Your diet and lifestyle have a direct impact on the health of your heart.
When you prepare your food, it’s recommended you eat something that is rich in nutrients and healthy fats. With oil, there is a difference in the type of fat that you can get.
Before I recommend oils to use for your healthy cooking, let me explain the different types of fats that are found in oil.
Oils are liquid fats that come from the seeds or nuts of plants. The ratio and type of fats contained in each oil usually differ.
Saturated Fats: Also known as Solid Fat, it is usually solid around room temperature and found mostly in animal foods like meat, cheese and milk.
This saturated fat is found less in poultry and fish, but more so in red meat. It is also found in tropical oils like cocoa butter, coconut oil and palm oil, which are used in things like coffee creamers and whipped toppings.
Desserts, cookies and cakes are usually high in saturated fats and can raise your cholesterol level. Anyone embarking on a healthy diet should ensure that the saturated fat in their daily calorie intake should be less than 10%.
Unsaturated Fats: Unlike saturated fats (which at room temperature are in liquid form), unsaturated fats are found in the oil derived from plants or their seeds.
Consuming unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats can assist in improving your cholesterol levels. Two types of unsaturated fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated Fat: Found mostly in vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn oils and sesame. This is also the main type of fat found in seafood.
When you consume polyunsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, you’re on the path to reducing your LDL cholesterol level.
In polyunsaturated fats, you can find Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines, walnuts, salmons, shellfish, canola oil, mackerel) and Omega-6 fatty acids, found mostly in vegetable oils.
- Monounsaturated Fats: Found mostly in olive, peanut oil, nuts, avocado and vegetable oils.
Foods high in monounsaturated oil can help reduce LDL cholesterol, but when you consume more unsaturated fat without reducing your intake of saturated fat, your cholesterol levels are unlikely to go down.
Here are our best choice of oils for cooking your healthy meals:
Avocado Oil: One of the richest oils in monounsaturated fats and a great way to include vitamin E into your diet. Avocado Oil, unlike others oils that are extracted from the seed of a plant, is extracted from the flesh of ripe avocados and has the highest smoke point of any plant oil (520 degrees Fahrenheit).
You can opt for this if you have a little extra cash to splurge, but try storing it properly, as it’s likely to go off fairly easily if it’s not taken care of. It is highly recommended, as it produces an antioxidant that improves eye health, helps your cholesterol levels and its buttery flavor can complement sauces and salad dressings. It is good enough to be used for any cooking need.
Canola Oil: This great cooking oil isn’t as popular as the rest, but provides a lovely texture, an amazing neutral flavour and an impressive heat tolerance level.
Budget-friendly when compared to other cooking oils, this oil is obtained by crushing the seeds of a type of rapeseed plant, (the canola), which comes from the same family as broccoli and cabbage. It also has the lowest content of saturated fat present in any oil and works well when used for baking, fries and sautéing, as it has a relatively medium smoking point.
A well-embraced oil for making Indian and exceptionally-tasting Mexican dishes.
Coconut Oil: Containing over 90% of saturated fats, which makes it resistant to heat, coconut oil has very powerful benefits and is a great choice for high heat cooking. It becomes solid at room temperature and can last for months (even years) without going bad. It is surprisingly rich in Luaric acid, which is a fatty acid that is known to improve cholesterol, as well as kill pathogens and bacteria. A great source of energy and taste, coconut oil is highly recommended for healthy cooking.
Olive oil: Well-known for the effects it has on the heart, the monounsaturated fat it possesses makes it a great choice to fight breast cancer and heart disease. It lowers the cholesterol level in the body and is ideal for breakfast and a great improvement to the Mediterranean diet. It is fairly resistant to heat and is used widely around the world for cooking. The extra virgin olive oil is great for sautéing and light salad dressing, while the regular olive oil is widely used for frying.
Palm Oil: Derived from the fruit of the oil palms, palm oil contains mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats, but with trace amounts of polyunsaturated fats, making it a recommended choice for cooking. The unrefined red palm oil is rich in Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin E, as well as other nutrients.
Leading health expert, Dr Shikha Sharma, claims that since there isn’t a single oil that contains all the necessary fatty acids (in the ratio at which the body needs them), it is a healthy option to rotate or change the oils that you consume. According to him, “Your body needs different essential fatty acids. A combination of saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats will do well in keeping your body and diet healthy.”
In addition to their diet and lifestyle benefits, oils – especially coconut oil – have also been getting a lot of attention recently for their health benefits, including weight loss, skin regeneration and dental hygiene.
“In the field of dental health for example, you can use coconut oil as part of your dental health to help attack harmful bacteria in the mouth that causes bad breath, fights gum disease, reduce plaque and prevent tooth decay and loss,” says Dr. Cecil Luong of Tigersmile Dentistry.
On a final note, don’t forget to take care of your cooking oils and ensure they do not turn rancid. If you cook a lot and are sure you can use up a lot of oil in a short period of time, then buy in large batches. If not, consider buying small batches, so they don’t get the chance to go bad.