Storing Your Oils

Yesterday’s post about water was spurred by the sudden onset of summer and heat in Denver. I immediately began to feel more dehydrated, and wanted to remind you guys to drink lots of water this summer! Another reminder: don’t forget to store your oils properly, especially in the warm weather.

I’ve mentioned that certain things such as heat, air, mechanical refinement, and light can destroy the original nutrients and properties of many oils. Oils are expensive, and people tend to have a few different types on had at any given time. So, it’s important to keep them fresh. When oils go rancid, they form free radicals and oxidize. At some point in the process they are doing more harm than good inside our bodies. Often we cannot taste or smell the rancidity of our oils because many oils are so highly refined and deodorized that everything is masked.

Saturated fats are the most stable fats and are not as susceptible to oxidation as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Oils higher in saturated fats include coconut oil, butter and lard. These types of oils should be solid at room temperature, but liquefy when exposed to heat. As many of you may remember, I am a huge fan of coconut oil and recommend using it for higher heat cooking or baking (and for weight loss, gut health, and many other things!). I used to keep my coconut oil in the cabinets, because our house stayed cool enough to keep it solid. However, when we were out of town for a week and Denver temperatures got really high, it started to liquefy. When I got home, I had liquid coconut oil. I put it in the fridge just to be safe, but generally it’s okay to leave coconut oil in the cupboard. You can read about the full benefits of coconut oil here.

Butter is another stable oil with a smoke point of about 350 degrees F. It is not as sensitive to heat and light as other oils. However, butter should still be kept in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid. If you keep your butter in a fancy butter dish, get one that will block the light. Many people don’t like to keep their butter in the fridge because they want it nice and soft when the time comes to spread it on their fresh bread or warm toast. But keeping it out of the fridge for extended periods of time can make it spoil. So, what is the solution? Well, when doing research on butter, I came across something that intrigued me: the French butter keeper.

Apparently this kitchen gadget keeps butter in a small pot immersed in cold water. It can be safely left on the counter because the cold water keeps it fresh, yet still soft enough to be spreadable. Cool! I may be adding this to my wish list.

Extra virgin olive oil is destroyed by both heat and light, and is better used for salad dressings or adding flavor after cooking than for the actual cooking. Appropriate cooking temperatures depend on how much the olive oil has been processed. Oils that are more highly processed can be used at higher temperatures, but that’s just because their nutrients have already been destroyed in the refining process and so there is less for the heat to destroy. Good quality olive oil should not be used at temperatures above 200-250 degrees F. If you are cooking vegetables or pasta sauce or something else that absolutely must have that olive oil flavor, just add some after the cooking is finished – I do it all the time and it tastes great and you still benefit from the healthy fats. Olive oil should definitely be stored in the fridge. It is cool and dark, so it’s an ideal home. Depending on the temperature of your fridge, the olive oil may harden in there. This is fine and will not ruin the oil. Just run it under a little water to bring it back to its liquid form.

Other oils that I keep in the fridge include walnut oil, sesame oil and grapeseed oil. The fridge typically cannot hurt your oils, and it’s better to be safe. The more we can protect our high-quality, expensive oils, the more nutrient benefits we will receive from them. Another tip: buy your oils in smaller quantities (sorry, Costco) because they should be consumed rather quickly. Opinions differ, but I’d try to consume your oil within a few months of opening it. If oils are unopened, they can probably sit for 6 months in the fridge without losing many nutrients.

Now that we know the basics of storing oils, we are ready to introduce new oils into our diets! Tomorrow I will talk about some oil supplements that are used therapeutically for different reasons, and how they can benefit and support health.