Guide to Cooking Oils

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There are healthy and unhealthy oils to cook with. And different oils should be used differently.

There are good oils and bad oils to cook with. We all need some fat in our diet and we all cook with some kind of oil.

All cooking oil is fat and has 120 calories per tablespoon or 40 calories per teaspoon. This doesn’t differ among different oils. The difference is the type of fat and cholesterol level in these cooking oils. There are trans fat, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fat is bad for you and monounsaturated fat is good for you. Studies have even found that monounsaturated fat can be good for you in the fact that it can lower your cholesterol levels. Here are the different types of fat from very bad to best.

Trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils are made with an industrial process to make them more solid. Companies use them because they last a long time and can be used many times. These fats lower the good cholesterol (HDL) in the body and raise the bad (LDL).

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Eating saturated fat foods increases your level of cholesterol in your blood, raising the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are found in many foods, mainly animal products such as meat and dairy including beef, poultry with skin, lamb, pork, lard, cream and cheese.

Monounsaturated fats are liquid when at room temperature and start to solidify when cold. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. These fats can help lower your cholesterol level, which helps heart disease. Foods high in monounsaturated fat are olive, peanut, canola, sunflower and sesame oil.

Polyunsaturated fats are liquid both at room temperature and when cold and can also lower your cholesterol level. These fats also contain the beneficial and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats as well. Our bodies don’t make these themselves so we have to eat foods that contain these fats to get them. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats are soybean, corn, safflower, walnut and flaxseed oils and fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Also sunflower seeds and walnuts.

Vegetable oil is a combination of palm, sunflower, corn and soybean oils.

Note: There are some people and studies that say canola oil is bad for your health, that it comes from rapeseed and that it contains erucic acid, which the liver cannot detoxify.


Cooking with these oils

As you can see, these cooking oils go from bad to best. Cook with the oils listed in the monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat categories.

The best oils to cook with are: canola, corn, safflower, olive, sesame and soybean. These oils are the lowest in saturated fats.

The worst oils to cook with, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils as they are high in saturated fats.

When you cook with oil, you need to be careful and know about an oil's smoking point; when oil smokes, it then releases carcinogens - that oil shouldn’t be used.


Cooking with:

Peanut oil is used in a lot of Asian foods, if it is too strong you can dilute it with a lighter oil such as grapeseed or sunflower oil. Used when frying such as a turkey or fried chicken. Also used with stir frying.

Warning: When cooking with peanut oil, remember that many people are allergic to peanuts and this includes peanut oil.

Sunflower oil is an all purpose oil but can be too strong for baked goods, it stores well and is very resistant to going rancid.

Flaxseed oil is not recommended to use in cooking with a very low smoke point, but it makes great and healthy salad dressings.

Olive oil is probably the most popular oil to cook with. Using it to sauté vegetables to making salad dressing.

Grapeseed oil has a very high smoking point, so it is more resistant to heat and to burning. It has a more neutral flavor which won’t interfere with the foods you’re cooking

Safflower and vegetable oils are used when baking. It’s also good in salad dressing. Safflower has a high smoking point as well so can be used with frying.

Coconut oil is used in curry dishes, use the virgin pressed from fresh coconuts.

Sesame oil has a strong flavor and is great for Asian and Indian cooking. I use this oil to make a shrimp and fried rice dish that is very good.

There are also mixtures of oils and flavored oils now as well for all kinds of different tasting dishes.

Sam Montana © 09 December 2008


Posted on Sep 14, 2009
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