When it comes to cooking, people want to use healthy ingredients. Cooking oils are used in many dishes and when the right ones are used, they add to the nutritional value of the meal being prepared.
The majority of cooking oils are derived from plants, and more specifically the nuts and seeds produced by plants. There is a wide variety of cooking oils available to consumers; each has different qualities making it more or less suitable for healthy cooking. While there are many oils used for cooking, some are ideal for cooking a stir fry, others are best-suited for baking and another may be the right choice for deep frying. Nutritionists have identified which oils are the most healthy and which can have undesirable effects if consumed in large quantities.
Cooking oils vary in price; this disparity is primarily due to the ingredients, whether the oil is organic and whether it is refined or not. Low price cooking oils are cheap for a reason, most likely they are made from high-yield plants sprayed with pesticides, then refined by being mechanically pressed or by using chemical extraction. These types of cooking oils are great for manufacturers because they are cheap to make and have a long shelf life. They are not good for the consumer, who will be ingesting the oil with a low nutrient content due to the damage caused while being refined, and it may contain harmful chemicals because of pesticides. Look for cooking oils that have labels stating they are organic and not subject to high temperatures while being refined.
Best Cooking Oils
Two of the best oils to cook with are canola and olive oil. Canola oil is a great all-round cooking oil. It is low in saturated fat, high in omega 6 fatty acids and is most suited for frying because of its high heat tolerance. Olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, is one of the healthiest oils available to cook with, because it does not need to be refined and therefore keeps all its natural nutrients. It is high in monounsaturated fats which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Olive oil is best-suited for use with salads and other cold ingredients, but can also be used in light heat cooking.
Worst Cooking Oils
Palm oil and palm kernel oil are derived from the same plant but from different parts. These are not good oils to cook with because both are high in saturated fat which can raise cholesterol. Coconut oil contains the highest amount of saturated fat of widely used cooking oils, making it the unhealthiest cooking oil to use in food. However, the main benefit of these cooking oils is that they are well-suited for use at high temperatures because they remain stable and don’t lose their nutrients. Cheap vegetable oil should be avoided because of the high chance of it containing pesticide chemicals and because it is likely to be devoid of useful nutrients.
References and ResourcesCare 2: Best and Worst Cooking Oils
ResourcesFat Free Kitchen: Cooking Oil
Ask Dr Sears: All About Oils