In the world of oils, it’s not as simple as buying a bottle labeled “olive oil” or “coconut oil” to get the benefits of that healthy fat superfood.
“Olive oil, you start with plump green olives and the oil squirts out,” says Shanahan, “you collect it all…it’s dark green and full of sediment in it and loaded with antioxidants and minerals. That’s good stuff.” That’s part of why extra-virgin olive oil is prized—in its virgin form, it’s packed with the most nutrients that make it a good fat.
Another oil that keeps its healthy quality well? “Avocados are also fruit,” she says. “It’s very easy to get the oils from these things.”
But on the other end of the oil spectrum, “There’s a quality of olive oil that is so bad, called lampante, that we put it in lamps and burn it,” she says. “Good for fuel but not good to consume. The problem comes down to the taste and structure of the olive oil, which in lampante olive oils is so poor, it’s literally deemed not fit for human consumption.
“You can get every last drop out of the original product in such a way that you’re damaging it, and when you refine it, you strip away all the beneficial antioxidants, nutrients, and minerals,” explained Shanahan.
According to Shanahan, the oils to look out for are the ones that are most processed most often—seed oils, in particular, don’t make the cut for the “healthy fat” title. “Nature doesn’t make stupid things,” she says, a good reminder that focusing on a diet of whole foods extends past just produce and snacks to our cooking oils too.
Incorporating healthy whole foods and fats into our diets doesn’t need to be complicated—and it’s one diet rule that doesn’t matter whether you’re plant-based or practicing intermittent fasting: It can be applied anywhere.