Guide to Cooking Oils
By Lauren Howland, Planet Green
What’s the healthiest oil to cook with?
Almost everyone uses oil in some sort of meal. Although there are a variety of types to choose from, depending on the food and flavor of your dish, most oils can come with an additional fatty side and are not necessarily healthy for your body. Also, due to each oil having a different smoking temperature, to reap the benefits some oils are best used in salads. Below are a list of popular oils and the ones you should stay away from.
Canola oil: This oil is made from the seeds of genetically modified rapeseed. Initially designed for routine use of herbicides during production, Canola generally won’t be labeled organic. The high level of monounsaturated fats found in its base helps to reduce “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and instead increase “healthy” HDL cholesterol.
Olive oil: By mechanically pressing olives this oil is produced in large quantities. Like Canola oil, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (the highest out of all oils). It offers great protection against heart disease by raising HDL cholesterol. Olive oil also works as premeditate care for treating gallstone formation. It activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones, sometimes better than prescribed drugs. NOTE: olive oil should not be used for cooking because it has a low smoking temperature, which means it can alter the flavor of the food.
Virgin olive oil: This oil is extremely similar to regular olive oil except that it is produced (usually) with no chemical processing. With it comes powerful anti-oxidants called polyphenols. The naturally occurring antioxidants soak up free radicals before they can oxidize, which prevents the damaging effect of LDL cholesterol to arteries.
Corn oil: Made from mechanically pressed corn stalks, corn oil is one of the cheapest oils to purchase, and one of the worst for your body and for the environment. Corn oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which increase the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
Safflower oil: This oil is relatively neutral in flavor and has a high smoke point, which makes it a good oil for sautéing.
Peanut oil: Unfortunately many brands are chemically processed, but if you are interested, expeller-pressed brands can be found at specialty stores and online. The high smoke point makes it great for frying and the nutty taste leaves a delicate flavor in many dishes. Peanut oil is also high in monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
Sesame oil: This oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E. Although it is used primarily for cooking it can also be used for skin and hair care. Sesame oil also contains two powerful antioxidants, sesamol and sesamin.
Avocado oil: This light-tasting oil can be used at high temperatures and has a high amount of unsaturated fats. If you haven’t tried cooking with it yet, then allow yourself the pleasure.
Grapeseed oil: It’s high in mono- and polyunsaturates, but can be used as a substitute for olive oil.
Sunflower oil: This mild-flavored oil is high in vitamin E. It has a lower heat temperature so it should not be used for sautéing.
Ghee: This Indian staple is used in many dishes and makes a great alternative to other oils. The clarified butter is a wonderful source of beta-carotene and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Coconut oil: people tend to rave over the benefits of Coconut oil and it’s for good reason. By stimulating the thyroid gland, the oil helps to lower cholesterol, making it essential for preventing disease and slowing the way our bodies age. For the same reason, studies show that coconut oil can help with weight loss as well. Coconut oil also contains approximately 40 percent lauric acid—the same acid found in breast milk. The human body takes this acid and converts it into a substance that fights bacterial and viral infections in infants and also can help strengthen the immune system in adults. Not to mention it also makes a great conditioner for your hair!
Whats your favorite oil to cook with? Have any good recipes? Leave them in our comments section.