Which Oil is Best for Cooking
This article is on Neetu’s query. She wants to know what oil is healthy to use for daily cooking. When I read her query, I thought to myself that this time, I will go out to the stores, check out all the varieties of oils available, talk with the manufacturers and then do some research on them.
As planned, I went to a big retail store. As I stood in front of the aisle that had zillions of oils placed temptingly over it, my head started spinning. They were tempting because of the ‘healthy’ options available. One of the bottle of coconut oil declared that it has “pure” but “odorless”coconut oil. Bahhhhh!! I thought to myself, if I had to use coconut oil then why not I use the pure one with its odor. After all it will be better than the version which has been chemically treated to remove its ‘odor’
So I decided that instead of visiting the stores, I will talk with people from different regions and find out what kind of oils they have been using traditionally (not recently).
This is what I found out..
In Kerala, it’s coconut oil, in Andhra and Rajasthan, it’s sesame oil, in the east and north they use mustard oil and in central India and Gujarat groundnut oil is used. In Italy and Mexico Olive oil. In China peanut oil. In America there are many different oils depending on the regions. So basically, different cultures eat differently and the type of oil fits beautifully into the food landscape of that region. Desi ghee or clarified butter is one oil 2that is global. This is the only truth/reality about best oil for cooking. Still there is a lot of confusion.
I will tell you how some oils become famous and create confusion…
Someone in America will get an heart attack from excessive smoking but doctors will tell his family that since he ate food cooked in Peanut Oil which has fatty acids like MUFA, PUFA.. etc etc which chocked his arteries and caused him heart attack. This will become a national news. Some big market player will see an opportunity in this and will come up with some modern oil (canola. soya bean, rice bran) and will make their look like a savior. And then that oil will become a trend world over..
The story does not end here. After they will infest this fad, world over. After they will make people world over ditch their peanut oil, coconut oil, mustard oil, desi ghee etc. Then they will come back to a realization that actually the peanut oil which they thought caused heart attacks actually has anti fungal. antiviral etc etc properties. Confusion confusion!!
In the past, a lot of oils have became famous as well as infamous following similar stories. Now my turn to tell you some very simple stories.
Thing is that we can extract oil from any plant or seed or nut. And as every other nut, seed or plant gives us different nutrients so does the oil extracted from them give us different nutrients. So just as we do not stick to one kind of nuts, seeds etc throughout our life. Likewise, we should not stick to one oil throughout our life i.e we should constantly rotate oils.
What determines the oil is good or bad are these things
1. Different oils are extracted either at high temperatures or at relatively very low temperatures. High temperature extraction means extraction under a lot of pressure so even the poorest seed will budge and will release some oil out of it. Also at high temperature, there will be so much pressure that oil coming from good as well as bad seeds will taste the same.and a lot of their nutritive properties will be gone . Dohhh!! Any guesses, what oil am I talking about?
Refined Oils. So no refined oils. Opt for filtered oils or virgin oils. I will talk more about them later. For now, let me talk about one other big confusion.
2. We usually hear about these famous oils: corn oil, rice bran oil, heart healthy sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil etc. These are all vegetable oils.
3. The other category of oils are olive oils, sesame oils, mustard oil, coconut oil, peanut oil etc. These are all nuts and seeds oil. The other most infamous but the best oil is desi ghee(clarified butter).
So now the question is that which of these category of oils are best for cooking?
Vegetable oils sound healthy because of the word ‘vegetable’ in it but just think have you ever eaten sunflower seeds, safflower seeds or canola seeds or rice bran? So why would you eat oil extracted from them? I just thought of this logic and wrote it. But if we think logically this is the fact. I don’t know may be someone might eat canola or sunflower seeds
So the oil coming from nuts and seeds, whose names are familiar to us are better than vegetable oils particularly because our body is already familiar of the nut/seeds from where the oil is coming from so it has some idea on how to use these oils.
And about the desi ghee?
Ghee is made up of short chain fatty acids that are easy to digest and can be easily converted into energy. It has all the vitamins A, D, E, K. It has all the anti viral, anti microbial.. anti blah blah properties. It lubricates the joints, It helps with brain development. It helps to burn fat. Basically it is used so well by the body that it actually helps with metabolic processes. Huhh! So no skipping ghee from you chapati or lentils. Esp if you are someone who really want to lose weight healthily
Ghee also has one very amazing property which is that it has a very high smoke point.
What is a smoke point for any oil?
Smoke point is the temperature at which the oil is decomposed and where possibly toxicological relevant compounds are formed. Hence from this definition we know that the oil which has a low smoke point turns toxic faster when put on heat.
3. Refined oils are famous inspite of everybody knowing that they are not good quality oils because, they have a high smoke point. There smoke point rises because of the high temperature extraction process. So you see they are already rendered toxic during extraction.
High smoke point is the reason, we commonly see people using refined oils for frying and reusing them again and again.
The better thing for frying is to use filtered oils, which have high smoke point like peanut oil, pomace oil or sesame oil. Generally these oil get heated quickly, as they have relatively low smoke point.. Keep them at medium flame. Virgin oils are not used for cooking due to very low smoke point. They are used for dressing.
For normal cooking rotate between different nut and seed oils, which are filtered. At the end desi ghee is the boss of all the healthy cooking oils. We hardly intake 1 to 2 tbsp oil in a day. And our machine needs atleast this much of oil. May be, go for some oil shopping today .
Eat, run, sleep, smile… Health will follow
Loads of Love