Eating a healthy diet can be quite hard at times, especially because most fried foods are strictly forbidden in most diets. However, frying and sautéing are great ways to cook and add flavour to food. Eliminating frying altogether could make your healthy diet bland and you’re more likely to develop cravings if your food is too boring. A flavourful stir-fry can still be a part of a healthy diet. So, it is good to familiarize yourself with the various types of cooking oils and knowing their different properties during cooking.
There are a variety of cooking coils to choose from, ranging from well-known ones like olive oil and canola oils to lesser-known oils like grapeseed oil. They all have different properties which will determine how healthy the food will be after it’s cooked with it. There are a variety of methods to use oil in cooking foods apart from frying. You can use oils to grill, marinade, roast, dress salads, and to bake.
One property you should look for in cooking oils is their smoke point. An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to giving off smoke. Dangerous free radicals are formed when an oil is nearing its smoke point. Free radicals are thought to increase the risk of inflammation and deadly diseases like cancer and heart disease. The degree of refining will determine the smoke point.
There are two things we should consider in determining whether an oil is healthy or not. Firstly, we need to consider the smoke point. If it has a low smoke point, there is a chance you may overheat it and reach the smoke point quickly. As an oil approaches the smoke point, they give off free radicals that are detrimental to our health, especially our heart. Free radicals are the culprit behind some of the deadliest diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. As the oil is burning, it also destroys any beneficial nutrients the oil has.
Secondly, we should consider what kind of fats the oil has. Healthy oils would be higher in unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.
Here is a list of some of the healthiest cooking oils and their properties:
Yes, avocado is not just for toast, it is used for its oil as well! Avocado oil is a relatively new and lesser-known cooking oil. Unsurprisingly, it hailed as a healthy cooking oil due to avocado’s icon status in the dieting world. But, this may have some basis to it. Avocado oil is abundant in healthy polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, but low in saturated fats. The great thing about avocado oil is that unlike other types of cooking oils, it has a milder taste.
What makes avocado oil stand out as one of the healthiest oils is that, it has a very high smoke point (375-400 deg F).
The only downside of using avocado oil is that it is incredibly pricey compared to other cooking oils.
Olive oil has long been touted as one of, if not the healthiest cooking oils. It is very versatile, from being used to fry foods to salad dressings. The healthiest form of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil which has not been processed and refined. Like avocado oil, it is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The problem with extra virgin olive oil is that, it has quite a low smoke point (325-375 deg F). So, it is risky to use it for heavy frying or roasting at high temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil should be used for light cooking and drizzling over salads.
There is another form of olive oil, pure olive oil which has been processed more, but has a higher smoke point that can stand heavy frying (465 deg F). Because it has been refined, it doesn’t contain much of the healthy unsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil.
It is not the cheapest cooking oil, but considering how healthy it is, it is good value for money.
Canola oil is one of the most common and one of the most nutritionally underrated cooking oils. Canola oil originates from the canola flower (also known as rapeseed) which is commonly found in North America and Europe. Unprocessed canola oil is low in saturated fats and is one of the few cooking oils with a good Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio. Ideally, a healthy cooking oil should have a high Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, but this is hard to find in plant-based oils.
Canola oil is affordable, has a mild flavour and a high smoke point (400 deg F). So, it is perfect for heavy frying, roasting and baking of food.
This is a common oil used for cooking, and it is extracted from sunflower seeds. What makes it healthy is that is very high in Vitamin E. One tablespoon of it will give you 29% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin E. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fats-and-oils/623/2
It is also mild in flavour and has a high smoke point, so it is perfect for heavy frying.
Don’t get this confused with sunflower oil! It is extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant, similar to sunflower oil. What makes it healthy is that it is low in saturated fats and abundant in unsaturated fats like Omega-9 fatty acids. https://www.self.com/story/10-of-the-healthiest-cooking-oils-explained
Omega-9 fatty acids are the least heard of compared to its Omega-3 and 6 counterparts. But these fats are quite beneficial for cardiovascular and brain health. https://draxe.com/omega-9-benefits/
Safflower oil is mild in flavour and has the highest smoke point of the cooking oils (510 deg F), so it ideal for heavy frying.
You most likely encountered this flavourful oil when you were reading the recipe for a tasty stir-fry. It’s a great alternative to peanut oil, for those that are allergic. It is also often minimally processed. However, it has a low smoke point (375-410 deg F), so it is not ideal for heavy frying. It’s great to add a little bit of flavour to a stir-fry or dish.
Though technically not a cooking oil because of its very low smoke point, it is nonetheless a very healthy oil. It is low in saturated fat and one of the few oils with a high Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, which can reduce inflammation compared to other oils. You can drizzle it over salads or add it to baked goods.
Similar to walnut oi, flaxseed oil has a low smoke point and should not be used for frying or cooking in general. The best thing about flaxseed oil is that it also has a good Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, making it less inflammatory than other oils. Enjoy the oil in salads, oatmeal, baked goods,or a smoothie.
Peanut oils are great, flavourful oils to cook with. It has a high smoke point (450 deg F) and has a rich flavour, so it is perfect for stir-fries. It has one of the highest unsaturated fat contents of all the oils. Avoid it if you’re allergic to peanuts or if you don’t want food to taste like peanuts.