Oil’s Well!

How to choose oils for cooking? A ready reckoner

5/31/2017 5:37:36 PM
written By : Dr Digamber Naik Print

Every living being on this earth has to eat. Food is essential part of our living. Our lives, life energy and the well-being of our body are directly related to what we eat. We are what we eat. It is therefore imperative that we eat the right type of food, in the right amount, cooked in the right way and eaten at the right time.

Today we do not follow these basic principles of eating. With our fast paced life and business-oriented disposition, we fall victim to a number of wrong eating habits. 

We need all types of foods in right proportions, which we call a balanced diet. Today I would look at 40 per cent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 30 per cent from protein and fats besides having all the minerals and vitamins in the right proportions coming from right sources. Much is talked about the fats, which are an integral part of health as well as taste of food. Hence we use oil in cooking.

But different oils have different compositions, like saturated, Polyunsaturated (PUFA), Monounsaturated (MUFA) fatty acids, besides a number of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which give the oils, the stature of cooking oils – bad or good. As we understand today none of these are absolutely good or bad. We need all types of fatty acids in right proportions.

Besides the quality of oils, the oils change their composition during cooking, which is called the smoking point. Higher the smoking point better is the cooking oil. One of the factors that we know at this stage is not to cook at higher temperature. Remember our grandmothers cooking at a low temperature or low flame.

Also, since cooking oils come for plants, animals or synthetic fats, each has different constituents, and different smoking points. Trans fats are not essential for us and are bad for our health. They increase the chances of early heart attack or strokes as well as other degenerative disease by accelerating the process of atherosclerosis. We must eat zero amounts of trans fats and heating oil creates trans fats depending upon their constituents and smoking point.

Heating oil changes its characteristics. Oils that are healthy at room temperature become unhealthy after heating depending upon their smoking points. There is a general belief that saturated oils cause heart attack and unsaturated oils are good for health. But when you heat oil for cooking it is just opposite. So it is imperative that we use no oil or minimum oils for cooking. Oils are best consumed without heating like adding olive oil to the salads. The following oils have higher smoke points (above 230-446 F): Avocado oil, mustard oil, palm oil, groundnut oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil. The basic cooking temperature while pan-frying is 2480F, deep frying is 320 – 3560F, oven baking average 3560F.

Hydrolysis and oxidation are two primary degradation processes that occur during cooking. Oxidative stability is how resistant the oil is to reacting with oxygen, breaking down and potentially producing harmful compounds while being heated. The following oils have a higher oxidative stability - almond, avocado, canola, coconut, olive (extra virgin), palm and sesame oils.

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