Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

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The main focus of the ketogenic diet is to get the macronutrient ratio right. Ideally, you should be eating 5-10% calories from carbs (net carbs), 15-30% of calories from protein and 65-75% calories from fat (or even more) in order to benefit from ketone bodies produced by your liver.

So, what is the ideal fat intake on the ketogenic diet? The amount of fat varies for all individuals and depends on your goal. In general, you won't need to precisely count fat intake or calories on a ketogenic diet, because eating food naturally low in carbs will keep you sated for longer.

Based on studies, proteins and fats have been shown to be the most sating nutrients, while carbohydrates the least sating. Fat provides a steady supply of energy with no insulin spikes. That's why, you won't experience any cravings or energy and mood swings.

However, in some cases counting calories and keeping track of your macros make help you break through a weight loss plateau. If you want to find out your ideal fat intake, have a look at KetoDiet Buddy, a free online keto calculator we have developed for our blog. All the recipes on my blog and in KetoDiet and KetoDiet Basic include detailed nutrition data to help you track you food intake.

Furthermore, the macronutrient ratio is not the only aspect you should consider. When increasing your fat intake, it's critical to understand which fats are beneficial and which may damage your health. Simply put, the type and quality of fats matter. When deciding which oils and fats you should use, follow these rules:

You can download a print-friendly version of this guide here!

1. Use Saturated Fats for Cooking

Saturated fats have been cursed and deemed to be really bad for our health. We've been brainwashed for the last 50 years that saturated fat and cholesterol are the major causes for coronary heart disease and obesity. The entire lipid hypothesis was based on bad science - the flawed and fraudulent research of Ancel Keys.

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

If you still believe that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad, check out my post here: The Obesity Epidemic, the Truth about Cholesterol and Saturated Fat.

Saturated fats are found in red meat, cream, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, eggs, coconut oil or palm oil (use organic from sustainable agriculture).

They are the most stable, have long shelf life and high smoke points. Use these oils for most of your cooking. In fact, most of your fat intake should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats.

2. Add MCTs to Your Diet

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are saturated fats our body can digest very easily. MCTs, which are mostly found in coconut oil, behave differently when ingested and are passed directly to the liver to be used as an immediate form of energy. They are also present in butter and palm oil in smaller quantities.

MCTs are used by athletes to improve and enhance performance and are great for fat loss. If you can tolerate pure MCT oil with no stomach discomfort, you can get it in a supplement form. You can get MCT oil on Amazon.

3. Include Heart-healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA, omega 9, oleic acid) are found in avocados, olives, beef and nuts (especially macadamias) and have been known to prevent heart disease. Studies show that consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids is associated with better serum lipid profiles.

Oils high in MUFA such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and macadamia nut oil are best for cold use (MUFA are less stable than SFA), for finishing meals or after cooking.

4. Use Unsaturated Fats But Don't Heat Them

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both essential and our body needs them. However, our diet is often loaded with PUFA and we eat too many of them.

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

They are called "poly", because they contain many double bonds which tend to react with oxygen when heated and form harmful compounds such as free radicals. This oxidative damage is a process that creates free radicals in the body and increases inflammation in our body and the risk heart disease and cancer. Chris Kresser suggests that total intake of PUFA should be no more than 4% of daily calories.

In general, polyunsaturated fats are unstable and not suitable for high-heat cooking. Organic, extra virgin olive oil, nut oils, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil are best for cold use. While flaxseed oil should never be heated and should always be refrigerated, some oils (avocado, macadamia, olive) can be used for finishing your meals or light cooking.

5. Balance Your Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids. However, studies show that Western diets are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is very unfavourable (15:1 – 17:1). Ideally, this ratio should be balanced at 1:1. The closer you get to this ratio, the better it will be for your health. Studies show that while elevated intake of omega 6 and deficient intake of omega 3 fatty acids are associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders and other inflammatory diseases, reduced intake of omega 6 may protect against these diseases.

Because it's likely you are already getting enough omega-6, focus on increasing your intake of omega-3 foods, such as wild salmon, fermented cod liver oil, grass-fed meat, walnuts and macadamia nuts.

6. Use Animal Sources for Most of Your Omega 3 Intake

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

Omega 3 fatty acids are either short-chain (alpha-linolenic acid, ALA) mostly found in seeds and nuts or long-chain (eicosapentanaenoic acid , EPA and docosahexaenoic acid, DHA) found in fish and seafood. While EPA and DHA favourably affect omega 6 to 3 ratio, ALA first needs to be converted to EPA or DHA. Unfortunately, our body is extremely inefficient in converting ALA to EPA and DHA (study 1, study 2). That's why it's so important to get omega 3 fatty acids primarily from animal sources.

When using animal sources, always opt for grass-fed meat for maximum omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, grain-fed meat is low in omega 3 but loaded with omega 6 fatty acids.

7. Focus on Smoke Point, Oxidation Rate and Shelf Life

The higher the smoke point is, the better. In general, oils with high smoke points can be cooked at higher temperatures. Heating oil above its smoke point damages the oil and loads it with free radicals.

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

The slower the oxidation rate is, the better. Heating oil up to its smoke point will increase its oxidation rate. However, oils and fats can oxidize even on the shelf when exposed to oxygen, light, moisture and even temperatures below their smoke point. Also, metals like iron and copper can act as pro-oxidants.

All oils can go rancid on a shelf which often loads them with free radicals. In general, oils high in saturated fat last longer (12-24 months) than oils high in monounsaturated (6-12 months) or polyunsaturated fats (2-6 months).

8. Avoid All Unhealthy Oils

Processed vegetable oils, margarine, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils and other trans fats, interesterified fats - sunflower, safflower, cotonseed, canola, soybean, grapeseed and corn oil are all damaging to your health. Trans fatty acids and processed oils:

  • are oxidized during high-heat processing which creates free radicals
  • they are often made from genetically modified seeds
  • are pro-inflammatory and bad for your gut health
  • consumption of trans fats increases risk of coronary heart disease
  • consumption of trans fats negatively affects cholesterol levels - reduces concentrations of HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) and increases concentrations of low-density LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
  • associated with increased risk of cancer

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

Trans fats do exist in nature but also occur during the processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food production. Naturally occurring trans fats have been found to be beneficial compared to artificial trans fats. Natural trans fats are found in dairy products and meat from grass-fed animals.

Artificial trans fats are referred to as "metabolic poison". Eliminate these from your diet by avoiding foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These types of trans fats are typically found in margarines, cookies, crackers or even French fries.

Fats in a Nutshell

I recommend these healthy oils & fats. Here in an overview of fats you can use as part of your healthy diet.

You can download a print-friendly version of this quick overview here!

Note: Most of the data below is based on the USDA food database and several other scientific sources. A few of them had to be estimated to account for variations and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic DietPin itFollow us 81.8k

Complete Guide to Fats & Oils on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet

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Martina Slajerova
Creator of KetoDietApp.com

Martina Slajerova

I changed the way I ate in 2011, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. I had no energy, and I found it more and more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s when I decided to quit sugar, grains, and processed foods, and to start following a whole-foods-based ketogenic approach to food.

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Comments (180)

My doctor put me on the keto diet for insulin resistance. I've been on it for 8 weeks and have been in Ketosis for 7 weeks. I have not lost one single pound. What am I doing wrong?

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Hi Kriie, here are posts that may help: How To Low Carb: 15+ Common Weight Loss Mistakes
Can the Ketogenic Diet Help Reverse Insulin Resistance?

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My ketone levels never reach higher than 0.8 - is this ok? My Dr put me on the keto diet for epilepsy with a total of 15g carbs per day. Can I take extra spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil everyday to help levels up? Is coconut oil better to put levels up? The only forms of coconut oil I've found are hardened in glass jars. Can I just simply eat a tablespoon of this instead to help put levels up?

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Hi Karen, it depends how this has been working for you. High ketone levels may not always be needed and you'll need to look at the improvements in seizure control. When it comes to epilepsy, the classic approach is is very strict (more restricted in carbs and also protein). Having said that, there are 4 different types of approaches and not all of them are so restricted. This post may help: Types of Ketogenic Diet for Epilepsy (you might want to suggest some of the slightly different approaches - eg Medium Chain Triglyceride Ketogenic Diet - to your doctor and see what he thinks.

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My husband and I love the keto life style. We are always learning more about it. We been doing keto for two months now.

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Hello, I am trying to get info on whether Camelina Oil is Keto friendly? It has a high smoke point and a balanced Omega 3,6,9 profile. It’s a rather new oil but I love it and hope I dont have to give it up.
Can you shed any light on this oil? Keto Friendly, hot and cold usage?
Thanks, Jackie

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Hey Martina,
This is a fantastic piece about oils and fats. I started out writing an article about essential fatty acids, expecting it to be a quick-win. Several weeks later I was still neck-deep in research and finding new stuff all the way which I never knew about!
For those wanting to know a little more about the ratios of omega-3 and omega-6, and some of the other health benefits, it would be great to reference some sources.
You have a link about the body being inefficient in converting ALA to EPA and DHA, however, the page on the Oxford University Press website does not work - so maybe you can change that over?
Anyway, here is a link to the piece I prepared, in case you find it useful:
https://www.fitness-savvy.co.uk/essential-fatty-acids-supplements
It also has references to the body's inability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, if you want to use one of them as a source:
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12323085
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9637947
Thanks again for such an awesome piece about fats. I have bookmarked to reference later!
Robin

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Robin , thank you for your insights and for such writing such a well-researched article! Yes, it looks like they changed the link - thanks for spotting that, I'll fix it!

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Thank you for helping people like me get started the Keto way to health! I am just starting out and am struggling. I have 5 children under 7 and have had thyroid issues within the last couple years that I have been battling. No medication right now thankfully but no energy either and weight issues.

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Thank you for your kind words, Taylor! These posts may help: Are Keto and Low Carb Diets Suitable for People with Thyroid Disease?
How To Low Carb: 15+ Common Weight Loss Mistakes

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My husband and I just started Keto - for weight loss we are a week in and doing well - I use mayo in my dressings - full fat   We did however just look at the ingredients first is canola oil. I’m unsure what to do - as all other mayos olive oil versions ha e a blend of canola and olive oil. Avocado mayo has honey in it. Just wondering what you believe is to best

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Canola oil is not as bad as other vegetable oils but it's far from healthy. I would avoid it. You can always make your own: Healthy Homemade Mayo, Three Ways

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is organic expeller pressed soybean oil is allowed?

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I'm afraid soybean oil is not a healthy option - it should be avoided.

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Hello Martina, I really hope you update your information about canola oil. Most newer information points that canola oil can be derived through a method comparable with keto. For example, expelled processed. We are seeing a lot of fear monger if about canola on keto boards due to old and outdated information on its processing. But responsibly produced canola oil in dressings is not the devil most people think it is. Thank you.

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Canola oil may not be as bad as other vegetable oils, but it's far from healthy. Most products are heavily processed but even if you can get unprocessed cold-pressed canola oil, it's high in inflammatory omega 6s, trans fats and not suitable for cooking. There are much healthier options for cold use.

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what i dont get is basically: can i just stick to butter?

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Pablo, butter should not be the only fat source you use. As explained in this article, it is not suitable for high-heat cooking and will not provide all the fatty acids you need.

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Now I’m confused... in the article you said butter IS good for cooking, but here you’re saying butter isn’t good for cooking. Did I read something wrong? Just trying to figure out what to cook with since I just found out olive and avocado oil are not good to heat.
Thanks,
Audrey

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The key is in the "high" - butter burns at high temperatures because it contains milk solids. I hope this helps!

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Thank you so much for such a great list and I like the fat breakdown.  Good to find it all in one site.

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Hi Martina,
Thanks for the resourceful write-up.
I am about to embark on a keto diet. I have MCT oil on the diet and I seem not to find one around where I live. I do use cod liver oil and I am wondering if it will be a good replacement for MCT oil. What's your opinion on that? If yes, in what quantities should I take the cod liver oil?
Thanks

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Hi Jules, butter, ghee and coconut oil all contain MCTs. I wouldn't use cod liver oil as a replacement for MCT oil in recipes. Having said that, cod liver oil is a healthy source of omega 3s and vitamin D (I use fermented cod liver oil as a supplement).

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I started a Keto diet last week and haven’t had any Keto ‘flu’ or negative side effects. Using a macro calculator I am meant to be having 13grams carb, which is hard because I am struggling to get 5 portions of veg in a day and so I have become constipated. Any ideas?
Also if I stick to the carb recommendation my daily calorie count is significantly under what it should be at 1300. I might find this gets better as I continue but my main problem is that there are so many different websites that give nutrition values for food. They all vary so much and I don’t know which ones to go with. Do you know of one that you rate for accuracy?
Many thanks.

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Hi Annie, that sounds very low. Unless you follow the keto diet to manage any health condition, you don't have to follow such a restricted approach. I've seen macronutrient calculators that would calculate your carb intake - you should ignore these recommendations. In fact you should set this level based on your individual needs. Some resources would also give you very low protein and calorie recommendations that are wrong. Here are posts and tools that may help:
KetoDiet Buddy - Easy Macro Calculator for the Ketogenic Diet
The Ketone Craze - Who Really Benefits From High Ketone Levels?
When it comes to nutrition facts, on our website and in our app we use verified databases to calculate nutrition facts so they are accurate. I hope this helps!

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Hi I have bern researching about the keto diet, i was just wondering is the imperial brand of butter acceptable to use. The one in the brownish gold and blue box

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The one I found was a margarine or part margarine so unless there's pure butter, this product should be avoided.

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Hello there
I was wondering what I should do if I have hashi diabetes type 2 gallbladder disease liver disease fatty liver). I can have olive oil avocado oil  but no other fats. I am off grains sugars legumes rice potatoes nightshade. My eating is terribly boring all I wanna do now is drink water all day. I've lost hope in being able to eat. Raw foods don't digest well. I'm on enzymes cats claw mineral chi protein omega 3/6 probiotics iodine thanks for any advise. Dr told me keto diet but I am having doubts now.
Thanks Star

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Hello, I can't give personalised advice but I can suggest a few posts that may help (you don't have to be limited to only olive oil and avocado oil):
Keto and Low-Carb Diets for Fatty Liver Disease
Are Keto and Low Carb Diets Suitable for People with Thyroid Disease?
Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Conquered Eating a Ketogenic Diet?

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You say that the high the smoked point the better for cooking because does not burn that quick. How come Ghee that does have a 485 smoked points is better for cooking than Avocado that have a 520 points is not better for cooking that Ghee.
Regards.
PD Sorry for my English.

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I had the same question as German Alvarez...since avocado oil has such a high smoke point...thanks for clarification.

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Smoke point is only one of the factors to consider. If you look at the fat profile, ghee is high in saturated fats which are more stable and suitable for cooking. I hope this helps!

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I have a friend who simply can’t stand meat. He’s not a vegan though. Is it possible if his only major fat source comes from, say, coconut oil?
Thanks!

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I think it's ok to have coconut oil as the major source of saturated fats but not all fats. It is important to include a variety of fats. Avocado and olive oil are good sources of monounsaturated fats and flax is a good source of omega 3 fats, although not as good as fatty fish. Here's more about vegetarian keto: Vegetarian Diet and Keto - Can These Two Work Together?

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I have been going to the gym and doing weight lifting 3 times a week as well as walking 2 1/2 - 4 miles per day 5 days a week. In 7 weeks I have lost only 5 pounds. I am a 62 year old female. I need to lose 35 pounds. I am type 2 diabetic, high cholesterol, obese by 15 pounds, and I have some nerve damage in my right leg which makes running out of the question. I take 6000 IU of Fish Oil daily as prescribed by my doctor. Can I have fish and if so, what kind? Also some of the pictures I have seen for the Keto Diet shows crackers and cheese. What kind of crackers can we have on this diet?  

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Hi Deno, check out some of these - there are several recipes, just click through the pages: ketodietapp.com/Blog/Filter
I like fermented cod liver oil but there are several options (Omega 3 oil supplements) - check our Amazon and go through the reviews.

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Hi can I use avocado oil or olive oil to cook eggs, chicken , or fish

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Yes, you can use either for quick cooking or finishing meals.

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Hi Martina,
I've been on the ketogenic diet for about a week now and I'm worrried about the huge caloric deficit that I end up having most days. I am 23 years old 6'2 255-260 pounds and about 10-11% body fat. My goal for calories is to get more than 3100, but i often end up eating less than 2400 most days. I eat 4 eggs ( sometimes boiled, sometimes fried), 1 sardine, 18 ounces of chicken thighs or beef chuck, and about 4 cups of spinish. I also salt my food a lot to get the sodium. I use about two table spoons of cocunut oil for dressing and cooking the meats but I think I'll start using palm oil to cook (we're west Africans and my mom has a lot of it). I'm going to add chicken stock to my diet  I want to build muscle and lose fat. My two main concerns is the amount of meat I'm eating and the much less amount of calories I'm eating. Do you have any suggestions and am I on the right track? The ratio of my macros is generally around 48-60% fat 38-45% protein, 3-8% carbs

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Hi Abu, the best way to find out your ideal macros depending on your goals is to use this tool: KetoDiet Buddy - Easy Macro Calculator for the Ketogenic Diet
I hope this helps!

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Why is sunflower oil a bad oil? Isn't it very high in monounsaturated with no trans fat?

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Not all sunflower oil is bad but most products are highly processed. Depending on the type, it can be high in omega 6s, although not as much as some other nut/seed oils. You can use organic, high oleic, cold pressed sunflower oil (only cold use/ in salads).

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OK...I'm VERY new to this Keto diet stuff. For the longest time, I have always been able to eat what I want, when I want it and in whatever amount I wanted. Well, those days are over. I have managed to pack on 35 pounds in a single year at my last physical. Triglycerides through the roof.......UGH. Trust me, I have lived (and ate) quite well. Was in the Army for 24 years, so I enjoyed traveling all over Europe and Asia. My question is: Can I use sesame oil as part of my fat/caloric intake? I love the taste of it and can literally eat a tablespoonful at a time. I use it in ramen (which I cannot eat the packaged stuff anymore.....48 gm carb) but am working on that and salad dressings. Please advise.

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Yes, as long as you add it at the end of the cooking process or after it, you can use sesame oil to add flavour to your meals. Ramen (I make low-carb with shirataki noodles or kelp noodles), dressings - all these sound great and I use sesame oil just like that!

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What are your thoughts on cooking with bacon fat?

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I'm personally not a fan but I think it's ok in small amounts. I mostly use ghee for cooking - sometimes duck fat, goose fat, lard, tallow or coconut oil. The problem with bacon fat is that depending on the cooking temperature, it may get burnt or contain burnt pieces (and people often fry their bacon on high). If you bake bacon in the oven at low temperature, then this is generally not an issue.

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I noticed the avocado oil is in the cold use/light cooking table but yet has the highest smoke point of all the oils listed. Is there a reason it is not in the high heat table? Thank you

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The reason it's better used for light cooking or cold use is that most of the fats are MUFA which are not as stable as SFA. Smoke point is just one of the things to look at.

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We fry all our fish and shrimp in peanut oil, as do most seafood restaurants. This chart advises against that. Why?

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You could use it in small amounts but it's better avoided - see reasons in the table above.

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