We now know that ‘fat’ is no longer a dirty word. It is important as an energy booster as well as to keep our organs warm and protected. Oil is one of the ways we get these healthy fats. However, not all oils are created equal, especially when they’re subjected to high cooking temperatures. Some oils easily oxidize at high heat giving out harmful compounds that are often carcinogenic. The proportion of saturated fats in an oil is an important indicator of how healthy it is. Saturated fats have a single bond while monounsaturated fats MUFA have a single double bond. Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds. These double bonds are reactive to heat and cause the smoking you might see at high temperatures. Oils high in PUFA are best not used for cooking at high temperatures. Here are the five best oils you should be using in your cooking.
1. Canola Oil
This oil is got from rapeseeds grown mostly on the Canadian prairies, hence the “can” in canola. Canola oil is quite light with a neutral flavor and is resistant to heat, making it the best oil to use when you need to saute or fry. It is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been found to improve heart health. One thing to watch out for when buying canola oil is whether it has been produced from Genetically Modified Plants, usually labelled (GMO). Look out for organic on the label as it’s the safest variety to use.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is known for its heart healthy benefits and is partly why Mediterranean diets are considered healthy. While extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, it has a low smoking point and so is best used as a salad dressing. Use regular olive oil if you need to deep fry or bake as it has a higher smoking point and a more neutral flavor. Most of the antioxidants in it are lost at high heat, but it can still help accelerate your metabolism and help you lose weight. Don’t bother using expensive extra virgin olive oil for cooking because heat can render it useless.
3. Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil has the richest source of Omega-3 fats especially alpha-linolenic acid which constitutes 57% of the fatty acids in this oil. Omega-3 is important for reducing inflammation and is thought to reduce the risk of cancer. Omega-3 can also strengthen your neural pathways and give you healthier hair and skin.. This oil should not be exposed to heated and is best used in foods that don’t need cooking like salad dressings.
4. Avocado Oil
This culinary oil is the most stable under high temperatures, being able to withstand up to 520 degrees F. It has a lovely buttery flavor and is also very versatile. Avocado oil goes well with most foods whether you are deep frying, using it in a stir fry or making a salad dressing with it. Your heart is going to love it as well because its high MUFA content helps improve cholesterol levels. It also has an antioxidant called lutein which is great for your eyes and vitamin E that is is important for healthy skin. However, these benefits do come with a heavy price tag.
5. Coconut Oil
This oil is is made up of 90% saturated fatty acids and is the most resistant to heat. It is the best choice for when you need to do any deep frying. Coconut oil also has a number of health benefits. It has been found to improve cholesterol levels and also kills pathogens in your system. This is also the only oil that can give you a feeling of satiety while also boosting your metabolism. Virgin coconut oil might give your fried chicken a stronger taste than you’re used to, but you can use refined coconut oil instead which has a milder flavor.