When it comes to cooking you can heat foods in a gentle and healthy way with stable fats OR your can destroy the health properties of foods in a dangerous way with unstable fats. So what’s the best oil to cook with???
In India, since time immemorial, the oil you use in your kitchen is largely dependent on where you come from. In Kerala, it’s coconut oil, in Andhra and Rajasthan, it’s sesame oil, in the east and north they use mustard oil and in central India and Gujarat groundnut oil is used. Different cultures eat differently and the type of oil fits beautifully into the food landscape of that region.
But all that changed in the 80’s with the scare of cholesterol and heart disease. Overnight ghee got a bad name and we were told that we should avoid transfats and sunflower oil became popular. That was in the 90’s. But today it’s an altogether different story. You have new types of oil spilling across the grocery shelves from around the world and each new bottle label brings with it a new health hope.
One of the most important thing to keep in mind is – that oil behaves differently when heated, it changes texture, color, taste as well as it’s nutritional properties. When the oil reaches its smoking point, a lot of the nutrients are destroyed and it can cause oxidation and lead to the formation of carcinogens and other unhealthy compounds. Also, different oils have varying amounts of fats – Polyunsaturated, Monounsaturated and Saturated fats.
Saturated fat is not good for our health. Polyunsaturated & monounsaturated fats are good fats.
Coconut Oil – Smoking Point: 450°F
Coconut oil has recently been dubbed the “world’s healthiest oil.” Claims abound about its near-miraculous healing powers. The fact is, there’s limited evidence to suggest coconut oil does any of these things. All that has been studied in depth is the impact of coconut oil on blood-cholesterol levels – and even those findings aren’t clear-cut.
Coconut oil, a tropical oil made from the dried fruit of the coconut palm tree, contains 86 per cent saturated fat. Because diets high in saturated fat raise LDL (bad) blood cholesterol, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the American Heart Association advise limiting sources of it in your diet.
But coconut oil isn’t as bad as its high saturated fat content might make you think. Studies suggest that diets high in coconut oil do raise total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but not nearly to the same extent as butter. Coconut oil also seems to raise HDL (good) cholesterol. (Unlike LDL cholesterol, the HDL version doesn’t build up on artery walls.) In one small study, taking 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for one week did not significantly raise bad cholesterol but did increase good cholesterol.
Sunflower Oil – Smoking Point: 440°F
A polyunsaturated fat with a low saturated fat level, this oil has a high smoke point of 460 degrees F making it good for high heat cooking, like sauting and frying. It’s also very high in Vitamin E, which benefits your skin and hair, among other things.
There are three basic types of sunflower oil: high linoleic acid, high oleic and mid oleic. These types refer to the linoleic and oleic acid content of the particular oil. The high linoleic type is what is normally used for cooking. High-oleic sunflower oils contain much higher concentrations of monounsaturated fats than regular sunflower oil
Drawback of Sunflower Oil: It’s largely omega 6 polyunsaturates, so if you use sunflower oil regularly, you need to be sure you’re getting enough omega 3s in your diet from other sources to balance it out. Re-using the oil more than a few times for deep-frying could cause the formation of harmful trans fats.
Avocado oil – Smoking Point: 510°F
Buttery avocado oil is chockablock in monounsaturated fat, the kind considered to be heart-healthy because of its powers to improve cholesterol numbers. This über fruit oil also supplies lutein, an antioxidant that improves eye health, and the white coats at Ohio State University determined that the oil can goose salad’s potency by improving the absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants such as beta-carotene present in vegetables.
How about a smoke point of 510 degrees? This oil can withstand the heat, and yet is chock full of healthy fats. Stars for: Versatile—use for high heat cooking, sautéing, frying, baking, you name it. Wonderful in dressings and stir-fries.
Almond oil- Smoking Point: 495°F
This oil is full of good-for-you fats and has a high smoke point of about 495 degrees. Great for all sorts of cooking, and also works great in desserts because of its natural almond flavor. High smoke point, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, clean, neutral flavor.
There are 2 types of Almond oil available in the market. Regular almond oil is extracted from bitter almonds (amara variety), while the other is called sweet almond oil, and is produced from sweet almonds (dulcis variety).
As far as adding almond oil in culinary practices is concerned, it is the regular oil based on bitter nuts that is popularly used. Of course, you can also use sweet almond oil for culinary purposes. But, its strong, nutty flavor is not suited for food recipes. Thus the use of sweet almond oil is often restricted to skin care, hair care and home remedies for diseases. The regular almond oil is also available in two forms, flavorful cold-pressed type and less flavorful refined type. Putting in simple words, cold-pressed oil imparts a strong flavor to dishes, but is not stable under high temperature. Contrary to this, refined oil is not very flavorful and can withstand high temperature cooking, like baking and frying.
Sesame Oil – Smoking Point: 350°F
Sesame oil derives from Asia and was originally used for endless amounts of medicines, healing treatments and traditional massages. Sesame oil is hailed highly for not only adding flavor to most Chinese, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisines, but for also being a healthy choice among most cooking oils.
As the name implies, sesame oil comes from sesame seeds, which are nutrient rich and popular in alternative medicine. Sesame oil has the power to unblock arteries, provide cells with essential nourishment, lower cholesterol and store for a longer period of time than olive oil. Sesame oil is also high in linoleic acid, which makes your skin soft and youthful, but your body can’t produce it on its own.
The fat found in sesame oil is mostly “healthy” fat; 1 tbsp. contains 8 g of monounsaturated fat, which is comparable to olive oil, which has 10 g in 1 tbsp. Sesame oil also contains some polyunsaturated fat, with 2 g in 1 tbsp., compared to 4 g in olive oil. Both types of fat increase “good” HDL cholesterol and decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Sesame oil is a source of vitamin E.Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has been correlated with lowering cholesterol levels. Sesame oil also contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6. Copper provides relief for rheumatoid a
Varieties of Sesame Oil
There are many variations in the colour of sesame oil: cold-pressed sesame oil is pale yellow, while Indian sesame oil (gingelly or til oil) is golden, and East Asian sesame oils are commonly a dark brown colour. This dark colour and flavour are derived from roasted/toasted sesame seeds. Light sesame oil has a high smoke point and is suitable for deep-frying, while dark sesame oil (from roasted sesame seeds) has a slightly lower smoke point and is unsuitable for deep-frying. Instead it can be used for the stir frying of meats or vegetables, or for the making of an omelette.
Such a wonderful cooking oil does have a few minor downsides, however. Though it’s used in most Asian cuisine, most claim that it has a strong and sometimes bitter taste. Its heat resistance is not very impressive either, thus it burns easily. Aside from a few minor setbacks, sesame oil is considered one of the healthiest oils to cook with.
Olive Oil – Smoking Point: 365°F
- Extra-virgin: derived from the first pressing of the olives (has the most delicate flavor). It’s high in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols and monounsaturated fats, which can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
- Fine virgin: created from the second pressing of the olives. Its flavour intensity can vary and its taste is less mild than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Refined oil: unlike extra-virgin and fine virgin olive oils, which only use mechanical means to press the oil, refined oil is created by using chemicals to extract the oil from the olives.
- Pure oil: a bit of a misnomer, it indicates oil that is a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. It has good resistance to high temperatures. But it is lower nutrient content than Virgin Olive Oil and as a consequence it is less expensive.
It is best to store it in cold places away from sunlight.
How to use Olive Oil
When you’re making salad dressing or sautéing vegetables over medium heat, olive oil is an excellent choice.
When to skip Olive Oil
If you’re cooking over high heat, don’t choose olive oil. Olive oil has a lower smoke point—the point at which an oil literally begins to smoke (olive oil’s is between 365° and 420°F)—than some other oils. When you heat olive oil to its smoke point, the beneficial compounds in oil start to degrade, and potentially health-harming compounds form.
Canola Oil – Smoking Point: 450°F
Canola oil, which is made from the crushed seeds of the canola plant, is among the healthiest of cooking oils. Canola oil is very high in healthy unsaturated fats. It’s an excellent source of the omega-6 fatty acid, linolenic acid, and it is higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil commonly used. These fats are particularly important in the diet because the human body can’t produce them.
Here are a few ideas for cooking with canola oil:
- Use as a cooking oil for sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking.
- Add it to salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
- Use it to coat your pans for nonstick baking.
Mustard Oil- Smoking Point: 489°F
Mustard Oil is a type of fat, which is extracted from mustard seeds through pressing of seeds and is filtered using the distillation process. Mustard oil has got a typical pungent and sharp flavour that is because of the presence of a compound called Allyl Isothiocyanate. This oil has about 60% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 21% polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and about 12% saturated fats. A higher amount of MUFA and PUFA distinguishes it from other types of fats. These fatty acids are also called “good fats” as they do not get deposited on arterial walls.
- Reduces the risk of Cardio vascular diseases by 70 percent
- This oil is known as a stimulant and helps the intestine to produce digestive juices, which increase the peristaltic movement of the food, and hence the digestion process.
- Some studies have shown that mustard oil has a particular type of phytonutrient that fights against Colorectal and Gastrointestinal Cancers.
- Mustard oil has got an antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory action as well. The antibacterial and antifungal properties work well against rashes and skin infections.
- Also mustard oil has proved useful in relieving cold and cough, when applied onto chest or inhaled for its strong aroma.
- Relieves joint pain.
- This beneficial oil has got high levels of Vitamin E, which helps the skin from ageing and against wrinkles. Also it has been reported that it acts as a sunshield if applied on the skin. Mustard oil is commonly used for massaging the hair scalp as well.
Mustard oil does not contain carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Being a vegetable source, mustard oil contains alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. One teaspoon of mustard oil contains around 0.8 gram of omega-3 fatty acid.