This is a two part series where I will be highlighting the vital role cooking oil plays in our overall health. Though the issues discussed are my point of view, it’s always wise to take expert advice if you have any medical condition.
As it is, cooking oil is giving us heartburns with skyrocketing prices. Still it remains the most crucial part of the kitchen shelf. The cooking oil we use also defines our health and wellbeing. Any compromise on this can lead to some major diseases such as high blood pressure, hypertension, gut diseases, cancer, heart attack or cardiac arrest.
Besides cooking oil determines the taste of our meals as well as the quality of food we eat every day. Thus it is advised to use the best oil for the self and family.
There are so many varieties of cooking oils available in the market — Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Groundnut Oil, Sesame Oil, Mustard Oil and the list goes on — that it is very difficult to judge which is the best.
My take is change the cooking oil every month and recognise the best oils which are good for the body and give nourishment vis a vis the essential fats.
Do keep a tab on the portioning of oil as excessive intake may lead to health hazards including weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and internal inflammation.
You are the best judge, but still keep the following points in mind before deciding on the oil:
There is hardly any all-purpose oil; different oils are used for different purposes. Some oils are better for sautéing, some are used in salad dressings, sauces, high-temperature cooking, and baking.
Different oils differ in taste and health benefits too. Thus consider the cooking method, taste, and nutrition. If you want optimal taste and nutrition from the oil, make sure that it does not go beyond its smoking point. Oil with high smoking points are used for frying, roasting, sautéing and baking.
Oils with lower smoke points are best for salad dressings, finishing oils, sauces, and dips. Some oils have more noticeable taste than others, thus keep in mind the taste and nutrition both under consideration before purchasing. For example, coconut and mustard oil have distinct tastes.
Know the smoke point: In culinary terms, the smoke point is also known as the burning point of oil or fat. At this temperature and under specific and defined conditions, the oil begins to produce a continuous bluish smoke that becomes clearly visible.
Rice bran oil: This oil is known for its monounsaturated fatty acids. The ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids to monounsaturated fatty acids is nearly ideal. Rice bran oil contains oryzanol, which is believed to have cholesterol-lowering properties.
Olive oil: Olive is known to be one of the healthiest cooking oil. The oil is rich in plant-based compounds called polyphones which reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Extra virgin olive oil is designed for a good salad dressing or on top of dips, soups or bread. You are the judge here.
Vegetable oil: This is amongst the most affordable cooking oils. It is typically made from a blend of different oils like safflower, sunflower, peanut, canola, corn and soya bean oil. Vegetable oil is suitable for all sorts of cooking. If you choose vegetable oil for cooking do practice portion control. Many variants of vegetables are likely to be hydrogenated, which can be harmful for your heart.
Sesame oil: This oil is a good option for deep frying. It has equal amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. High end Pan-Asian restaurants use this as finishing oil; that is the reason the food has sheen while being served.
Mustard Oil: The most popular oil in India also has been the subject of a long debate on its quality. Although the conclusion varies from person to person, it is as good an oil as it comes with many health benefits if not blended with white or vegetable oil.
Coconut oil: This oil is a controversial one. It solidifies at room temperature as coconut oil is saturated fat. However, it is not the same as the saturated fat found in red meat that clogs your arteries. Coconut oil has a high amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat.
Sunflower oil: Experts are of the opinion this oil is not that good for heart patients and it’s refined, no matter which grade one chooses.
Read the label: When it mentions “partially hydrogenated”, remember that most partially hydrogenated oils are made from vegetable oils like soya bean or cottonseed. The partially hydrogenated oils are “trans fats” that are a risk for heart disease.