What is the best oil to use for cooking?
Updated: Apr 30, 2019
(This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on How to Upgrade your Health: with Kitchen Basics)
With all the fads out in the media regarding coconut oils, olive oils, canola oil, peanut oil etc.. It leaves you confused when deciding which cooking oil to use daily. So let us look into a few key points here which will make it easier for you to choose your oils.
Why do we need oils/fats?
Oils fall under the category of FATS.
We need fats to assimilate & absorb nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E & K. Fats help to regulate our body temperature, boost our immune system, stabilise hormones & create a feeling of satiety- it is the last to leave our digestive tract. For these reasons, it is important to choose good quality fats/oils.
Types of fats
1. SATURATED - butter, lard, coconut oil, cheese, milk
Mono-unsaturated - avocado, olive oil, nuts (excluding walnuts)
Poly-unsaturated - sunflower seeds, oily fish, walnuts, chia/flax seeds Essential Fatty Acid - Omega 3, Omega 6 (the body cannot make it by itself, you need to get from diet. They affect mood, inflammation, cardiac health, stress The ideal ration of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is 1:4
*Although unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) are referred to as the “good” fats, you still have to monitor your intake of them. Excessive fat intake of any kind can result in weight gain.
3. TRANS FATS/HYDROGENATED OILS - processed foods, processed vegetable oils, margarine
Here are 3 key points to note when choosing an oil for cooking:
Is the oil hydrogenated?
What is the smoking point?
What style of cooking are you using the oil for ?
What is hydrogenation?
Hydrogenation (complete or partial) is a process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it (completely or partially). The reason an oil is hydrogenated is mainly to prolong shelf life, save money for the manufacturer, add texture & increase stablility when cooking. Since the chemical bond is altered, hydrogenated oils have an adverse effect on our body. (If you want to know more, here is an example of how canola oil is made.)
Hydrogenated oils have trans fats, and are the worst type of fat you can consume because they increase cholesterol levels and can cause cardiovascular problems. They should be eliminated from your diet.
Examples of hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils/processed seed oils, such as corn, soybean, sunflower, canola, cottonseed, safflower and margarine & shortening. In products you will find it in chips, biscuits, cookies, etc read the labels.
*Note: There are better versions of vegetable/seed oils. The unrefined, cold-pressed or well-sourced.
For fats to help our bodily functions, "Quality" of oil & where it is "Sourced" are very important.
Smoke Point & Cooking Method
This brings me to the next point-- the 'smoke point'. As the name suggests, this is the point at which an oil whilst heated begins to emit toxic smoke and free radicals-- When this happens, discard the oil and the food cooked in it as it is toxic for health. Here is a link for different smoke points of oils.
Coconut oil, & animal derived fats such as lard, tallow, ghee, fat drippings have naturally high smoke points. You can use them for regular cooking, sautéing under high heat & deep frying food (Disclaimer : I am not encouraging to eat Deep-fried foods as they add on calories. Have it as a treat.)
I especially love the flavour of this particular ghee in Indian cooking, sabji or even otherwise - for baking homemade beetroot or sweet potato chips. The flavour and aroma really enhances the dish.
What about other oils such as olive, avocado, sesame, walnut, etc...
Lets see the oils below that are best to consume unheated (salad dressings, etc)
extra virgin olive (can be used for sautéing in low heat)
*Vary the oils for different health benefits, flavour and depending on the type of dish.
Since olive oil is commonly used and the health benefits are well known for heart health, lets discuss a bit more closely about it.
Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats. It is high in monosaturated fatty acids. It has anti-inflammatory properties & antioxidants to fight free radicals. Numerous studies show olive oil as being great for overall health.
However, one needs to be cautious when choosing olive oil. There are so many fake ones out in the market, claiming to be extra virgin olive oil when they are actually mixed with refined oils. (Here is an article if you would like to know more.)
I personally use olive oil from OliveTreeHK. It is from a small family-owned olive farm in Greece. It is quality oil and tastes amazing. I use it for dressings as well as sautéing at times (below the smoking point of 120C). If you use promo code " THEWELLNESSLAB5 " at the checkout, you will get 5% off. I also like some of their other products- olive pate, thyme honey and soap. Check them out here.
In conclusion, which are the best oils to use for cooking?
For regular cooking, use coconut oil, pasteurised butter, ghee, semi-refined sesame oil (great for Chinese cooking), olive oil under low heat. Quality matters most since fats are needed for so many bodily functions, including the brain. It is important where the oil is sourced or whether it is cold-pressed. At all times, avoid trans fats.
Want to know which salt is the healthiest? Click here to upgrade your health the easy way.
(This post contains affiliate links. I only promote products I use and love. If you buy through my link, I will benefit at no extra cost to you.)
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