What may be less obvious is that some very healthy oils aren't good options for cooking with
Olive oil isn’t just for dipping bread into and coconut oil doesn’t need to be reserved only for exotic tropical cooking.
With concerns around the negative effects of having vegetable oils and animal fats, it may be time to consider some healthier alternatives. And oils like avocado, olive, and coconut are coming into their own.
Mainstream cookbooks, celebrity chefs, and a growing number of regular folk are making the switch. Here’s a look at the best options for your health.
Extra Virgin or Virgin Coconut Oil
Extra virgin coconut oil can make you feel like you’re on some exotic getaway all year round. Except you don’t have to travel to make the most of its health benefits!
The oil can help rev up metabolism that’s slow or sluggish. If you’re someone who’s at risk of developing metabolic syndrome or have hypothyroidism, this makes the oil an especially good choice.
Lauric acid, the major fatty acid in the oil is antimicrobial and can kill harmful viruses, fungi and bacteria that make their way into your food. It can even fight oxidative stress in your body especially that sustained as a result of heavy drinking, as some researchers found.
Just remember hydrogenated coconut oil is not healthy due to the high heat and pressure it is subjected to during processing.
The American Heart Association recommends you cut down on saturated fat intake, including in the cooking oils you consume, to cut risk of heart disease and stroke.
Which is why they suggest olive oil among the healthy alternatives you should switch to. Of the most common cooking oils, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has the lowest oxidation rate which means it doesn’t result in the kind of free radical damage that other vegetable oils do.
EVOO can also help cut inflammation in your body due to its Omega 3 fatty acid content. This helps act a shield for your system against inflammatory conditions like hypertension, coronary artery disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
What’s even better is that it also contains a lot of antioxidants. You’ll be able to get a good amount of vitamins A, D, E, and even K, through olive oil. And these can benefit everything from your eyes, hair, and skin, to your blood.
Avocadoes as fruit have come recommended for years by health experts for the heart-healthy fats they contain. What not everyone knows is that its oil contains the goodness of monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid, much like olive oil.
And like olive oil, it cuts inflammatory response in the body lowering risk of metabolic syndrome. Animal studies have found that it positively alters cardiovascular risk profile markers.
It also contains lutein, a caretenoid that can improve eye health and reduce risks of age-related macular degeneration and cataract.
Using them right
Even if you have the healthy oils stocked up, if you use them wrong you could be missing out on the benefits from them.
Be sure to store your oils carefully without exposing them to direct sunlight or bright lights as this can cause them to oxidize, developing free radicals that are potentially harmful. A cold dry place like a cupboard is best, especially if you intend using them slowly over a long period of time.
Sometimes, you may need to swap what oils you use for each kind of cooking. Here’s how:
- Pick oils that have a high smoking point if you need to fry your food. That means EVOO is a bad idea, because it has a very low smoking point but olive oil is fine.
- For roasting, steaming, baking, or using in cold food, EVOO and the other healthy oils work like a charm.
- Avocado oil is also great for sautéing vegetables because of its distinctive flavour that enhances the taste of the meal.
- If you’re grilling or roasting food at a high temperature, avocado oil is better than olive oil because it has a higher smoking point.
- Coconut oil too has a low smoking point is best used for low temperature sautéing or baking.
A common concern is whether or not to reuse oil after you’ve cooked with it once.
This is typical when you use a whole lot of oil for deep frying and think twice about tossing it all out after just one use. Unfortunately, heating the oil to such high temperatures even once destabilizes it, causing it to break down.
The more you reuse it, the worse it gets. One thumb rule to check if oil has decomposed during cooking is to look at colour, consistency, smell, and clarity.
Has it turned darker? Has it become thicker and almost gummy in consistency? Does it have foam on top? Is it cloudy? Does it have an acrid smell? If you answered yes to any of these, it is time to toss it out.
Besides this, if you have heated your oil to over 375°F, it may accumulate HNE ( 4-hydroxy-2-trans-nonenal), a toxic substance that can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, stroke, liver disease, and Parkinson’s.