A lot of us feel that cooking oils contain all the bad fats and end up avoiding them. However, that’s not quite true. Your body needs good fat to be able to function properly. Qi Sun, MD, and associate professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “Certain organs, like the heart, primarily use fat for energy, plus there are nutrients, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, that you can only get by eating fat. Still, you need to be picky about which fats you consume.”
With the supermarket aisles having a plethora of options to choose from, how do you select the best and the healthiest cooking oil? Olive, coconut, corn, walnut, peanut- the list is endless. All of them have different types of fats, like monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated and it’s essential to know how healthy they are.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Let’s start with one of the most popular cooking oils. Extra-virgin olive oil has a very strong flavour, and tends to be slightly bitter. Studies have shown it can lower the risk of heart disease because of the antioxidants that are present in them, apart from monounsaturated fats. It’s used extensively in salad dressings and for sautéing veggies.
This oil has a buttery, nutty flavour. It contains high level of monounsaturated fat, and is low in saturated fat. It’s not ideal for deep frying, but you can use avocado oil for sautéing and searing.
This one has a neutral flavour, and is quite similar to vegetable oil. It’s extracted from the canola plant, which is a variety of rapeseed. It contains a good amount of monounsaturated and omega-3 fats that promote heart health. Some people believe that it’s not good for people with dementia, but there has been no conclusive evidence for the oil being harmful for humans. Consumer Reports suggests using canola oil for baking, because it has a distinct flavour.
Coconut oil is used extensively in South Indian cooking, and ahs a sweet taste. It has a lot of saturated fat, but also contains lauric acid which some people argue is good for your health. The refined versions are good for frying, but make sure you use it in moderation.
Clarified butter is considered to be very healthy in Indian cooking. Lisa Sasson, RD believes otherwise. “There's no evidence that it has any health benefits, and it is comprised of mainly saturated fat,” she said. It has a buttery flavour, and can be used for curries in a small amount.
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