I’ve received a few questions about cooking with oils while on a gluten-free diet. I thought I’d take a little time to share some of my research with you.
All oils are derived from naturally gluten-free sources. Olive oil, for example, should have one ingredient: Olives.
However, in our over-processed, packaged-food age, it’s important to read the labels. Look for strange ingredients in things that should be solo ingredient foods. If you see something suspicious, avoid the cooking oil altogether. The good quality oils won’t put in any fillers and will be minimally processed.
With that said, here are some questions to ask before cooking or baking with gluten-free cooking oils.
Please note some links are affiliate links to where you can buy the products I recommend.
Is Cooking Oil Gluten-Free?
When looking at cooking oils, first and foremost you want to make sure they are gluten-free and produced in a clean way with no risk of cross contamination. As I was doing a little research online on this topic, I found a forum on Celiac.com about some vegetable oils getting glutened through cross contamination.
Spectrum brand oils are often found in speciality grocers but it’s not clear if there is cross contamination, so I asked since the company also produces wheat germ. Here is Spectrum’s response:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Spectrum® Products.
We consider gluten to be in the following, barley, bulgur, couscous, durum, graham flour, kamut, malt, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale and any other types of wheat. We do not consider oat products to be gluten free due to the fact that studies are needed to determine the long- term safety of oat consumption. The issue of cross contamination with oat and wheat remains a concern in North America.
Consumer health and safety is our number one concern. We do not have lists of products that are specifically considered to be gluten free. Reading the label is the best way to check for the presence of ingredients which contain gluten. If gluten is a major ingredient, it will be specified in the ingredient list. For consumers concerned about the presence of trace amounts of gluten, we suggest avoiding products that include natural flavors or spices.
Hain Celestial Group products that make a gluten-free claim will carry the triangular Gluten-Free symbol, be labeled gluten-free, or specify Gluten Free certification by GFCO. To learn more about the wide variety of gluten free foods we offer please visit www.glutenfreechoices.com. We hope you find the information, recipes and articles to be a useful resource.
While we do not have an allergen free facility, we do have very strict allergen controls and follow excellent manufacturing practices to minimize any cross contact possibilities.
The Hain Celestial Group’s labeling declares major allergens (peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, and wheat) and we follow the U.S. FDA’s regulations. We recognize the serious nature of the allergen issue and we strive to minimize risk.
Both major and minor ingredients of all products, as well as all processing procedures and equipment, are closely scrutinized and all potential allergen issues as determined by the Hain Celestial Group are declared on our labeling.
We assure you that strict manufacturing processes and procedures are in place and that all of our manufacturing facilities follow rigid allergen control programs that include staff training, segregation of allergen ingredients, production scheduling, and thorough cleaning and sanitation.
Customers should be able to make their own decisions about how they want to proceed with products when having an open discussion with the manufacturer.
Also, BEWARE of some cooking sprays. Pillsbury Baking spray and Pam Baking spray – they contain wheat flour and/or barley flour – crazy, right?!?
Do I Need a High Heat or Low Heat Cooking Oil?
Next, take a look at the smoke point of the oil you want to use. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil breaks down. For example, canola and avocado oil have high smoke points, which means you can use these oils to fry your foods at a high heat. Cold-pressed and raw cooking oils tend to retain their natural flavors, while unrefined oils have lower smoke points than refined oils and are better for drizzling over a salad than for deep frying.
You don’t want your oil smoking because the heat breaks down the fat and then it starts to release free radicals and toxic smoke that, when eaten or inhaled, can be considered a carcinogen. (Source: Business Insider). Olive oil above 300 degrees begins to oxidize and decompose.
Here is the smoke point of a few commons oils that might be in use at your house: (Source: Huffington Post)
- Olive Oil: Smoke point depends on type of olive oil. Extra virgin oil is 320°F, Virgin is 420°F, Extra Light is 468°F
- Canola Oil: 400°F
- Peanut Oil: 450°F
- Grapeseed Oil: 392°F
- Sunflower Oil: 450°F
- Safflower Oil: 450°F
- Coconut Oil: 350°F
- Sesame Oil: 410°F
- Corn Oil: 450°F
- Walnut Oil: 320°F
- Soybean Oil: 450°F
- Avocado Oil: 500°F
Editor Note: I personally use avocado oil and don’t mind the higher price point. I use it to fry, saute and as a substitute for butter in baked goods. Chosen Foods brand is my favorite avocado oil – you can get it on Amazon or at some Costco stores too.
You may decide to use a different oil for frying and high heat activities than you do for baking or drizzling over pasta. For example, you might want to use avocado oil for deep frying, coconut for baking, and extra virgin olive oil for your salads.
How Does Cooking Oil Affect My Health?
While oils come from seeds, vegetables and fruits, they are still considered fats. However, as we know today, not all fats are bad for you.
In fact, omega 3 fatty acids are really good for controlling inflammation in the body and can be very helpful in maintaining one’s health. If you’re on a gluten free diet and suffer from various gut ailments, or even if you have aches and pains or any sort of autoimmune disease or inflammation, I suggest using oils with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Your gut is already inflamed and don’t add to it by using oils that feed the fire. Oils with omega 3 fatty acids include fish oil, which no one really uses to cook, but using a fish oil supplement can really take your health to the next level.
In terms of oils to use for cooking and baking, consider extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and even butter.
Unrefined coconut oil, while not a significant source of omega 3s, is a healthy fat and offers a variety of nutritional benefits making it worthwhile to consider using in your gluten free cooking and baking adventures.
Omega 6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are bad fats and create inflammation in the body. Oils high in omega 6s include vegetable oils like corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and soybean oils.
What Cooking Oils Are Best for the Environment?
Any conscientious gluten free shopper should be well aware of the impact food processing has on our precious planet. While I am not an expert on this specific topic, it is something I care deeply about.
Palm oil production is creating deforestation in rainforests, and most corn and soybean oil is produced with genetically modified organisms. Canola oil is made from all genetically alternated materials and is Roundup resistant.
I cut and pasted this directly from the Eartheasy blog: “According to Dr. Josh Axe, canola oil was first bred in the early 1970′s as a natural oil, but in 1995 Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil. By 2009, 90% of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered and as of 2005, 87% of canola grown in the United States was genetically modified.”
I also enjoy using oils in dark colored glass bottles vs. see through plastic bottles in order to minimize my carbon footprint and the chances of plastic bits leaching into my foods.
Which Cooking Oils Taste Good?
Taste is in the mouth of the beholder. Personally, I don’t like the taste of coconut oil, so I don’t use it (but I wish I liked it – it’s a great choice). Many high smoke point oils have little taste to them, while extra virgin olive oil has a distinct and delicious taste.
When I cook, I usually use either real organic butter or avocado oil.
Butter gives a delicious taste, while avocado oil is completely neutral.
I use olive oil for drizzles, and I’ve enjoyed grapeseed oil or just plain old butter (or even Earth Balance vegan butter substitutes) in baked goods. Sometimes I want Asian infusion in my foods so I’ll use sesame oil. My best advice is to do a little research on some of the oils you prefer to cook and bake with, and then decide what you like best taste-wise, and what works best in your gluten free diet.
Choosing the right oils to cook and bake with while on a gluten free diet can be daunting. With a little knowledge about how each oil affects your body and Mother Earth as well as a little trial and error, you’ll find your favorites in no time – good luck!