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Best and worst cooking oil
When we speak of oil, we automatically think of fat, greasy food. However, there is no denying that we still need oil in our cooking and guess what, some oils are actually good for you. How can oil be good for you?
Well, as is with every other food item, oil also contains nutrients that our body needs. Let’s first understand what oils are made up of. Most oils are made up of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
What you want in your oil is monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. This is because monounsaturated fat contains vitamin E. It can also help you to reduce cholesterol in your body. Polyunsaturated fat, on the other hand, has omega-3 oil and omega-6 oil which are good for your body.
Should you then reject saturated fat completely? Not exactly. Experts are still on the fence when it comes to saturated fat. It is true that most would advise you to consume saturated fat sparingly but there are experts who are not convinced that all saturated fats are bad. A good rule of thumb is to take it in moderation.
What other considerations should you think of when deciding a good cooking oil? Since cooking involves heat, taking into account an oil’s smoke point is important too. A smoke point is a temperature where the oil no longer becomes stable. After its smoke point, the oil becomes unhealthy for consumption.
Let’s take a look at the best and worst cooking oil so you can start adding them to your cart.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is the sweetheart of all cooking oil. Experts agree that olive oil is the best and healthiest oil for your consumption. It contains monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. It is good for your heart, has antioxidants and is rich in nutrients. What you also want to look for when choosing an olive oil is the “extra virgin” label.
The extra virgin olive oil or ‘EVOO’ basically means that it is more unrefined i.e goes through less processing and hence, keeps most of its natural goodness. EVOO is also a popular choice for salad dressing making this oil versatile. However, olive oil does not have a super high smoke point so keep it for sauteing instead of deep frying.
2. Coconut Oil
Another much talked about oil is coconut oil. Coconut oil can come in liquid or solid form at room temperature. It contains saturated fat which is making experts advise against using too much of it. But, coconut oil has a high smoke point, can boost metabolism, kills bacteria and can help to lower your cholesterol. Also remember, not all saturated fats are bad for you.
3. Palm Oil
One of the most controversial oils currently in the market, palm oil is another option for cooking oil. Palm oil is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, good for your heart and aids in vitamin A absorption. Its high smoke point also makes it a good choice for frying food. The controversy surrounding palm oil is largely due to its mass production.
This has caused deforestation in large areas of the producing countries and the loss of habitats for many animals. Therefore, if you choose to get palm oil, remember to choose sustainable oil which is approved by organizations such as Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or Malaysian Sustainable Palm OIl (MSPO) (in Malaysia).
4. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is also widely used in households around the world. Vegetable oil is mostly made from soybean but it now consists of a combination of different things. Manufacturers use the term ‘vegetable oil’ so that it does not have to stick to one specific item to produce it.
Technically, ‘vegetable oil’ is used to refer to any oil that is sourced from a plant. The health benefits largely depend on the plant(s) used in its production. It is also highly processed and we know this means less nutritional values so avoid this!
5. Canola Oil
Canola oil is derived from rapeseed oil. It is actually considered as one of the healthiest cooking oils as it contains vitamin K and vitamin E and is also low in saturated fat. It has a high smoke point and is also a versatile oil. However, canola oil is highly refined. This makes its nutrient level drop significantly. Although there are unrefined options out there, they may be hard to find.
6. Avocado Oil
With all the hype surrounding avocado, here’s one to add to the list. Avocado oil has a high level of monounsaturated fat coming in second after olive oil. It also has polyunsaturated fat. Although it also contains saturated fat, its level is still comparatively low as compared to others such as coconut oil.
What makes avocado oil a great choice is that it has a high smoke point as compared to olive oil. It has a mild flavour which means it will not overpower your dish. However, avocado oil can be more on the expensive side.
7. Peanut Oil
You may be thinking that you should avoid this as someone may have a peanut allergy. However, rest assured that nut oils do not trigger nut allergy. This is because nut allergens are found on the surface protein of the nut. Peanut oil has a nutty taste and a high smoke point. It also has a high concentration of monounsaturated fat. It definitely is different and fun to experiment with.
8. Sesame Oil
I don’t know about you but sesame oil automatically makes me think of oriental dishes. Sesame oil has a unique and distinct taste. It has a high smoke point making it perfect for high-heat cooking. It contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. However, it has little to no other nutrients. In addition to its strong taste, perhaps save this for certain recipes instead of daily use.
9. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is derived from sunflower seeds. It has a high smoke point and hence, making it great for cooking. It also has a high level of vitamin E and doesn’t have a strong taste. However, it also contains a high level of omega-6 which is known to aggravate inflammation. While our body does need omega-6, too much can be bad for our body so use this oil sparingly.