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Chef Celine Beitchman at Natural Gourmet Institute shares her favorite healthy cooking oils. Plus, tips to select, taste, and store the right oil for your next dish. Inspired? We’re giving away $15,000 tuition scholarship for one lucky YJ reader to become a pro chef.
Get more recipes and cooking tips here
With so many culinary-oil options— and so much competing info about which ones are healthy or not—we needed a reliable primer. Celine Beitchman, a chef instructor and nutrition counselor at New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute, shared her top three oils, plus tips for selecting, tasting, and storing the right one for your next dish.
Often used in Ayurvedic and macrobiotic diets, sesame oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure and is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant crucial for healthy skin and hair, and nail growth. Vitamin E has lately been studied for its role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, too. The oil can range in color from light to amber to dark; in general, the darker the oil, the stronger its flavor.
Sautéing when it’s refined (i.e., processed to withstand high heat); drizzling over cold dishes when it’s unrefined
Sauté with baby bok choy, garlic, and ginger for a side dish
Virgin coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial that’s used to reduce skin swelling and redness, and it can support a healthy immune system. Add it to dishes you want to taste like coconut, such as sweets.
Baking, frying, or pan-searing
Whisk 1 tbsp of coconut oil into pudding, custard, or icing
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The go-to at the Natural Gourmet Institute, it’s high in “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are linked to a lowered risk for heart disease. Bottles labeled “estate-harvested” indicate a conscientious producer made it with oversight and care.
Low-to no-temp recipes since its flavors can quickly break down in heat
Mash steamed cauliflower and mix with olive oil as a healthier alternative to buttery mashed potatoes
See also Choosing the Right Oil
Savvy Shopping: Buying Healthy Oils
Beitchman’s students regularly ask her how to pick and maintain their oils—and how to know when they’re past their prime. Here, her tips:
Look for the USDA Organic label, which certifies it’s free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. And pick up only dark bottles, which keep out the light and heat that speed spoiling.
Sample your oil right after you buy it. If you’re not familiar with how your oil tastes when it’s good, you won’t know how to tell when it’s gone bad.
If you buy in bulk or have a pricey bottle you don’t want to risk spoiling too soon, decant a small portion for your counter, and refrigerate the rest to preserve it.
See also 4 Methods to Preserve Your Food
31 Tasty (And Healthy!) Recipes from the Natural Gourmet Institute
Inspired? Become a pro chef! Yoga Journal and the Natural Gourmet Institute are awarding a $15,000 scholarship to the school’s health-focused culinary program. Apply starting January right here. We are announcing the winner at Yoga Journal Live! in New York City, April 23-27, 2015. Register for yoga classes and seminars from our award winning #YJLIVE presenters, don’t miss out on early bird sign ups.
Plus, if you’re a fellow food lover, we’ve got your back. Every day for the month of January we’re giving you a healthy recipe from Natural Gourmet Institute to cook for yourself. Follow us on Facebook and at #recipeaday for more.