Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet, and our body cannot function properly without the required amount of fats. Cooking oils are a form of fat used for cooking and various other purposes, such as salad dressing and baking. Cooking oils add flavor to the food and enhance its quality. Moreover, they contain essential vitamins and fatty acids that are beneficial for our health.
However, you need to make sure that you are consuming the right amount of oil with the right method. To help you in this regard, we have brought you a cooking oil guide so you can choose the healthiest oil for you. You may also want to read some tips for easy cooking meals at home.
What Is Cooking Oil?
Cooking oil is fat obtained from different sources such as plants, seeds, or sometimes animals. The color, taste, and smell of one type of oil are different from others due to the different properties of the source where it is extracted from.
Cooking oil is used in cooking to add flavor and prevent the food from burning. Oil is also essential for frying food items and is also used in baling. Other than that, it can be used as a lubricant or even fuel. Refining, the oil processing technique, is incredibly common for two reasons:
- It increases the shelf life of oils, which means you can store the refined oils for an extended period. And this reason makes it useable for mass-market cooking, and the prices are also affordable.
- Refining also increases the versatility of oils and makes them suitable for various cooking purposes.
How is Cooking Oil Produced?
Cooking oil is first extracted from seeds, fruits, or nuts and then refined on an industrial scale to add color, texture, or smell. The refining process involves so many chemical procedures, so the less elaborate the refining process, the more healthy oil will be.
Types of Fats in Cooking Oil
When we talk about healthy cooking oil, the actual thing being considered is the type of fat present in the oil. There are three types of fats present in oils. Here are the types of fats present in the cooking oils.
1. Saturated Fatty Acids
Saturated fatty acids have the largest amount of hydrogen items with carbon atoms. That’s why they are called saturated. Most of the fats obtained from animal sources such as meat and eggs are saturated. However, some plant-obtained fats like coconut oil and palm oil also fall under the category of saturated fats.
Saturated fats remain solid at room temperature and are heat resistant. They are thought to raise the cholesterol level in the body, which can lead to heart problems. This is the reason they are not considered good for health, especially heart health.
2. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
The primary source of monounsaturated fats is nuts. Unlike saturated fats, hydrogen molecules are missing in these fats. So they remain liquid at room temperature but will turn solid if placed in cool places like a refrigerator.
These fats are obtained from olive oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, or similar sources. They are considered to help lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol level in the body. This makes them good for heart health.
3. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated fats come from plant-based oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, or soy oil. They also remain liquid at room temperature. These fats should be used in place of saturated fats but keep in mind that moderation is key. Do not overuse them because if they are consumed in large amounts, they are harmful to the heart and overall health.
Different Types of Cooking Oils
Many types of oils are used for cooking. Some of them are as follows:
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is extracted by crushing olives. It is considered one of the healthiest cooking oils. The smoke point of olive oil is low, so it is not that good for cooking on high heat as that would destroy its beneficial nutrients. Olive oil is perfect for salads and dressings if you want to add healthy nutrients to your diet.
Benefits of Olive Oil
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil exists in the solid state at room temperature; therefore, it cannot be used for dressing and salads, but it is a good choice for cooking. It has a relatively low smoking point and can be used for various purposes other than just cooking, such as cosmetic use.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
3. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oils are the most widely used cooking oils and can be used in all types of cooking activities like cooking, frying, and baking. They are obtained from fruits or seeds of plants and have high smoking points. They are economical and have neutral taste and color that make them a go-to choice for everyone.
Benefits of Vegetable Oil
- Vegetable oils are rich in antioxidants and keep you safe from diseases.
- They might protect you from breast cancer.
4. Canola Oil
Canola oil contains the lowest amount of saturated fats and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that make it a healthier option. Its high smoking point makes it an excellent medium for frying, but it can be used for cooking also.
Benefits of Canola Oil
- Canola oil is rich in omega-3 that is beneficial for health.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, canola oil prevents us from many heart diseases.
5. Sesame Oil
Packed with many nutrients such as vitamin K, sesame oil is as beneficial as olive oil. It is rich in antioxidants and prevents harmful radicals in the environment. It has a strong nutty flavor and is used to enhance and add a nutty taste to the food.
Benefits of Sesame Oil
- Sesame oil helps to relieve pain in patients suffering from
- It helps in lowering blood sugar
6. Avocado Oil
Like olive oil, avocado oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and has a low amount of polyunsaturated fats. This is the second most beneficial cooking oil, and this might be the reason it is expensive. Its high smoking point makes it great for cooking and roasting.
Benefits of Avocado Oil
- Avocado oil reduces the level of cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health.
- It is rich in vitamin E, so it nourishes and moisturizes your skin naturally.
7. Peanut Oil
Peanut oil has a good amount of monosaturated healthy fats and also contains omega-3. But make sure you go for an unrefined one instead of a refined one to have as many benefits as possible. It is too good for stir-frying and has a high smoking point.
Benefits of Peanut Oil
- Peanut oil is rich in antioxidants and is good for overall health.
8. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats. It also has some amount of monounsaturated fats and some saturated fats. These fat amounts with high smoking points make it a good and healthy choice for being used as cooking oil.
Benefits of Sunflower Oil
- Sunflower oil acts as an instant energy booster.
- It is beneficial for the skin in many ways.
Comparing These Oils
The finishing touches, cold dishes, roasting, sautéing, and you can use it for almost everything else (regular olive oil, virgin olive oil, and affordable EVOO)
Using around the house, stir-frying, sautéing at medium temperatures, and baking
400 to 450°F
Soybean, sunflower, corn, palm, or canola
Deep-frying and flavoring
rapeseed plant’s seeds
Anything, including baking, frying, and dressing
Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, Indian, and African cooking, grilling, roasting, frying, and sautéing
Almost everything, including salad dressing, sautéing, searing, roasting, frying, and other high-heat methods
Stir-frying and deep-frying
Which Cooking Oil is Healthier?
As per this cooking oil guide, you will see that every type of cooking oil has its benefits, and some might have side effects. Now it is entirely up to you to decide which one is the healthier and perfect option for you. You can select a cooking oil type according to your preferences and health state.
In our opinion, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil to be more specific, is the healthiest option to go for as it has maximum nutrients with less or almost no amount of harmful fatty acids. If you can afford it, make it a part of your diet.
Good vs. Bad Cooking Oil
The oils with more double bonds are less stable when exposed to heat. Hence, polyunsaturated fats are not suitable for cooking as they contain at least two double bonds. On the other hand, monounsaturated and saturated have one or zero, making them a great choice.
Following are some other factors that play a part in how much heat can make the oils unstable:
- Oxidative stability: Oxidation is a process that makes oil’s fat molecules form free radicals, and oxidative stability is the ability of an oil to resist it. Free radicals can cause several health problems, including aging, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, inflammatory disease (such as arthritis), and Parkinson’s. It is because they can severely damage the DNA. Therefore, always select an oil with high oxidative stability.
- Smoke point: The temperature at which the oil starts breaking down and forming compounds that can damage your health. For cooking, always choose an oil with a higher smoke point.
Oils or fats are essential for proper body functioning and should never be skipped from your daily food intake. All types of cooking oils have their nutritional values and benefits, and you can choose one according to your needs.