyroid, candida and digestive disorders, as well as supporting weight loss. Coconut oil does not change its structure when exposed to extreme temperatures so is safe and healthy to use everywhere. The drawback to using coconut oil in every occasion is that the coconut flavour, although delicious, may not be a suitable accompaniment to some foods. You can buy refined coconut oil from a health food shop which has no taste or odour and the processing is not harmful to health.

Rice bran oil also has a high smoke point (213oC) and has a mild flavour, so is a good alternative to coconut oil for dishes where the primary taste should be the food. A component of rice bran oil, oryzanol, was the focus of studies in Japan, showing that 90 per cent of women participating in the trial found some form of relief from menopausal hot flushes after taking rice bran oil for four-to-six weeks.


When a hydrogen atom is missing in the carbon chain, the fatty acid is unsaturated. Unsaturated oils are unstable and should not be used over high temperatures. Unsaturated fats can be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated.

Polyunsaturated oils: Omega-3 oils like flaxseed and fish oil are essential for the health of your body, with benefits for heart, brain, eye, joint and digestive health. However, these are very unstable and should not be heated but kept in the fridge.

Hemp seed oil has a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6, and contains 35 per cent soluble fibre. It needs to be refrigerated and should not be applied to heat at all. Hemp seed oil is green and tastes like sunflower oil.

Monounsaturated oils: These are more stable than polyunsaturated fats so can be heated, although the temperature should be kept quite low. Oleic acid is the most common monounsaturated fat and is found in almonds, avocados, olive oil and pecans.

Olive oil has been associated with reduced blood pressure and minimising the effects of ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any plant oil but should still be used over low heat only. Added to food, such as salads, avocado oil can help increase uptake of nutrients to help immunity – this is especially helpful for managing inflammation.

Macadamia oil is abundantly available in Australia and has five times more vitamin E than olive oil!

Oils to avoid:

Other oils change their molecular structure under high heat and are very harmful to the body. Most cheap vegetable oils have been solvent extracted which destroys valuable antioxidants. These include soybean, sunflower, corn and cottonseed oils.

Avoid canola oil. Although it is very popular, is has its issues. Modern canola was hybridised to shut down heart damaging erucic acid but new studies are showing that even the small amounts that remain may still cause health issues. Canola goes rancid easily and during the shelf extending deodorisation process, the 12% of omega-3 content in canola is transformed into trans-fats.

Fats that have had hydrogen added to make a polyunsaturated oil (like margarine) are known as trans-fats and are harmful to the body. Look out for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil in packet food.

How you choose oils in your diet is very important for digestive and overall health. Choose oils that come straight from nature and are pure, organic and unadulterated, and only cook with oils that are not damaged by heat.

Michèle Wolff is a leading health practitioner and a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and nurse, owner of Ultimate Detox Solutions Her new book ‘Digestive Solutions – 101 Proven Methods to Solve Your Tummy Problems Naturally’ is available from bookstores and good online booksellers. Visit RRP $39.95

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