Your Guide to Choosing Healthy Cooking Oils

Healthy Cooking Oils Guide & Tips

With so many types of oils available in market, we always get confused which oil to use for cooking, and which ones to avoid.

In this article, I have compared various types of cooking oils, explained their differences, which oil to totally avoid & which you should use for cooking. Read on here to find out that you need to know to spot the right ones.

How to Choose the Healthy Cooking Oils?

All oils are concentrated fats, including the healthy oils. Broadly, there are two kinds of fats: Saturated and Unsaturated. All cooking oils are made up of a combination of these two.

Saturated Fats generally are made from animals & animal products, and they come from some tropical sources also. They are responsible for increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) & have been found to be linked with heart disease. Oils higher in saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats are further divided into two categories, namely, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated. Oils higher in unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.

(i) Monounsaturated fats help reduce total cholesterol and even increase good (HDL) cholesterol.

(ii) Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The healthier of these two are omega-3 fatty acids – they are anti-inflammatory and boost immunity levels & improve blood circulation.

Polyunsaturated fats also help reduce total cholesterol – however, there is no evidence that whether they affect good cholesterol or not.

Now, let us talk about the Bad Guys, the Trans Fats. Trans fats are industrially produced cooking oils widely available in market. They are also used in commercial food production such as the most deep-fried foods are cooked in oils that contain higher trans fats. They naturally come from animals and animal products as well.

Though, technically trans fats makeup is such that they are unsaturated – but they don’t act & beneficial that way in our bodies. They lower Good Cholesterol and increase Bad Cholesterol. You should try to avoid them completely.

Cooking with Healthy Oils

All cooking oils have a smoke point, that is the temperature at which they begin to burn and smoke. Beyond its smoke point a cooking oil should not be heated because then the oil recomposes itself to acquire higher levels of trans fats. This happens mostly with polyunsaturated oils that are higher in omega fatty acids. Polyunsaturated oils higher in omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids should NOT be heated at all as not only they acquire trans fats, but also lose the value of the fatty acids.

Monounsaturated oils are the best oils to use for cooking. On the other hand oils with low smoke points are best to keep & use in their cold forms such as using in dressings & marinades. And Saturated oils are best avoided totally.

Refined oils are usually heated as they are processed, so another good thumb rule is to make sure to buy unrefined, cold-pressed oil.

Cooking Oils Comparison

COOKING TEMP MONOUNSATURATED (Good For Cooking) Lowers Total Cholesterol & Increases HDL  POLYUNSATURATED (Use Cold & Sparingly) Contains Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids SATURATED (Best To Avoid) Increases LDL & Linked to Heart Disease
<350°F Extra Virgin Olive Flaxseed, Hampseed Coconut
<450°F Canola Sunflower, Vegetable Corn, Sesame, Walnut, Grapeseed, Soybean  
<550°F Avocado   Palm

All oils are composed of different kinds of fats. Each of these oils is classified on the basis of the dominant type fat it contains.

A few more healthy tips to keep in mind:

(i) Peanut oil is hard to categorize as it is made up of nearly equal parts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Technically it is mostly monounsaturated, but since it’s higher in omega-6, thus should be used sparingly.

(ii) Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point (320°F) as compared to other kinds of olive oils – pomace & extra light.

Useful Related Post: Which Fat You Should Eat & How Much?

(iii) Canola is multipurpose & can be used in a wide range of baking recipes as a replacement to coconut.

(iv) The most critical factor is the temperature. For baking/cooking below 350°F, it’s all right to use some of the corresponding lower smoke point oils.

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