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How to choose best cooking oils?

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

Choosing the best cooking oils is one of the most common question asked by people who are health conscious, suffer from any illness or are on the journey of weight loss. This article comprehends this complex question in 3 steps namely classification of oils, labels to read while buying oils and understanding various oils available in the market.

Classification of Oils to understand which one is best for cooking

Oils are also called fats. Each oil is classified on basis of prominent fatty acids present in it. Broadly, we classify fats into Saturated fats and Unsaturated Fats. Unsaturated fats are further classified into MUFA and PUFA.

Saturated Fats/ Oils are solid at room temperature. They can be both plant based and animal based. It is recommended that consumption of saturated fat/ oil is kept limited. Though dietary guidelines restrict saturated fats, but chronic illness has only risen than decline.

- Ghee: Ghee has antioxidants in it, butyric acid in ghee reduces inflammation and aids proper digestion. Ghee from cow's milk is excellent.

- Coconut Oil: Medium chain fatty acids present in coconut oil goes directly to liver and gets converted to energy instead of circulating in blood and getting deposited as fat. It gives energy kick, increases metabolism and keeps weight in check. It increases bone health, excellent for hair and skin. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels by increasing secretion of insulin too.

Trans Fats/ Oils are worst kind of fats/ bad fats. They are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in presence of hydrogen gas. This makes them solid at room temperature and they can withstand heat and are less likely to spoil. It makes them ideal for frying fast foods, baked goods and processed snack food. They are the worst and raise bad LDL and lower HDL. They also cause inflammations like like heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. They build up in arteries (arthero-sclerosis) and lead to heart trouble.

Unsaturated Fats/ Oils are liquid at room temperature. They are considered good because they improve good cholesterol, ease inflammation. They are found in food from plants such as nuts and seeds. Research has shown people who consume more unsaturated fats have better heart health. They are two types of unsaturated fats namely PUFA and MUFA.

MUFA | Mono Unsaturated Fats

- MUFA protects the heart, supports insulin sensitivity, weight loss and healthy energy levels

- It reduces overall cholesterol

- Found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives etc

- Healthy choices are avocados, olives and olive oil and less healthy choices are canola (highly processed and refined) and peanuts (creates allergy in some)

PUFA | Poly Unsaturated Fats

- They include Omega 3 and Omega 6.

- Omega 3 reduces inflammation supports healthy hormone levels, cell membrane

- Omega 6 supports healthy brain and muscle function. But its not stable, gets oxidized when heated and causes inflammation

- Indian diet is rich in Omega 6, most baked products, packaged food chips, most french fries, breads and snacks are made in them. Corn, soya bean, safflower, sunflower oils are all high in Omega 6.

There are various options available in the market for Unsaturated Oils with varying degree of price and quality. With right knowledge you can pick the best oils. Some of the prominent options of unsaturated oils/ fats are groundnut oil, sesame oil, mustard oil, olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, soyabean oil. We have described each option in detail in this article.

Labels to read while buying cooking oils and how to select the best ones?

1. Cold Pressed / Kacchi Ghani (Indian Version) Oils - Oils are healthy in there pure forms, hence the oils which are extracted using mechanical methods like Cold Pressing or Indian version Kachi Ghani should be used. You can get various oils like peanut, mustard, sesame, coconut or kachi ghani versions of same.

2. Organic and least Processed Oils - Always go for least processed ones as they add harmful chemicals and use high temperature in processing and certain chemical preservatives are also added which are just not healthy.

3. Smoking Point of Oils - Different oils behave differently when heated, they change color, taste and nutritional properties as well. If a oil is heated to its smoking point, it starts radicalizing potentially harmful compounds and you should choose oils as per the cooking method you use.

4. Buy Oils in small Packets - Oils oxidize and release free radicals over the course of time, hence you should always check the manufacturing date and buy in small quantities only.

5. Rotation of Oils - It's strongly advised to rotate oils as to get nutritional benefits from all of them.

Additional tips on how to use oils and best practices

- We never recommend deep-frying as a cooking method. Any oil starts to decay once it reaches its smoking point.

- Do not reuse/ reheat cooking oils.

- Store away from direct sunlight.

- Make your own salad dressing, dips and sauces.

- Grill, saute, stir-fry, bake and roast should be preferred.

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