Healthy Minimalist

Smoke Point vs Saturation: Choosing the Right Cooking Fat

Nutrition and RecipesAnnie Cannon3 Comments

Confused about what kind of fat to use when cooking? Hopefully this post will clear things up!

Smoke Point

The smoke point of a fat or oil is the heat at which the fat will start to smoke or burn. This oxidizes the fat, creating free radicals and making your food not taste right. Your body will have to use up more antioxidants to fight the free radicals, taking them away form other parts of the body that need them for repair. This can promote aging and cancer.  

We want to use a fat that has a higher smoke point than the heat we are going to use to cook to minimize oxidation.


Saturation refers to the number of hydrogen molecules attached to a fat molecule. It denotes how saturated a fat is with hydrogen bonds. There are different levels of saturation, and each fat has a different amount of each type. In order of high saturation to low saturation, there are: saturated fatty acids (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). For example, olive oil has a fat breakdown of about 77% MUFA, 9% PUFA, and 14% SFA. The less saturated a fat is, the more prone to oxidation it is, therefore, PUFAs are less stable that MUFAs and SFAs, especially when cooking.

So, we generally want to use SFAs for high heat and save the PUFAs for low or no heat cooking, with MUFAs somewhere in the middle.

Here are some examples of fats, in order of high smoke points/high SFA/low PUFA to low smoke point/low SFA/high PUFA:

  • High heat
    • Coconut oil
    • Avocado oil
    • Ghee
    • Butter
  • Medium heat
    • Olive oil
    • Sesame seed oil
    • Hazelnut oil
    • Pistachio oil
  • Low heat
    • Pumpkin seed oil
    • Sunflower oil
  • No heat
    • Fish oil
    • Hempseed oil
    • Flaxseed oil

Remember to keep your oils, nuts, and seeds away from light and heat i.e. in the fridge to keep them from oxidizing! 


In health,

Annie xoxo