Everyone uses cooking oil in their kitchen: for frying, baking, dressing salads and for other purposes. Some oils have a beautiful taste and smell for cold dishes, whereas others have suitable qualities for frying.
When shopping for oils, as for anything else, make sure to read labels carefully. To get the most nutritional oil, it is better if on package is written, something like: cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, organic, or mechanically refined.
Let us look below on different points, which rise up, when thinking about which oil suits you.
Hydrogenation is the process, when the essential fatty acids have been converted chemically to a different form, causing oil to change it's chemical structure. Changed chemical structure may cause an effect on human health and energy levels, which should not have place in the modern human diet. As a result of this procedure, oil becomes more shelf stable, not quickly rancid and gets a higher melting point. For those reasons, hydrogenated oil is used in frying and pastries often. If you see on the label, "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil that means it also contains trans fats.
Types of fat
First of all, it is important to understand that there are different types of fats: saturated and unsaturated, which includes polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, stable and tolerate high temperature. There is a lot controversy about saturated fats: old researches show that it is not a healthy one, but more modern ones, say that actually it is good for health, because it serves as an important source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Late studies show less and less correlation of saturated fatty acids with cardiovascular diseases. "What is apparent from the review of recent evidence is the need to re-evaluate hypotheses that implicate all SFA in the development of CVD. The emphasis of future dietary guidelines should continue to move away from nutrient-specific guidelines and consider the impact of individual foods and food groups on CVD risk." (O’Keeffe & St-Onge) Heart disease is surely not the result of a singular component, but a combination of different factors.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and generally the least stable for cooking. “Polyunsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health when consumed in moderation. Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease. They also include essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself – such as omega-6 and omega-3. You must get essential fats through food.” (Heart.org)
Monounsaturated fats also are liquid at room temperature and generally are more stable than polyunsaturated. They're found in canola, nuts and olives. “Monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health when eaten in moderation." "Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.” (Heart.org)
Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat and is considered as the worst fat, because it is believed to raise your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lower your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. It is usually found in partly hydrogenated oils. Trans fats occur during the processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food production.
For frying it is better to use oil with high smoking point. Otherwise, oil will start to smoke in the pan, which means that the oil has been damaged and potentially cancer-causing properties have formed.
Check out the table below (source: theconsciouslife.com), which shows oils statistics in terms of melting point and content.
Legend for the table:
SFA: Saturated fatty acids
MUFA: Monounsaturated fatty acids
PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Ω-3: Omega-3 fatty acids
Ω-6: Omega-6 fatty acids
Ω-9: Omega-9 fatty acids
Smoke Point: The temperature at which a cooking oil starts to burn and produce chemicals that are potentially harmful.
Omega-3 vs. Omega-6
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids contain essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are important for good health. Our body does not produce these fats, which means we have to intake them with food.The important point in taking omega-3 and omega-6 fats is to keep them in balance.
Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that differ from each other in their chemical structure. Since omega-6 fatty acids are more inflammatory than those of omega−3, a diet that contains excessive amounts of omega-6 but low in omega-3 fatty acids (hence a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio) may cause more pro-inflammatory compounds being produced in the body.
In contrary, sources of omega-6 fatty acids are numerous in modern diets. They are found in seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers. Nowadays, with the popularity of fast food, there is an overconsumption of omega-6.
Our modern diet tends to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids while being loaded with excessive omega-6 fats due to the prevalent use of PUFA-rich vegetable oils. Omega-3 ratio is sourced mainly from the cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish
Our body needs fats and one of the reasons are hormones. Body constructs hormones also from omega 6 fatty acids, but hormones derived from the two classes of essential fatty acids have opposite effects. Omega-6 fatty acids may increase inflammation, blood clotting, and cell proliferation. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids decrease those risks. Both families of hormones must be in balance to maintain optimum health.
This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body. The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may also contribute to obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence.
As research suggests, “a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.” (A.P Simopoulos)
Pressed vs. chemically extracted
Some oils are extracted using toxic chemical solvents such as hexane to pull out more oil from the crops. As with any chemical, traces of chemical residue are left in the oil, therefore, it is preferred to not consume that type of oil. It is better to check on the package, if the oil contains hexane.
Some oils are labelled as ‘cold-pressed’, which means it was extracted mechanically with lower yields and as a result higher cost. But they have more of nutritional value.
This is one more point to pay attention on and it is how oil is extracted and processed. Check for no hexane label.
There are certain oils, which are mainly produced from genetically modified crops. For example, soy, corn, canola and cotton are the most common genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and it is better to avoid them.
Check for such labels as Non-GMO Project on the package.
The difference between organic oil and conventional oil is in the farming and processing practices employed. Conventional oil may contain additives or pesticides. It is better to stick to organic version, because in that case you may be sure that it is pure and there are no pesticides. It is also important to check where the oil comes from, so the source would be sustainable.
As with any product, oil has its’ preferable time of consumption. It should not be rancid or have a weird smell. Check for date of harvest and best before date.
Here is the quick checklist how to store your oil:
- Keep it in the dark;
- Keep oil cool (some oils are even better-off in the fridge or basement);
- Keep track of time;
- Keep lid tight;
Use the oil, which would suit your cooking method. If you are planning to fry, bake or use any other method, involving high temperatures, it is better to use the oil with a high melting point.
Important rule is that oil with low smoke point should not be used for high temperature cooking. It is better to be used in salads, for instance.
Why Red Palm Oil should be considered?
Red Palm Oil is a rich source of healthy elements. It is highly nutritional. There are studies, which preliminary give an evidence that carotenes and tocotrienols may help to reduce LDL cholesterol, protect against heart attacks and even fight some types of cancers.
Red Palm Oil has a high melting point, which makes it suitable for high temperatures. Therefore, it goes well for frying and baking. Furthermore, it is good in salad dressings as well, since it contains a lot of vitamins in unrefined state. (Vitamins in Red Palm Oil )
Prefer organic version of red palm oil, since it contains high amount of nutrients, does not contain pesticides or other chemicals.
There is a lot of negativity around palm oil, since it may be harvested in a not responsible way, by harming species. Therefore, if you go for palm oil, always choose oil, harvested from sustainable source. Check where it comes from: Asia, Africa or South America.
American Heart Association. 2013. (online) Available at: heart.org
Defilippis, A. and Sperling, L. 2006. Understanding omega-3’s. American Heart Journal, 151 (3), pp. 564-570.
O'keeffe, M. and St-Onge, M. 2013. Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of Current Evidence. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep, 7 pp. 154-162.
Simopoulos, A. 2002. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother, (56), pp. 365-379.
The Conscious Life. 2011. The Conscious Life. (online) Available at: theconsciouslife.com