The Ultimate Oil Guide For Healthy Cooking
We, human beings are the most gifted species on Earth. The Almighty has gifted us with so many sense organs and so many precious tools so that we can think, talk, walk, hear, smell, taste and feel. Although, most of the other species around us can also do the same, we are blessed with a special brain that can think logically and can help us do WORK. That means a healthy brain will lead to an efficiently working body. And the health of the brain depends on the health of our heart.
The organ which supplies food to all the other parts, including, the brain, is our heart. A sound and healthy body is the result and outcome of a sound and healthy heart. If your heart feels good, whole of your self will feel the same and in order to get that, people go to any extent. They do exercise, running, jumping etc, unaware of the food that they are consuming especially the cooking oil, which must be taken good care of if you wish for a healthy pumping heart.
Hence, with this comprehensive guide, learning the basics of cooking with the best OIL is just a step ahead. Keep reading.
Cooking oil, essentially, is an animal, plant or synthetic fat and is used in baking, frying and many other recipes. They are generally in a liquid state, if kept at room temperature with some exceptions, such as palm oil, coconut oil or palm kernel oil. They can be extracted from plants or can be animal based and are mentioned below:
Some Oils from Plant Source
- Olive Oil
- Palm Oil
- Corn Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Canola Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Other vegetable Oils
Some Oils from Animal Source
These oils can also be flavored, using some chilies or herbs. Now, that we have a basic idea of what cooking oil is, it would help us more if we learn about the basic building blocks of the oil.
The Chemical Composition
The main contents of these oils and fats are triglycerides. They are less dense than water and can be liquid or solid at room temperature. The solid forms are called ‘butters’ or ‘fats’ and the liquid form is called ‘oils’.
Apart from the triglycerides, they also contain some amount of monoglycerides, diglycerides, sterols, vitamins, phosphatides and fatty acids. These components react differently in different temperatures and situations and for buying healthy cooking oil, these reactions should be considered. Apart from this, there are several other key points that need to be addressed and are mentioned further.
Check Points For Buying Healthy Cooking Oil
While there are a lot of factors for choosing oil for cooking purpose, the most important of all of them is the source from which the oil has been extracted. The best one comes from the plant foods such as seeds, nuts and avocados. Their good quality owes to the intact fat that they have and also to their stability.
The Ways Of Extraction
Not only the source, but the extracting methods also play a vital role in determining the quality of oil.
There are mainly two ways of extraction, which are:
- Cold Pressed (Expeller pressed oils) or mechanically pressed oils
- Chemically extracted oils
It is a mechanical process of extracting oil from nuts and seeds. This is a completely chemical free process. A certain temperature is attained by pressing the nuts and this depends entirely on the hardness of the seeds. A hard nut will require more pressure to be pressed properly. Due to this high pressure, more and more friction is created, resulting in an increased temperature. This type of pressing, demands no external heat for the processing.
Cold Pressed Oils
The oil extracted through the expeller method and kept in special temperature controlled environment is called cold pressed oils. The temperature should be below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
This oils extracted by this method is usually found in the markets and are often found to be of inferior quality. This type of extraction is done by using some very toxic substances, for e.g. Hexane. The removal of solvent is a step which involves a harsh treatment to these oils. In the next step, the oils are deodorized and bleached that expose them to more chemicals, straining and a very high temperature.
All these steps result in rendering oil which is inferior in appearance, taste, fragrance and nutritional quality. After knowing the ways of extraction and their results, I am sure you all are wise enough to choose cold pressed oil for cooking.
Reaction Towards Heat
The characteristics of oil change on heating. Different ones have different ‘smoke points’ and hence, the cooking temperature becomes an important point to be taken care of while selecting cooking oils. But before going into details of it, let us first define smoke point.
Smoke Point-It is the name given to the point at which the oil starts breaking down or starts burning or starts getting oxidized. It is a very important determinant of the health level of oil. The smoke point can be aptly identified by the smoke it produces because at this point it will give a bitter flavor and an unpleasant odor. We need to make sure, not to surpass this point or we will alter the appearance, taste and the nutritional value, negatively. Having said this, now we shall see the extent of the stability of different oils in different temperatures.
Low Heat-Most of the oils can be used in a low heat. Butter has the lowest smoke point (300-350 F) and hence we must sauté it in low to medium heat. A low smoke point will not allow such oils to withstand higher temperatures and will thus result in early oxidation, rendering a rancid residue.
Medium Heat-Moderate heat can also be borne by a large number of oils. Olive oils, which are generally used in pan-frying, have a comparatively low smoke points (375F approx) when compared to the substitutes. If an olive oil is extra light in colour, that means that it is more refined and can bear more heat, because of a high smoke point (450 F). So, the rule of the game stays to choose oil which is lighter in colour as they will be more refined and also will have high smoke points. The process of refining helps in removing those impurities and particles that shows a higher tendency for burning and thus renders the oil, a high smoke point.
High Heat-A proper deep frying or pan frying not only needs a hard anodized cookware but also demands a high smoke point oil that can withstand the extreme heat without going rancid easily.
Some refined oils having a smoke point of 450 F has been tagged as high heat fats/oils, and are listed below:
- Vegetable oil
- Corn oil
- Grape seed oil
- Safflower oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
The peanut oil is readily used in cooking because of a strong and interesting earthy flavor that it imparts to the food. These oils with a high tolerance to heat are specially suggested for grilling purposes as grilling involves high temperatures and more burning of the oils.
The Types Of Fatty Acids Content
This again is a very important determinant of the health of oil. There are three main types which are.
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
The content of the carbon atoms vs. the hydrogen atoms i.e. the number of double bonds, determine the extent of the fat saturation. Let us look at the difference in the characteristics of these fatty acids, in terms of the number of bonds.
Saturated Fatty Acids– These fatty acids are devoid of any double bonds. Because of this factor, the molecules of these fats, tend to stay close to each other and therefore are very tough to melt and remain in solid state at room temperature. The best examples of the saturated fatty acids are cheese and butter.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids-The double bonds in these fatty acids are high in number. Due to this, they are not as closely packed as the saturated ones and are thus liquids at a normal room temperature. The MUFAs (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids) have only one double bond while the PUFAs (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids) contain two or more than two bonds. Now, there are two main types of PUFAs-
Monounsaturated fats Vs. Polyunsaturated fats Most of the common oils are rich in omega 6 PUFAs. The overconsumption of this type can pose problems because of the inflammatory responses, it provokes, towards our body. These responses can lead to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases, overtime. On the other hand, many other oils such as flaxseed oil, that is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, have been observed as a helper in lowering down the inflammation.
Another problem with the PUFAs is that they are highly unstable and oxidizes easily under high temperatures. This oxidation, results in the production of toxic substances and hence harmful to be consumed. MUFAs, in contrast, are stable and do not oxidize easily and thus fail to go rancid. This feature makes MUFAs, a safe and healthy cooking option. Hence, after all this discussion, it would be wiser of you to use monounsaturated fatty acids and if at all, you want the polyunsaturated ones, stick to omega 3 and ditch omega 6. However, it is advisable, not to consume saturated fatty acids at all.
The function of the oil in your recipe must be considered for matching the flavor.
As a lubricant
If you want to use oil as a lubricant in your cooking process, it is suggested to use light flavored oils such as canola, grape seed, corn or vegetable.
As the king
In case, you are making a dish, in which, oil is the king or has a major role to play, you should choose oil, full of flavor, such as peanut oil or olive oil.
As a finisher
There are many oils, which are not heated and are used as finishing oils. Oil with a high smoky flavor fits the best, here. For e.g. Walnut oil, hazelnut oil and truffle oil is usually drizzled on the dishes. By now, we are ready enough to choose the best oil for our kitchen. Also, we have learnt that appropriate oil is as important as the most essential kitchen tools. Keeping this in mind, let us further go one by one to some extremely healthy cooking oils and read about their benefits.
The Winner Showcase
For your convenience and perusal, we have enlisted below, some most beneficial and healthy cooking oils. Have a look-
The canola oil is considered to be the healthiest of all the cooking oils. The seeds of the canola plant are crushed and the oil is extracted from them. These seeds are also called rapeseeds and a toxic and bitter substance called euric acid is removed while the oil is extracted.
The fatty acid content is very good in this oil and the breakdown is as follows:
- The content of the saturated fat is the lowest as compared to any other oil.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids are present in high quantities.
- The omega-6 fatty acid and the omega-3 fatty acids are contained in a perfect, 2:1 ratio.
- Smoking point is medium and is best for baking, frying, sautéing etc.
- Reduces inflammation, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Coconut oil works the best in high temperatures. It is heat resistant oil and this resistance is credited to the content of the healthy saturated fatty acids present in them (90%). At room temperature, it stays in a semi solid form and can last for long without deterioration of the quality.
Some important heath benefits of coconut oil is as follows:
- Lauric Acid, a fatty acid present in coconut oil, helps in the killing of the pathogens, especially, bacteria.
- It helps in improving the cholesterol levels.
- It helps in building immunity and increasing the metabolism.
Also, the breakdown of fatty acids is as follows:
- 92% saturated fatty acids.
- 6% monounsaturated fatty acids
- 6% polyunsaturated fatty acids
Virgin coconut oil is the best to use, owing to its organic nature and also tastes very good.
The Olive oil is a type of cooking oil that contains a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids. It is a favourite pick for any Mediterranean dish and tastes so brilliant with the risottos and pastas that help you get the credit of a professional cook. Studies have shown that this oil can be cooked in a medium to high heat, in spite of having double bonds.
There are several health benefits of consuming this oil, which are mentioned below:
- It contains antioxidants that help in reducing the arthritis pain and reduces the chances of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- It has several important properties, which fight against heart stroke and heart attack.
Further, the breakdown of fatty acids is as follows:
- 14% saturated fatty acids
- 75% monounsaturated fatty acids
- 11% polyunsaturated fatty acids
No doubt that olive oil is very healthy cooking oil, using the EXTRA VIRGIN TYPE will add to these benefits. Its antioxidants and nutrient value is very high.
Sunflower oil is extracted from the seeds of sunflowers. The vitamin E content of the sunflower oil is very high, thus making it suitable for use in cosmetic products. It is a mixture of Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. It has a high smoking point, i.e., it can hold onto its nutritional value, even in high temperatures.
Apart from these, there are several health benefits of sunflower oil which are listed below:
- It helps in reducing the cardiovascular diseases.
- It is very helpful for cancer patients as it helps fight free radicals.
- It is an anti oxidant and helps in fighting arthritis.
- It helps in improving the immune system, repairing of the body and maintaining a proper nervous system.
Rice Bran Oil
The rice bran oil is extracted from the rice grain bran, which is the outer layer of the grain. As revealed by some studies, it is believed to be the healthiest oil. Both the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are present in this oil. It also has a high smoking point.
Some other health benefits are as follows:
- Oryzanol, present in this oil, is very good to maintain the cholesterol levels in our body.
- The vitamin E content (tocotrienol and tocopherol), present in this oil, is an antioxidant and so, is very good for skin.
Flax oil is extracted from the flax seeds and is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids (Alpha Linolenic acid), largely consumed by the vegetarians. It reduces the chances of colitis and crohn’s disease.
Palm oil is extracted from the oil palm fruit. It is very good oil for cooking purposes because of a high monounsaturated content and low content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The best palm oil, known till date is the RED PALM OIL. It contains a fair amount of Coenzyme Q10, vitamins E and lots of other nutrients.
Some other health benefits are listed below:
- It is rich in vitamin E, carotenes and anti oxidants and is very good for cancer patients.
- It helps in reducing the chances of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis and also acts as anti aging oil.
Fish oil is considered to be the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are mainly DHA and EPA. COD LIVER OIL is the best fish oil. It contains a good amount of Vitamin D3. It is better used as a supplement and should be stored in a dry and cool place.
The main component of avocado oil is monounsaturated fat with a mix of saturated and polyunsaturated fats. It has a nutty flavor and is a good source of vitamin E. It works very well as a finishing oil and also as an add-on oil but is easily perishable and hence, must be appropriately stored.
Animal Fats-Tallow, Bacon drippings and lard
The animals’ fatty acid content varies, according to the food consumed by them. For instance, if an animal feeds on grains, the polyunsaturated fatty acids will be high in the fats. In case of herbivorous animals, the amount of saturated as well as monounsaturated fats will be high. Hence, we can see that these fats can serve as an amazing option for cooking.
This oil is a special one that comes in two different colours. The light colored oil is used in the Middle East and India. It is extracted from untoasted seeds. The smoking point of this oil is very high and it has got a mild flavor. The darker one has a nutty aroma and tastes very good. Both of these types have high amounts of polyunsaturated fats but have a low smoking point. The sesame oil is rich in copper, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6.
There are many medicinal properties too, which are mentioned below:
- It helps in lowering blood pressure and cures diabetes.
- It improves dental health and oral hygiene.
- It helps preventing cancer, depression and atherosclerosis.
Take Care Of Cooking Oils
So far, we have learnt about the healthy oils to be used for the basic food groups. But, just knowing the contents is not enough. One needs to store these oils in a dry and dark place with appropriate temperature.
- Buy small quantities, to avoid unnecessary damage.
- Special care must be taken for unsaturated fats; they must be kept in an environment, where the chances of their oxidation are less.
- Use air tight containers.
With a guide like this, you can never go wrong with cooking oils. Choose the best and apt as per your need and experience a happy and healthy cooking.