Are you confused with the huge range and variety of oils in the market and which to use or avoid? This article discusses the key factors – smoke point, fat composition and flavour – based on which we need to use oils as cooking medium – and how to use them to our healthiest advantage.

 

Choosing Oils

Choice of oil can be based on the smoke point, fat composition and flavour.

 

1. Smoke point

This is the temperature at which oil starts breaking down into glycerol and free fatty acids – and leads to degradation of flavour & nutrition, releases harmful toxins and converts to harmful trans-fats.

Health Tips relating to smoke point:

  •  DON’T use a mix of oils
  •  AVOID salt/ spices/ batter etc in the oil (remove old batter before frying further).
  •  LIMIT the number of times oil is re-used, especially if deep frying was involved.
  •  LIMIT time that the oil is continuously heated

2. Fat Composition

This means telling you about the good and bad guys of the Oil world:

  •  Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) –These lower total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL) , while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) .
  •  Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) – These lower total cholesterol and LDL, and don't affect the HDL.
  • Saturated fats – These raise total cholesterol as well as LDL.
  • Trans fats – These are made by hydrogenating liquid oils so that they have a better shelf life and withstand processing better. They are dangerous because they not only increase LDL, but also decrease HDL, causing maximum damage to health.

If the Food label says “partially hydrogenated”, try to avoid that oil.

Ideally, you should use oils that have the MUFA and some PUFA, and avoid oils with saturated fats and trans fats.

3. Flavour

The flavour of the oil has to compliment the dish and not become overbearing. Any type of refined oil is processed to have no/ little aroma or taste. So these are commonly used when we want to highlight the taste of some ingredients. Some unrefined, unprocessed oils like Olive, flaxseed or peanut oil impart a strong flavour – so are used in salads, pastas and other otherwise bland dishes.

To summarise, here’s a tabled comparison to help you decide which oil to use, and how:

Cooking Activity Oil to be used
Baking Almond, Butter, Canola, Corn, Margarine, soyabean, virgin coconut, Safflower, Sunflower
Deep Frying Canola, Rice Bran, Ghee, Corn, Mustard, Pomace Olive, Sunflower, Safflower, Peanut
Stir frying Groundnut, Sesame, Refined Olive
Tadka/ tempering/ Sautéing Pomace olive, mustard, ghee(clarified butter), peanut, soyabean, Sunflower, Safflower
Salad dressing/ dips Extra Virgin Olive, safflower, sunflower, corn, canola, mustard (for tangy dressings), flax seed, sesame, groundnut

 

Hope this gives you an insight on the qualities you need to check out in the oils you use, and helps you evaluate which oils you need based on how you need to use them.