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Best Oils for Cooking

Cooking oil is the magical instrument that gives foods unforgettable texture and taste. On the other hand, cooking oil is often stigmatised as unhealthy. Does it have to be a painful head-scratching moment when it comes to cooking with oils?

Things may not be as bad as thought, according to James D. Perko, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef for Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute and its Centre for Lifestyle Medicine, and nutritionist Katherine Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. They have come out with seven tips to reveal some less well-known, but significant knowledge about cooking oil and eliminate unwarranted guilt we may have about cooking with oil:

1. When It Comes To Calorific Value, All Cooking Oils Are The Same

Oil is nutritionally a fat – it is a fact applicable to any kind of oil. In terms of calorie content, fats rank far ahead of carbohydrates or protein, with the ratio being nine calories per gram versus four calories per gram. To determine which cooking oil to use, taste could be a useful support. Though, bear in mind that even oils labelled as healthier, like avocado, are still fats. It is important to know the amount of fat you want to ingest before preparing a meal to ensure healthy consumption.

2. Health effect is what distinguishes cooking oils

Place extra-virgin olive oil on top of the list for a healthy diet when shopping for cooking oil. It is the cooking oil with the lowest oxidation rate. Oxidation is our foe as its product – free radicals – is highly reactive chemicals potentially hazardous to our cells and may result in cancer.

Olive oil too has alleviative effect in our LDL (bad cholesterol) and improves our HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Hydroxytyrosol, a skin- and body-protecting polyphenol, is another healthful property of extra-virgin olive oil. It has been proven that hydroxytyrosol boasts free-radicals absorbing function. Beta carotene, and vitamins A, E, D and K are also among the nutrients in olive oil. These nutrients are known to have overarching benefits on our body.

3. Diet should be viewed as a big picture, and rather than focusing on a single nutrient such as oil

The issue with restrictive diet is that it is may backfire on our intention for a healthy body. When fat is removed, sugar is the likely substitute to make up for the deterioration in taste. As with everything, it is about moderation. In terms of diet, a healthy one is one that contains mixed nutrition, including a small portion of healthy fats. We do need the fats to keep us going.

4. Consider sautéing

Deep frying is a cooking technique using an amount of oil that is deep enough to cover a food at high heat for a shorter time. Deep frying is commonly adopted in frying thin cut shoe string French fries. While pan-frying, also using high heat, involves less amount of oil, but takes a longer period of time. Though, as long as oil or any kind of fat is used, foods are exposed to the risk of free radicals.

Thus, the healthiest cooking method would be sautéing. It uses the least amount of fat for a shorter period of time. The key is to use as little oil as possible, regardless of its label. A good first step in tuning down oil consumption is to opt for meals with foods that could be baked, grilled or quickly sautéed.

5. Ensure oil is fresh

Used oil is a favourite spot for free radicals. At times, with the intention of catering to various recipes, we stock up on different types of oil. As time passes, we may have forgotten their presence. That makes a good recipe for oxidation and development of free radicals. A solution is to just buy a few kinds of oil in sparing amounts, and store them in a cold and dry place.

6. Spray oil may not be as good as it sounds

There are claims that spray oils have zero trans-fat. They could be misleading as many manufacturers play on the serving size by listing a serving size of spray oil as a quarter-second spray (less than a half of a gram) in order to round down trans-fat to zero. Furthermore, there is no strong reason for us to use the sprays when we could simply dip a towel in oil and wipe the bottom of the pan to reach the same outcome.

Alternatively, we could consider buying a PFOA-free non-stick or ceramic pans. Just a tip on the maintenance – always hand washes the pans with a soft non-abrasive sponge or cloth to protect the surface to keep it in good and in ideal shape.

7. Use oil wisely

Healthy fats are good, but excessive consumption does not do you good, both in terms of health and finance. Immersing a piece of bread in olive oil (healthy oil) is clearly not a sensible move. Oil should be used accordingly, either to extract, extend or infuse flavours.

For instance, instead of dipping the bread in a small bowl of olive oil, which is to be consumed by only a person, it would be much wiser to use it for a flavourful dish, such as roasted beets, which could be a feast enjoyable by several people.


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