With the latest trends for detox diets and picture-perfect juices or meals popping on our Instagram feeds daily, you probably have wondered what cooking oils you should be using for healthy eating. Let me help you with this – all you need to do is learn the basics and choose what works best for your lifestyle and personal preference.
Healthy cooking oils
I’ve put together a list of my top 5 favourite cooking oils which are always worth having in the kitchen.
Rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil, is produced from a bright-yellow flower, consumed in China and Southern Africa as a vegetable. Many people add this cooking oil to their diet as it is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids.
Back in the day rapeseed oil was used for industrial purposes only, as it was cheap to produce, but used to contain two substances: erucic acid and glucosinolates. Canadian scientists turned it into edible oil by selective breeding techniques to create seeds which contain less of the harmful ingredients. The newly developed plant was renamed “canola” – a combination of “Canadian” and “Oil” (or ola) to make this difference apparent. By definition, if a seed is labeled “canola” it has to have less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates and less than 2% of erucic acid.
Canola oil is great for cooking at high heat and has a light neutral flavour, which makes it ideal for things like stir-frying, baking, and deep-frying.
Made from olives, a traditional tree from the Mediterranean region, this oil is commonly used by most people aiming at healthy dieting. Between 70-85% of its fat is in the form of oleic acid – a monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acid.
There are many types of olive oil you can choose from, depending on your budget. Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is the highest grade which contains very low calories and is high in vitamin E. You can use it for cooking or enjoy its flavour over your fresh salad.
You can also opt for olive pomace oil as a more budget-friendly version for when you’re frying. Once the mechanical oil extraction of olive oil is complete, approximately 5-8% of the oil remains in the pulp, which then can be extracted.
Depending on the temperature you’re storing it at, coconut oil sometimes may look more like butter. Although it is very high in saturated fats, it actually is good for you, because it contains natural fats. Saturated fats not only increase the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body, but also help to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. By Increasing the HDL’s in the body, it helps promote heart health, and lower the risk of heart disease.
Coconut oil adds a very pleasant flavour to food and I prefer it for cooking deserts or certain sweet and sour meals. Its smoke point of about 171 °C means it is not suitable for high temperature cooking, but is best for the mid-temperature range.
Safflower is a highly branched thistle-like annual plant with yellow, orange, or red flowers. It’s one of humanity’s oldest crops with evidence of being used for textile dyes during the 12th dynasty in Ancient Egypt.
Some of the health benefits of safflower oil include its ability to lower cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar, promote weight loss, improve hair health, boost skin health, reduce the symptoms of PMS, control muscle contractions, and improve the immune system.
Safflower oil has a higher smoke point than corn oil, canola oil, olive oil, sesame oil, and many other alternatives. Rich of vitamin E and non-saturated fats, it also has a mild neutral flavour, making it an ideal choice for many recipes.
Besides being used as a cooking oil in South India, sesame oil is often used as a flavour enhancer in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisine. Sesame seeds are not only praised for their nutritional content in seed form, but are also highly valued for their rancid-resistant oil rich nutrients.
Just some of the health benefits of using sesame oil include promoting beautiful skin, providing protein to a vegetarian diet, reducing blood pressure, preventing cancer, boosting bone health, etc.
Light sesame oil has a high smoke point and is suitable for deep-frying, while dark sesame oil (from roasted sesame seeds) has a slightly lower smoke point and is unsuitable for deep-frying. Instead it can be used for the stir frying of meats or vegetables, sautéing, or for the making of an omelette.
I hope you find this list of cooking oils helpful and now you know how to cook with each of these oils.