Oils, oils, oils. When it comes to cooking oils, there are oh so many to choose from. Yes, we all know and love olive oil, but it’s definitely not the only one you should be using. Different oils have different qualities that make them better for different uses. Some are best for baking, some are best for frying, and some are best in salad dressings. But which is best for which?
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 frying 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.
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.
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 work.
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.
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. 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.
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 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 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.
Grapeseed oil is pressed from grape seeds left over from wine making. It is believed to have very little saturated fat, is filled with good fat, has a very mild taste. It is considered good for cooking and frying, but am afraid I have had little experience with it.