You have probably gone to a restaurant, hotel or at the local shop where the cooking oil is reheated when you need a snack or is heated throughout the day for all the snacks. Have you ever imagined the type of oil used? Or How safe is the reheated cooking oil?
To cook with or without cooking oil would still be a debate. Sometimes you are torn between choosing a healthy meal or one with flavour. What if the food sticks in the saucepan?
According to Alex Mark Kakooza, a nutritionist at Homart, cooking oils and fats are classified into Polyunsaturated fats which when eaten as food such as nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens, they have clear health benefits. However, the benefits of consuming sunflower oil and corn oil, although rich in polyunsaturated, are less clear. Monounsaturated oils are found in avocados, olives, olive oil, almonds and hazelnuts, and also in lard and goose fat and saturated fats are particularly contained in dairy and other fats derived from animals.
Identifying the good oil
When you want to cook at a high temperature, you must use oil that is stable and will not oxidise easily. When oils undergo oxidation, they form free radicals and compounds which are harmful to your health.
Jamiru Mpiima a nutritionist at Victoria University Wellness Clinic thinks the most important factor in determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and staleness, both at high and low heat, is the relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in it.
Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking.
Coconut oil is your best choice when it comes to high heat cooking. More than 90 per cent of the fatty acids in the oil are saturated, which makes it resistant to heat. The oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for years without going rancid.
Mpiima says, “It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens. The fats in coconut oil are organic and saturated fats which are a safe source of energy for humans and can boost metabolism.”
Butter contains Vitamins A, E, K2, fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which lowers body fat percentage in humans. It also contains butyrate which can fight inflammation and improve gut health.
However, butter tends to get burned during high heat cooking like frying.
Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits.
Palm oil consists of saturated, monounsaturated fats and small amounts of polyunsaturated fats. This makes palm oil a good choice for cooking. Red Palm oil is the best because it is rich in Vitamins E.
“This is similar to olive oil and is monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated character mixed in. It can be used for many of the same purposes as olive oil. You can cook with it, or use it in the cold state,” Kakooza.
Nut and peanut oils
There are many nut oils available but they are very rich in polyunsaturated fats, which make them a poor choice for cooking. They can be used as parts of recipes, but they should not be used to fry or do any high heat cooking.
Seed and vegetable oils
They are highly processed, refined products that are way too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. Not only should you not cook with them, you should probably avoid them altogether because they are linked to many diseases, including heart disease and cancer. They include; Soybean, Corn, Cottonseed, Canola, Rapeseed, Sunflower, Sesame, Grape seed and Safflower.
Rice Bran oils
Mpiima says, “Most common vegetable oils contain trans fats, which are highly toxic. It is therefore important to read labels and if you find any of these oils on a packaged food that you are about to eat, then it is best to purchase something else.”
Care for oils
To make sure that your fats and oils do not get stale, do not buy large batches at a time if you are not going to use it at once.
It is important to keep unsaturated fats like olive, palm, avocado oil and some others in an environment where they are less likely to oxidise and go rancid.
Kakooza says, “The main drivers behind oxidative damage of cooking oils are heat, oxygen and light. Therefore, keep them in a cool, dry, dark place and make sure to screw the lid on as soon as you finish using them.”
While cooking with oils, you must choose between cooking for taste and cooking for health. Regardless of the type of oil you use, oil is classified nutritionally as fat. Fats are far more calorie-dense than carbohydrates or protein according to Alex Mark Kakooza, a nutritionist at Homart. Therefore, consider how much fat you want to eat and then add it wisely.
Virgin olive oil is good for heart health because it has the lowest oxidation rate of all the cooking oils. Oxidation promotes free radicals, oils that are highly reactive and have the potential to damage cells, including damage that may lead to cancer. Olive oil can also help lower bad cholesterol level and raise the good cholesterol.
When you buy different varieties of oil for different recipes, then store them for long periods in your kitchen, the oils oxidise over time and develop free radicals. Instead, buy just a few kinds of oil in small amounts and store them in a cold, dry place.
“Old oil is a harbour for free radicals. It is important to note that cooking oil should be used only once and if you are cooking at a high temperature or for a long time, use a saturated fat,”Kakooza.
Safe cooking methods
If one must have a safe meal prepared using cooking oil, it is important for one to learn the characteristics of the fat you are using for cooking oil. Animal and plant oils have very different properties.
Such characteristics like melting point, ability of the fat to prevent food from sticking in the pans, the temperature at which the oil will begin to emit smoke after heating and the chemical reactivity as fats can be oxidised by air at high temperatures which damages the flavour and is bad for health.
“It is vital that the food stays warmer than the melting point of the fat, or the emulsion will break, leaving you with two nasty layers rather than a creamy sauce. Add your flavourful, but delicate or reactive, fats after most of the cooking is done,” says Kakooza.