If you are determined to embrace a healthier diet, the cooking oils you use are one of the first things to consider changing. The cooking oils in your kitchen are part of every meal you cook and every salad you prepare so it is very important to understand which oils are harmful and what healthy cooking oils are available.
WHY NOT VEGETABLE OIL?
If you are still using vegetable oil and you want to improve your diet, look for an alternative. Unlike other oils, vegetable oil is not produced naturally. It must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered. The refined vegetable oil is one of the most harmful substances you can possibly put in your body. It’s not easy to completely avoid those oils as almost every processed food contains vegetable oil. Here are some of the cooking oils that are a form of ”Vegetable oil”:
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Safflower oil
- Palm oil (could be good if you can find unrefined)
Keep the processed food to a minimum so that you are not consuming any of these, or even better, do not eat packaged processed food at all. However you do have control over the oils in your kitchen so why not use some of the alternative healthy cooking oils below to cook delicious, healthy, home cooked food.
THE HEALTHY COOKING OILS
The below oils are better, healthier choices which you can use for cooking. Before you start reading about these healthy cooking oils, it’s important to understand that every oil has a smoke point, meaning that when the oil is heated to a certain temperature, it will start decomposing and release toxic fumes. Here is where the problem is, good quality, unrefined oils have a lower smoke point and refined oils (such as the above) have a higher smoke point. So which oil should you choose for cooking? Well you might be surprised, but when you cook in a pan on a medium heat, the temperature rarely goes over 150°C and the smoke point of all of these oils below is higher. See below the uses of the different healthy cooking oils.
The most common healthy oil is Olive oil as it is widely available. There is a range of brands you can choose from in every supermarket. Olive oil is one of the healthiest and probably the best oils to consume. It has so many health benefits that it will not be possible to list them all here. Olive oil is formed of 70% healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, also it is full of antioxidants and it contains nutritious vitamin K and E. The Mediterranean countries have been using it as their primarily oil for hundreds of years and the statistics show that they have much lower levels of heart diseases. So here is the difference between the different olive oils:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – the highest quality olive oil. This is because it is produced by the use of mechanical means only, with no chemical treatment and it is obtained from the first processing of the oil. It also has a rich taste with a free fatty acid content of no more than 0.8g per 100g (0.8%);
Virgin Olive Oil – slightly lower quality olive oil that comes from virgin production only and usually has a lower price, this is because it is obtained from later processing of the oil (not the first). It has a good taste and a free fatty acid content of not more than 2g per 100g (2%);
Refined Olive Oil – oil obtained from virgin olives by chemical treatment, it is refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters with some restrictions on the processing. It is not recommended to use this type of olive oil, always choose extra virgin.
Use and smoke point
You have probably heard the saying that olive oil is not suitable for heating and it is good for cold use only, such as salads and dressings. Well this is not true, you can bake, fry, grill and prepare anything with olive oil! I spent a lot of time researching this topic and I also visited an olive oil factory in Greece, which helped me explain why this myth is not true, check out this post about cooking with olive oil and the truth about heating it!
It’s true that extra virgin olive oil will definitely cost you a bit more than the refined oils above, but this is one of the foods that is worth every penny.
Another oil that can truly help lower cholesterol and has a number of other benefits is coconut oil. It has a unique combination of fatty acids which the human body converts into a substance that helps strengthen the immune system and fight bacteria. There are also some researches which claim that it can help with weight loss. Not only that but it can also add an amazing taste to your food, especially for desserts!
Use and smoke point
Medium heat baking and frying, very good for no-bake treats too. I prefer to use coconut oil for desserts due to its sweetness, but if this doesn’t bother you, you can use it in any way you like. Extra Virgin coconut oil has a smoke point of 177 °C, refined is higher.
When I say butter, I mean pure butter only, not margarine or any other butter-like spreadables. A lot of people still call products like “Flora buttery” butter! These products are full of refined sunflower oils, preservatives and bad chemicals. Choose the simple, unsalted block of butter (that is made from milk only).
Butter tastes great and is a source of healthy saturated fat and other nutrients. Try to look for butter that is produced from the milk of grass-fed cows, preferably organic.
Use and smoke point
Baking, sautéing and of course spreading on a slice of bread. The smoke point of butter is 177 °C.
Ghee is a clarified form of butter which has the milk solids and water separated from the butterfat. Typically, it is produced by melting butter and allowing the components to separate by density. Studies suggest that it helps reduce cholesterol, fight inflammation and is full of antioxidants. Indian medicine has a number of uses for it, claiming it can be a remedy for many health problems.
Some argue that ghee is not good because it is mainly composed of saturated fats, but that myth has been proved to be incorrect by many studies plus, the health effects of Ghee suggest otherwise. Clarified butter has a very long shelf life as well if stored correctly and it can be consumed by people with lactose intolerance as almost all the lactose has been extracted from it.
Use and smoke point
Ghee has a very high smoking point – 255 °C, making it suitable for any type of cooking.
You can also make your own Ghee butter at home, you can find many methods online.
Sesame oil can add an amazing nutty flavour to your meals. It has a strong aroma, so it can’t really be used as a primary oil in the kitchen, but more as a flavour enhancer (try my colourful quinoa sesame soy dressing salad). This oil is high in Vitamin E and is loaded with powerful antioxidants, it also has a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids that can help control blood pressure. It is very popular in the Chinese and other Eastern cultures but not just in their cuisines, but as a medicine as well. Sesame oil has many uses as a remedy for different health problems such as pain and muscle spasm, anxiety and constipation.
Use and smoke point
Salad dressings and stir-frying. Unrefined sesame oil has a smoke point of 177 °C, while refined has 210 °C, but it is best to choose unrefined only.
There are many other healthy cooking oils that are nutritious and can also have many uses in your kitchen, such as flaxseed oil, hemp oil, avocado oil and other nut oils. Unfortunately they are a bit more expensive and hard to find, but if you are interested, check online and you will be able to find many. Regardless of the source of the oil, always choose unrefined oils that haven’t been produced with the use of any chemicals. This is the difference that makes all of the above truly healthy cooking oils.