When it comes to oils, all of us have heard several health claims, most of which seem to contradict each other. It’s come to a point where judging which oil is the best for cooking, for salads, with bread and, ultimately, for our health has left everyone in confusion.
Let’s take a look at what makes each type of oil healthy, not-so-healthy or just plain avoidable – and why choosing the right type is so important.
A] Healthy Types of Oils
Oils Rich in Omega-3:
These reduce excess inflammation and play several roles relating to our body’s structure and function. It’s important to get plenty of these through our diet.
Flaxseed oil is a very rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids.1 However, it is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids – these are not heat stable, and must not be used for cooking.2
To increase the health benefits of your meal, you can add flaxseed to foods after they are cooked. Also refrigerate flaxseed oil and store it in dark bottles to protect it from light, since light can cause deterioration of oils in the presence of air.
These are oils which have been extracted under 49°C.3
This is important, because the quality of oil deteriorates at high temperatures during methods like pressing and grinding, which produce heat through friction.
In cold-press oil, the flavour and nutritional value is retained better.
Virgin and Extra-virgin Oils:
The term ‘virgin’ refers to the quality of the oil, depending on the production method used. Virgin oils are altered less during production. Extra virgin olive oils are even better, with the least modification. Changes in production methods also affect taste and nutritional value.
For example, virgin olive oil has less vitamin E than regular olive oil, but has squalene and antioxidants (pheophytins and carotene), that also reduce infammation. They also have less Omega-6 than regular olive oil.4, 5
B] Oils for Cooking:
Once oil is heated past its smoking point, it turns unstable and can be unhealthy. This is a list of all the oils that have a high smoking point, along with other health benefits.6-8
Coconut Oil: Smoking point 204°C
Coconut oil has 90% saturated fats (which are heat resistant) and offers several health benefits, particularly for our skin and hair.9
Ghee: Smoking point 252°C
Ghee is composed primarily of saturated fats, making it suitable for cooking. It also offers several health benefits mainly for the heart, immune system and the digestive track.10, 11
Olive Oil: Smoking point 190°C
Many of you may have heard that olive oil is not suitable for cooking. This is a myth! Beyond its suitability for cooking, an antioxidant in olive oil has even been shown to work like ibuprofen, the anti-inflammatory drug.5
Rice Bran Oil: Smoking point 232°C
Because it is made from the outer shell (bran) of the rice grain, rice bran oil contains some nutritional properties of whole grains, such as vitamin E.2
Peanut Oil: Smoking point 232°C
High in antioxidants and has benefits for heart health. Also brings a good flavour to salads!7
C] Oils to Consume in Moderation
These oils go through very harsh processing methods for extraction, which includes bleaching, deodorizing and the highly toxic solvent called hexane.12
These oils are present in all sorts of processed foods, including butter replicates, mayonnaise, cookies and even salad dressings.13
The right oil can make all the difference – now that you know all the nutritional connotations, choose the quality and type based on your health goals!
1. Simopoulos AP. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2008, 233(6): 674-688.
2. Dubois V, et al. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 2007, 109: 710–732.
3. Schiller C, et al. The Aromatherapy Encyclopedia: A Concise Guide to Over 385 Plant Oils. Basic Health, 2008.
4. Kelly GS. Altern Med Rev 1999, 4(1): 29-36.
5. Lucas L, et al. Curr Pharm Des 2011, 17(8): 754-768.
6. Mishra S & Manchanda SC. Journal of Preventive Cardiology 2012 1(3).
7. Morgan DA. Oil & Soap 1942, 19(11): 193-198.
8. Gunstone F. Vegetable Oils in Food Technology: Composition, Properties and Uses. Wiley, 2011.
9. DebMandal M & Mandal S. Asian Pac J Trop Med 2011, 4(3): 241-247.
10. Sharma H, et al. Ayu 2010, 31(2): 134-140.
11. Canani RB, et al. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG 2011, 17(12): 1519-1528.
12. Bockisch M. Fats and Oils Handbook. AOCS Press, 1998.
13. Kala ALA. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 2012, 89(10): 1813-1821.