You may know by now the health effects of butter and lard and you have switched to cooking with oil. There are many different types of oils on the market from vegetable oil to olive oil to coconut oil. Many have been raving about the benefits of different kinds, but which one should you be using in your cooking?
Each oil varies in fat composition between Monounsaturated fats (MUFA), Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), and Saturated fats (SFA), which give it different health benefits (see definitions below). Each also varies in smoking point (heat tolerance) and flavor. Here is the breakdown of common oils:
Olive oil is 75% MUFA (good fat) which gives it the highest concentration of antioxidants among all oils in addition to anti-inflammatory properties. This oil has versatile uses and is greatly used drizzled over dishes. It has a low smoking point, therefore it isn’t recommended at a high heat or for frying.
With only 7% SFA (bad fat), 63% MUFA, and 30% PUFA , this oil has the lowest amount of SFA compared to all other oils. SFA is known to be damaging for the heart. Canola oil can be used at a high heat since it has a relatively high smoking point and it adds a mild flavor. Also known as "rapeseed oil."
Corn, Sunflower, & Soybean oil
These oils are rich in PUFA (>60%). These have high smoking points and are often used for frying and baking. Soybean oil gives a potent soybean flavor, while corn and sunflower do not imparting any flavor.
Palm oil contains 51% SFA. Although it also contains MUFA (but low PUFA), the high amount of SFA found in this oil overrides any benefits. Make sure to read labels of packaged food as this is commonly found in many products.
This oil is rich in SFA (92%). However, studies have found that the form of this SFA called lauric acid may be a healthy form. Its solid form adds texture to foods making it a replacement for butter. Its natural sweetness also makes it widely used in baking product, however, not for frying.
This oil is 43% PUFA, it is used to provide flavor in Asian cuisines. Light sesame oil is usually used for frying due to its higher smoking point while dark sesame oil can be used for stir-frying and dipping sauces.
*Note: Once oil has reached its smoking point it is best not to re-use it, as the high heat it will start producing free radicals (negative for your health). So we don’t recommend frying!
Monounsaturated fats (MUFA): These unsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats because they positively affect your health by maintaining the good HDL cholesterol levels and lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. They are liquid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA): These unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are also positive for your health. These oils provide your body with omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids important for your body’s functions. However, many of us are getting too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fatty acids. To keep this ratio balanced it is important to consume more PUFA rich in omega-3 such as fish oil and minimizing PUFAs rich in omega-6 found commonly in corn oil and soybean oil.
Saturated fats (SFA): These fats are solid at room temperature and are mainly found in animal products or tropical oils. These fats should be limited as they affect your health negatively by raising the blood cholesterol with consumption and are correlated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Trans fats (TFA): These fats are produced through a chemical process called hydrogenation, which turns liquid oil into a solid fat (shortening or margarine). These fats are the worst kind since they both raise your bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol levels, raising your risk of heart disease and impacting your health negatively. Make sure you read labels as they are found in many packaged foods!