Six Things Cooking Geeks Know About Cooking Oils That You Don’t

Cooking Oils 101

Why is it so confusing to pick the right oil for sauteing, baking or frying? Why is there so little consistency from one source to the next?

There’s so much conflicting advice. Some say to use palm oil while others tout coconut or safflower, and many proclaim the ills of butter. And then there’s the countless smoke point tables, and none match!

You are confused. Heating oil in a frying pan seems fraught with problems, and, of course, everything causes cancer.

But, if you rely on experts who really know their stuff – the real cooking geeks, you’ll be able to saute, bake, broil, braise, fry and roast with confidence.

Here are six things cooking geeks know about cooking oils that you don’t.

1. Cooking geeks understand the difference between Refined and Unrefined Oils  

Refining oil raises its smoke point and lengthens shelf life; it creates a bland flavor and color which can be desirable for some dishes.

You may have heard that refined oils are unhealthy. But are they really?

A study that looked at the health benefits of vegetable oils concluded that there was little evidence to suggest that refining adversely affects the health benefits of vegetable oils.[1] The one exception noted by the study was olive oil. The study found that unrefined olive oil had more health benefits than refined olive oil.

So, based on this study, you can feel good about refined oils for high temperature cooking and your health. And you should use unrefined olive oil as a dressing or drizzle while reserving refined olive oil for cooking.

2. Cooking geeks know that smoke point tables are wrong 

Yep, that’s right. All those smoke point tables are wrong.

Ignore the hundreds of smoke point tables in cookbooks and online because every oil is different depending on how it was refined, and the cultivation of the raw materials. For instance, some extra virgin olive oil makers list their smoke points from 200 to over 400 degrees.[2]  

Trying to assign a single smoke point to oils of different origins is akin to expecting a French chardonnay to taste like a California chardonnay. They aren’t even close!

But, some general guidelines will help you.

Oils with high free fatty acids tend to have lower smoke points because the free fatty acids burn easily. Unrefined oils are higher in free fatty acids.

On the other hand, refined oils generally have reduced amounts of free fatty acids and as a result, have higher smoke points.

3. Cooking geeks know the ill-effects of oils above smoke point  

The smoke point is the temperature that causes oil to start smoking which produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals–all things you’re trying to avoid.

If you’ve set off your smoke alarm, you’ve definitely reached the smoke point. Turn up your exhaust fan and open the windows.

By the way, always try to use your exhaust fan since cooking can create some unhealthy fumes, and your place will simply smell better.

4. Cooking geeks know the effects of reusing or long heat times on oils  

The longer oil is heated, the more free fatty acids are formed causing the smoke point to drop which is why you want to limit deep fryer oil use to once or twice. Prolonged heating also breaks apart unsaturated fatty acids and produces acrid and toxic compounds.[2]

Neither is desirable.

Infographic Cooking Oils 101

5. Cooking geeks know which Oils are high in Omega 3 & Monounsaturated Fats (both good)  

Looking for ways to increase your intake of Omega 3? Try Unrefined Flax Oil (for cold use only) or Hemp Oil.

Here’s your list of the oils with good fats – the monounsaturated oils.

  • Safflower
  • Hazelnut
  • Olive
  • Almond
  • Peanut
  • Pecan
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower
  • Macadamia

6. Cooking geeks know the oils best suited for high temperatures and medium temperatures

Here’s the list you’ve been waiting for. The oils to use safely for cooking without the misleading smoke points.

  • High Temperature Oils (searing, browning, roasting, and deep-frying)
    • Almond
    • Avocado (Unrefined/Raw)
    • Sunflower (High Oleic Refined)
    • Olive oil (Refined or “Light”)
    • Hazelnut (Refined)
    • Tea Seed (Not to be confused with Tea Tree)
    • Apricot Kernel (Refined)
    • Safflower (Refined)
  • Medium Temperature Oils (sauteing, baking, oven cooking or stir frying)
    • Macadamia
    • Canola (Organic)
    • Peanut
    • Coconut (Unrefined good for baking) avoid Hydrogenated

So where does extra virgin olive oil fall on the list?

You can lightly saute in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but your best bet is to save the good stuff for dressings, dipping and drizzles.

So, who are these cooking geeks that you can trust?

  • A Chemistry Professor who wrote “What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained” (seems knowledgeable right?)
  • The Author of The Cooking for Engineers website and about 100 of his contributors (engineers analyze the heck out of everything)
  • The Executive Chef from Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute along with several dietitians (he should know what he’s talking about)
  • A Researcher from the Center for Advanced Nutrition Study – Utah State (this guy conducted a large study of vegetable oils)
  • A Registered Dietitian – Eatingrules.com (this guy has an MS and RD and writes about food for a living)

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Match Your Cooking Oil to Your Cooking Temperature

Sources:

1. Health Effects of Commonly Used Vegetable Oils by Michael Lefevre, Center for Advanced Nutrition Utah State University

2. Where There’s Smoke, There’s a Fryer: The Washington Post by Robert L. Wolke Professor Emeritus of Chemistry University of Pittsburgh and author of “What Einstein Told His Cook”

3. Heart Healthy Cooking: Oils 101: Health Hub Cleveland Clinic by James D. Perko, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef for Cleveland Clinic

4. The Cooking Oil Comparison Chart by EatingRules.com and Andy Bellatti, MS, RD,

5. CookingForEngineers.com: Smoke points of various fats and general discussion

What’s Wrong With Your Morning Shower

What's Wrong With Your Morning Shower

Your shower produces significant amounts of airborne contaminants. You probably had no idea that this was happening in your relaxing refuge.

How can this be? It’s because your water contains treatment chemicals that when heated and sprayed create airborne contaminants.

So, it’s simply chemistry and much like high school chemistry, it’s not on your side.

But you can reduce your risks and enjoy your shower by making a few smart choices.

Why Should You Care?

Studies have shown that when you inhale these airborne chemicals, it can be more dangerous than drinking the chemicals in unfiltered tap water.

You also might want to know that these contaminants can increase your cancer risk, cause birth-defects and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?

It’s Safer For You To Bathe Than Shower

The data from one study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (Andelman 1986) indicates that your hot shower can release between 50-80% of the water treatment chemicals into the air.

If you like to bathe rather than shower, it’s better news. Emissions from hot baths are 50% lower because water droplets dispersed by a bath faucet have a smaller surface-to volume ratio than water streaming into a shower so fewer of the volatiles can vaporize.

It’s Not Just Your Shower That Is To Blame

Another more recent study by environmental engineers from University of Texas at Austin documented that your shower and dishwasher contribute to indoor air pollution. The experiments showed that significant pollutants were released into indoor air from dishwashers too.

So, what can you do to reduce your exposure?

  • Use shower filters to remove chlorine
  • Shorten your shower time
  • Reduce the temperature of your shower since colder water reduces the vaporization of the chemicals
  • Opt for baths rather than showers
  • Use a bath ball filter to remove chlorine from your bath water
  • Use the bathroom exhaust fan to remove the gases from your bathroom
  • Use an air cleaner that removes VOCs to absorb the gases that accumulated during your shower

Let’s be honest.

You are probably not anxious to turn down the heat or shorten your shower and who can blame you? If this is the case, you could opt for a shower filter, more baths, using the exhaust fan or going for an air cleaner.

Check out how great the Sprite Shower Filter looks in the shower with the matching brushed nickel finish.

The filters are easy to install. No need for a plumber or special tools. You’ll only need a wrench.

Sprite Shower Filter added to existing brushed nickel shower head. Looks great and is a top rated choice for removing harmful chemicals.

Learn more about the Sprite Shower Filter.

Which options are most appealing to you? Were you aware that your shower produced airborne contaminants?

Six Ways to Clean Your Laundry, Naturally

Six Ways to Clean Your Laundry, Naturally

Did you know that simply by doing laundry, you are polluting your indoor air? Because your laundry products have harmful ingredients, and your laundry room may be poorly ventilated, that clean laundry smell comes at a price.

What’s Lurking In Your Laundry Detergents & Softeners?
So, what’s in your laundry detergents and softeners?

According to a University of Washington study on air contaminants from consumer goods, between 18 and 20 chemicals were detected in four laundry products – including likely carcinogens, developmental toxins, and allergens.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it? Doing laundry pollutes your air.

Relax though because you can clean your laundry without dirtying your air.

Here are six steps to cleaner laundry and indoor air:

1. Try vinegar instead of fabric softener

Instead of liquid fabric softener add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your laundry final rinse. Many washers have a special rinse cycle setting that you can use.

2. Ditch your dryer sheets

Ditch the dryer sheets that release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in favor of less toxic alternatives. Dryer sheet chemicals adhere to your laundry AND are released into the air.

See what you think of these alternatives:

  • Wool dryer balls – You can either make your own or buy them. These 100% wool dryer balls naturally soften your laundry in the dryer. If you like scented laundry, use a drop or two of your favorite essential oil like lavender on the dryer balls. The only downside to using the balls is the noise which, not surprisingly, sounds like you put several tennis balls into your dryer.
    • Feeling crafty? Check out this YouTube video on how to make your own dryer balls. It’s not a bad project. Don’t buy the washable wool because it won’t work right. YouTube has lots of videos on how to make dryer balls, but the three-minute version should tell you what you need to know.
    • To buy wool dryer balls, go to Amazon.com where you can get a set of six for around $20. They are reusable and last a while.
  • Use a fabric swatch and add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil. While this will not soften your clothes, it will add a pleasant scent, and will be quieter than the dryer balls.

3. Opt for a “clean” laundry detergent

Try a laundry detergent that is healthier for you and the environment. These are highly rated and tested:

  • Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear Regular & HE
  • Biokleen – Laundry Liquid – Free & Clear or Citrus Essence
  • Ecover – Zero Laundry Liquid Concentrate

4. Make your own laundry detergent

You can always make your own laundry detergent. Here’s a recipe for an easy and clean detergent.

  • 1 bar (4 oz) Castile Soap finely grated
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • Mix and use 1/4 cup per load
  • A note about Borax: some people have concerns about Borax causing skin irritation, but it IS safe to use. It’s true that if you do hand wash with Borax, it may irritate your skin. This effect is due to Borax changing the water’s pH, so as long as you are not doing hand laundry, Borax can be used without harming your skin or releasing harmful VOCs. With it, your laundry will be bright and clean.

5. Ventilate your laundry room

Do your best to improve ventilation in your laundry room. Hot water causes the water disinfectant pollutants to vaporize creating significant VOCs.

How does this happen?

Your city water contains disinfectants to keep your water safe, and when these disinfectants are heated and sprayed into droplets, they can easily vaporize. This happens in the shower, bath, dishwasher and laundry primarily. Whole house water filtration systems do not remove these disinfectants, so your best bet is to use cooler water and/or ventilate your laundry room well.

Another way to tackle this problem is to use an air cleaner that is specially designed to clean up VOCs including the ones created by vaporized disinfectants.

6. Leave the door open

Always prop open the washing machine lid to allow the inside to dry out to prevent mildew growth.

So how do you clean your laundry without dirtying your air?

Get the shopping list of laundry and cleaning products that you can trust. You’ll find kitchen, bathroom, all purpose, glass and laundry cleaners and detergents in a handy shopping list format.

Suggested reading:

The Truth About What’s In Your Cleaning Products

Kitchen Cleaners: Safe, Non-Toxic Ways to Clean the Kitchen

Why Dusting Makes a Difference to Your Health – It’s Not What You’d Expect

Why Dusting Matters to Your Health

When you saw this title, you probably immediately thought about allergies caused by dust mites.

But, dusting matters for other reasons.

After reading this, you may want to move dusting closer to the top of your housekeeping list.

Chemical Flame Retardants Settle Into Household Dust
It may be time to pay more attention to dusting especially if you live with young children.

Here’s why.

Chemical flame retardants escape from all sorts of home products and settle into household dust.

The products with flame retardants include electronic devices (computers, TVs) and anything made with polyurethane foam (sofa cushions, mattresses, pillows, car seats), among many others.

Sadly, many of your home products contain flame retardants.

Inhalation And Ingestion Risks
The flame retardant dust can be inhaled by you or even ingested by your small children who put everything into their mouths.

Neither is good.

The EPA Is Concerned

The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.”

Kinda scary, right?

Time to Focus on Dust, If You Can

Just think, all this time your cleaning has probably been focused on eradicating germs when you probably should have devoted just a bit more time to cleaning up toxic dust!

Learn how to reduce the levels of dust without dusting.

Yes, it’s true, there is a way!

And try to dust more often… if you can.

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How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Without Harmful Chemicals

How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Without Harmful Chemicals

Imagine, being outside enjoying your yard and garden without being surrounded by buzzing mosquitoes.

What if you could sit peacefully? No swatting away insects and free of sticky repellents.

Sounds good, right? But how?

You can use all natural ways of repelling mosquitoes.

So, rather than dousing yourself with DEET, and spraying harmful chemicals on your lawn, try these safer, all natural alternatives.

You can thank Howard Garrett for this advice. He literally wrote the book on natural organic gardening called The Organic Manual.

Here’s how you take back your yard.

Address Standing Water

Eliminate standing, stagnate water.

You’ve heard this bit of advice before, but there could be areas you’ve missed.

Look for standing water in your gutters, gardens, bird baths, and planters. Empty if possible. Discard things like planter trays because they collect water.

Be sure to check your gutters because if they aren’t clean, you can also find mosquito breeding grounds there too.

For standing water that you cannot eliminate, use Bti product such as Bactimos Briquettes or Mosquito Dunks. You can find these products at your natural gardening store.

What is Bti?

Bti is a bacteria that specifically targets mosquitoes and black flies in their larval stage, but causes no collateral damage. Bti is eaten by the mosquito larva and becomes highly toxic to the larva killing them within minutes after ingestion.

What you’ll love about Bti is that it kills the larvae AND repels the adults from laying eggs. The EPA has categorized the risk to non-target organisms as minimal to non-existent.

What to do If Bti is not available? Try sprinkling instant coffee crystals in the standing water.

Scatter Dry Granulated Garlic

Scatter dry granulated garlic in problem areas. Some of the worst areas are around trash cans and in the tall grass borders that always seems to be moist. Broadcast at 2 lbs per 1000 sq. ft. in beds, turf, pots and plants.

Using dry granulated garlic can repel mosquitoes for up to four weeks.

Simply buy the dry granulated garlic from the grocery store (in the extra-large size) and start shaking.

Spray With Garlic Spray

Spray adult mosquitoes with garlic spray or garlic-pepper tea. Using garlic sprays can repel mosquitoes up to 14 days. See recipe below for how to make garlic-pepper tea. You can buy garlic spray at your gardening store.

After spraying, your place will have a strong garlic odor, but it quickly fades and is well worth it to be able to enjoy some yard time.

Use Natural Herbs as Repellents

Use mosquito repellents that contain natural herbs such as aloe vera, citronella, vanilla, eucalyptus, tea tree oil and citrus oil. These really do work well and are available at your natural grocery store.

HOMS BiteBlocker from arbico-organics.com works well.

You can also mix your own. Try Vanilla dabbed on the skin or clothing. Or, Vanilla Mix which is 8 oz. water, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 tsp. orange oil. Spray on skin and clothing liberally.

Garlic Pepper Tea Recipe:

To make garlic/pepper tea, liquefy 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 hot peppers in a blender 1/2 to 2/3 full of water. Strain the solids and add enough water to the garlic/pepper juice to make 1 gallon of concentrate. Use 1/4 cup of concentrate per gallon of spray.

To make garlic tea, simply omit the pepper and add another bulb of garlic. Add two tablespoons of molasses for more control.

Be very careful with the pepper solids and concentrate because it might irritate your eyes and skin.

So, put down the DEET and grab some garlic and Bti and take back your yard!

Got fleas or ants? Check out our other articles on natural pest control:

The Best Way to Get Rid of Fleas Naturally

Six Killer Ways to Kill Ants Exterminators Won’t Tell You