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Advice on Edible Oil


I want to cook healthy food but I am not sure how to pick the right oil. There are various brands and varieties and all promise to be good for one’s heart. How do I differentiate between which oil is good and which is bad? Please provide a solution.

Cooking oil is used in almost all dishes so it is highly important that you know which one is good for you. There are a few oil basics which will help you select the right oil. Firstly, oils have fatty acids like saturated (SFA), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an ideal oil is one which has SFA:MUFA:PUFA ratio of 27-33%:33-40%:27-33%. Make sure you check the label to ensure that the oil has low saturated fats (less than 2g for every 10g), zero transfats and higher amounts of MUFA and PUFA. This will be better-suited for your heart’s health. (Read: 10 secrets to great heart health) Also, every oil has a smoke point which determines the temperature beyond which the oil starts to produce harmful chemicals. Oils with high smoke points can withstand high temperatures and are suitable for deep frying, stir frying, searing, etc. On the other hand, oils with a low smoke point are good for sautéing, steaming, as a salad dressing. Examples of oil with high smoke point are – sunflower, soybean, rice bran, peanut, sesame, mustard, and safflower. Olive oil comes in various varieties like virgin, extra virgin, but has a medium to low smoke point. It is better to use it as a salad dressing or for sautéing instead of frying. A healthy way to incorporate oil in your food is by using oil blends which will provide all essential fatty acids. Vegetable oil is a mix of various oils like soybean, safflower, etc. Blends like rice bran and olive oil are also good. If you do not find ready-made oil blends, you can use two oils separately or rotate your oil every two months. Remember, it is not the oil which adds taste to your food, it is the spices and other ingredients. So don’t add too much of it.

Healthy Cooking Oils

All fats are not bad. In fact, replacement of bad fats, like saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, actually helps protect our hearts. But a little fat or oil goes a long way! Here’s a list of cooking oils that contain the best ratio of the “better-for-you” fats.
 
Groundnut Oil/Peanut oil is made from shelled peanuts and is popular in Asian dishes as well as Southern cooking.
 
Flavor – Nutty yet mild
Smoke point: 450 degrees F
Uses – Stir-frying, roasting, deep frying, baking
Quick tip – If you have a blender, make homemade peanut butter! Blend 1 cup shelled peanuts and 2 tablespoons peanut oil.
 

Groundnut oil or peanut oil is got a good combination of fats, and has the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and is low in bad saturated fats. It's a good all-purpose oil for cooking and I think it works particularly well for Asian foods that are prepared in the wok.
 

Mustard Oil
 

Has a near ideal fat composition but not very good as it contains high amounts of  erucic acid ranging from 35 to 48%. It is recommended that you don't use mustard oil as the sole cooking medium. It has a high smoking point so it's very good for deep frying.Has a near ideal fat composition but not very good as it contains high amounts of  erucic acid ranging from 35 to 48%. It is recommended that you don't use mustard oil as the sole cooking medium. It has a high smoking point so it's very good for deep frying.

 

Sunflower oil
 

The oil extracted from the seeds of sunflowers is known as sunflower oil. It has a high quantity of vitamin E, which makes it excellent for being used in and cosmetic products. Sunflower oil is a mixture of monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids. It has a high smoking point, which means that sunflower oil holds onto its nutritional content at higher temperatures, which is probably why this oil is widely used in deep rying chips, samosas and vegetables.

People with diabetes may need to be careful about sunflower oil as it may lead to the possibility of increasing sugar levels.

 
Canola oil was first introduced in the 1970s for home cooking and is made from seeds of the canola plant. It’s a great oil to have in your pantry because it is very versatile.
 
Flavor – Plain and mild
Smoke point* - 400 degrees F
Uses – Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating
Quick tip: Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil with ¼ cup popcorn kernels in a pot for stovetop popcorn!
 
A recent entrant into the Indian market, Canola is flying off the shelves. Canola oil, which is made from the crushed seeds of the canola plant, is said to be amongst the healthiest of cooking oils. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil. It's seen as a healthy alternative as its rich in monounsaturated fats and is high in Omega 3 and Omega ^ fats. It has a medium smoking point and is an oil that works well for fries, baking, sautéing etc. I use it liberally in Indian food, which it seems to embrace quite well.
 

Olive oil is a heart healthy staple of the Mediterranean diet and is made from ripe olives. “Extra virgin” is made from the first pressing of olives. “Light” olive oil is lighter in flavor and color but has the same amount of calories as extra-virgin.
 
Flavor – Extra virgin olive oil: fruity, tangy, bold. Light olive oil: mild
Smoke point: Extra virgin: 400 degrees F. Light: 450 degree F
Uses – Grilling, sautéing, roasting, spreads for breads, base for Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes
Quick tip – Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top of soups, toasted bread, rice and pasta dishes for a rich flavor.
 
If you use Olive oil regularly, you are consuming monounsaturated fats that will help you lower your risk of heart disease and breast cancer, and that's possibly because of its high monounsaturated fat content, which lowers cholesterol. I find olive oil brilliant for any Mediterranean dish, brilliant with pastas and risottos, and it's my top pick for breakfasts, works like a dream with eggs, pancakes, you name it.
 
 
 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 

This oil is a hot favorite, it's derived from the first pressing of olives and if full of antioxidants as well as polyphenyls, that are both considered good for heart health. It's a darker color and has less acidity than olive oil. I use it largely in salads, cold dishes and over pastas.

 

Rice Bran Oil

A fairly new kid on the block and a fast rising favourite amongst the manufacturers, rice bran oil is made from the outer layer (bran) of the grain of rice. Health experts claim that it's the healthiest oil on the planet. While I cannot vouch for that, I do know that while trying it out on my food show series, called Guilt Free, the taste was did not clash with Indian food and it worked pretty well in cookies and cakes.

Apparently, rice bran oil has a chemical called oryzanol which is good for your cholesterol.    It is high in monounsaturated fats and has a fair amount of polyunsaturated fats too, both the good type of fats. Since it has a high smoking point, it works well for deep frying chips and all.
 


Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds and is a staple in Chinese, Korean and Indian cooking.
 
Flavor –Light sesame oil: nutty. Dark sesame oil: bold and heavy
Smoke point: Light: 450 degrees F. Dark: 350 degrees F
Uses: Stir-frying (light only), Dressings/sauces (dark)
Quick tip – Whisk together dark sesame oil, rice vinegar and scallions; toss with cooked brown rice and shrimp.
 
Sesame oil comes in two colors. The lighter one is used in India and the Middle East, and is pressed from untoasted seeds. It has a mild flavour and a high smoking point. The darker variety has a distinct nutty aroma and taste and works very well in Asian food as a marinade or in stir fries.

 
Both types of oils are high in polyunsaturated fat but they should never be heated for too long. Sesame oil also contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron and vitamin B6. 

 
Vegetable oil is usually made from a combination of corn, soybeans and/or sunflower seeds and is another great oil to have on hand because it can be used for many different cooking techniques.
 
Flavor – Plain and mild
             Smoke point: 450 degrees F
             Uses: Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating
Quick tip – If you have a cast-iron skillet, wipe it down with a thin layer of vegetable oil to help seal its non-stick surface and prevent rusting.
 
 
Avocado Oil

It has a mildly nutty,  is very rich in monounsaturated fats and is a good way to get Vitamin E in our diets. It glides on very well in a dressing, in mayonnaise, vinaigrettes and I find it adds tremendous panache to a simple grilled fish. The only downside is the price as well as availablity in India. It's one of those oils that can be kept as an add-on oil. Just remember to store it right, as it can spoil easily.
 
 
Coconut Oil

This oil is full of saturated fat. Studies suggest that diets high in coconut oil do raise total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Coconut oil also seems to raise HDL (good) cholesterol and it has the advantage that it behaves very well at high temperatures.
 
 
*Smoke point is the temperature at which oil breaks down, starts to smoke and can have a foul odor or taste. Oils have different smoke points and some are more suited to cooking over high heat than others.
 
 
Choosing Healthier Oils

As we now know, fats are not always bad things. Just as there are bad fats that contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other maladies, there are good fats that fight those things by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (good cholesterol), reducing inflammation, and providing cancer-preventive antioxidants. Most pantries and cupboards contain some of each, primarily in bottles of cooking oil. Although knowing this distinction is one thing, deciding which cooking oils to toss and which ones to buy isn't so black and white. What oils are best for sauteing, frying, or baking? Which ones should be used exclusively for salad dressings? For help, view our guide to choosing healthier oils.

 

Toss the Bad Fats


We've come a long way since home cooks kept a canister for collecting bacon grease atop the stove, to be used for frying everything from chicken to potatoes. Still, there are some oils that have no place in your cupboard -- or your arteries.

Blended Vegetable Oils
Most commercial vegetable oils are a mixture of unidentified oils that have been extracted with chemicals.

 

Old Oils
Most oils have a limited shelf life, certainly no more than a year. Smell your oils. If they don't smell fresh, out they go. Rancid oils are hardly healthy.

Vegetable Shortenings
Usually made with partially hydrogenated oils, shortenings are high in trans fats, which are considered the unhealthiest of all fats.

Chemically Extracted Oils
Although these are not proven to be dangerous, there are more natural methods of extraction, like cold pressing.

Oils High In Polyunsaturates
These include corn oil and soybean oil, among others. Polyunsaturates are not inherently unhealthy, but they do contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans already get too much of. Although we need them in our diets, we should be getting fewer omega-6s and more omega-3s.The current thinking among nutritionists is that other choices may be better.

Bring Home the Good Fats

The best fats are those high in heart-healthy monounsaturates and other important nutrients such as oleic acids and omega-3 fatty acids. But you can't use the healthiest oils for every purpose. Choosing the right healthy oil often depends on its smoke point, the stage at which heated fat begins to emit smoke and acrid, flavor-altering odors. Generally speaking, the higher an oil's smoke point, the better it is for high-heat cooking. Here are the best oils for different purposes.

 

For Splurging
There is no end to the kinds of artisan nut, fruit, seed, and infused-flavored oils that are sold in gourmet shops and online. Because of their costs and distinct flavors, use these designer oils sparingly, and keep them in the refrigerator. Especially high in healthy monounsaturated fats are macadamia, hazelnut, hemp, and almond oil -- the latter can even be used for high-heat cooking. Although walnut oil and flaxseed oil are both high in polyunsaturates, they have a beneficial additive: They contain omega-3s, the same healthful fatty acids that are found in fish oils.

 Banish Phantom Fats

Unhealthy fats also lurk in crackers, gravy mixes, cake and pancake mixes, and other packaged foods. Such foods usually contain other unhealthy ingredients like artificial colors, refined sugars, MSG, and excess sodium.

Toss Anything That Contains The Following
Partially hydrogenated oil:A source of trans fats, the unhealthiest of all. Most trans fats in the American diet are found in commercially prepared baked goods, margarine, snack foods, and processed foods.

Conventionally processed oilMany prepared foods contain vegetable, corn, peanut, or soybean oil. Conventional extraction of these oils often involves the petrochemical hexane, which is also used as a cleaning agent and as a solvent. Instead, choose products made with cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, or naturally pressed oils.

Oil Terms
Monounsaturated Fats
Go for it. These fats are rich in antioxidants like vitamin E and, unlike other fats, can actually help increase HDL levels and decrease LDL levels (which is a good thing), while also reducing inflammation.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Proceed with caution. These come from plants and have been generally seen as a healthy alternative to animal fats. Although they, too, can improve your HDL-to-LDL ratio, they are also high in omega-6s, which need to be balanced with omega-3s.

Saturated Fats
Avoid. Although saturated fats like butter and lard add flavor and work well for cooking, they clog your arteries, boosting the risk of heart disease and stroke. Some studies indicate they may even raise the risk of colon and prostate cancers. These fats come from animals, including seafood, though high levels are also found in coconut, palm, and palm-kernel oil. Saturated fats do tend to boost both good HDL and bad LDL levels, but studies show the overall effect is a negative one.

Trans Fats
No way. Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, changing it from a liquid into a more solid form, such as margarine. Trans fats lower HDL levels and raise LDL; they're considered even worse for heart health than saturated fat.

Expeller-Pressed
A good thing. A chemical-free mechanical process that extracts oil from nuts and seeds.

Cold-Pressed
A very good thing. These are oils that are expeller-pressed in a heat-controlled environment to preserve their flavor, aroma, and nutrients.

Refined Oils
It all depends. These are oils that have been filtered until they are transparent, making them good for high-heat cooking. Look for naturally refined brands.

Unrefined Oils
A yes vote. These oils contain solids that make them cloudy but give them more flavor. They are not suitable for high-heat cooking.

How To Store Oils
Healthy salad and cooking oils should be stored in cool, dark places. Most oils have a limited shelf life. Check your oil's production date, and keep it for no longer than 12 months. If kept too long, oils lose their flavor and can become rancid. The best way to prevent that from happening is to store oils in the refrigerator. Most will solidify, but don't worry. Just leave them at room temperature for a short period and they'll reliquefy. If you prefer to keep your oils in the pantry, buy them in small quantities so you'll be replacing them more frequently.