02 Apr The Art of Health: 7 Must-Have Cooking Oil
Cooking oils come from many different sources – nuts, seeds, plants, and even one fruit — avocado! It can be a little difficult to choose one that is best for any given recipe, or know if one oil is best to keep at home for everyday use in cooking.
Different products require different heat; for example, when you’re tossing together a stir fry in a wok, you need a higher than when, for example, frying an egg. If you’re cooking meat on a stove burner, you need a high smoking oil, like grapeseed and canola.
But when you’re grilling veggies on medium heat, use olive oil, as well as avocado oil. The latter has become truly popular recently, and that’s because it tastes great, works well, and is good for you.
You can use any one of these for salad dressing, but we think you should be a little adventurous and try an aromatic nut oil, like walnut or even cashew. But remember – they’re very delicate. Keep them in the fridge or they will go rancid.
Smoking Point: What Does It Mean?
This is easy, it merely means the point at which oil begins to emit smoke when it’s heating up. Some reach smoking point more quickly than others, and some reach their flash point – when they catch fire – more easily than others. The smoking point and the flashpoint vary from oil to oil, depending on quality and what kind of heat you are applying to it, and the FFA – the free, fatty acid content. Oils with higher FFAs tend to break down and smoke more easily and more quickly.
Why is this important? Because the sooner an oil smokes, the sooner it begins to break down, and that can leave it tasting, well, off. Let’s take a look at the 7 Cooking Oil We Use Most:
For High-Temperature Cooking:
- Smoke point is about 400F/205C;
- This oil is not expensive; it’s a neutral, vegetable oil made from the seeds of the canola plant. You can use it for frying or searing meat, particularly in strong dishes with bold flavors. Because they are similar in structure and flavor, canola and vegetable oil are essentially interchangeable in recipes.
- Just one serving of canola oil gives you all the Vitamin E you need daily. This vitamin helps protect your body’s proteins and fats from free radical damage. Studies show it may even protect against some cancers, heart disease, and even memory loss.
Grape Seed Oil
- Smoke point is about 485F/252C;
- Grape seed oil has the highest levels or Omega-6 fatty acids. And because it has a high smoke point, it’s ideal for sauteing and making stir-fries. And since it has virtually no flavor, it allows other flavors to come front and center in all recipes.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Smoke point: 392F/200C;
- Rumors have flown recently that extra virgin olive oil is not as safe to cook with, however, the temperatures you use to fry and roast with it are well below its smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil is more than safe; the production of harmful polar compounds and Trans fats is considerably lower in this oil. Furthermore, olive oil has three, key benefits: it contains stable monounsaturated fats, it has a low number of free fatty acids, and it has a great deal of protective antioxidants!
- Smoke Point: 350F/270C;
- Avocados are famous for being heart healthy; some folks think of them as nature’s perfect food, like walnuts. An avocado’s fats are heart healthy, good for your skin and hair, and avocado oil offers the same benefits. The oil is pressed right from the fruit and can be used for cooking and even in cosmetics, because of its innate ability to moisturize the skin without chemicals.
- Refined avocado oil can reach a 520 F (270C) smoke point, however; it’s best to opt for the healthier, virgin avocado oil, which smokes at 350-375F, much like olive oil does. Avocado oil has a slightly nutty taste, and is as versatile in the kitchen as you are! And, it adds a smooth, buttery richness to food. Use it when you make salad dressing, or drizzle it over dips, or when you make a stir fry. The uses for avocado oil are almost limitless!
Oils Ideal For Salad Dressings
- Smoke Point: 320F/160C;
- Because walnut oil has a low smoke point, it best not to use it for cooking, but still, there are plenty of recipes for which it is ideal. You can try drizzling it over pancakes, freshly cut fruit or ice cream. Walnut oil has a solid ratio of Omega 6 – Omega 3 – to fatty acids, which studies show may keep inflammation at bay.
- Walnut oil has a combination of antioxidants, lots of Vitamins like B3, B1 and others, and Omega 3s make it a very powerful agent that fights fungal infections, rough dry skin, and other complexion problems. Walnuts even help regulate hormones, fight cancer and heart disease, and enhance your complexion. Use walnut oil instead of whatever oil you’re using now for salad dressing; it’s a great item in your tool kit of health optimization!
Sesame Seed Oil
- Smoke Point: 350F/175C;
- This oil has been used for centuries in Asian cooking. It has a nutty flavor and a very pleasing taste. Over the years it has become a staple of Western cooking, as people have begun using it as an alternative to vegetable oil.
- Sesame oil is known, in particular, for improving the health of your hair. In fact, one study concluded that sesame oil can help you retain your hair’s natural color and lessen hair loss as you age! Sesame oil can also help counteract the pathogens and foreign matter that sometimes damage your hair or scalp.
- This oil is extracted from coconuts – obviously – and is solid at room temperature, unlike many other cooking oils. Because of its very low smoking point, you should not use this for cooking – it doesn’t work with high heat. But it has a marvelous, subtle flavor, and is a favorite of vegans for baking, because you can use it in place of animal fats.
- In spite of how much coconut oil is loved by vegans, traditional dietary wisdom has suggested you should limit your intake of it because it is rich in saturated fats, and unfortunately those are linked to heart disease. But, not all saturated fats are created equal! Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid, increases HDL, the healthy type of cholesterol that you want and need. It also has some triglycerides, which are used to create energy and fuel your body.
And So…Which One To Choose?
The best advice is that you keep a variety of oils in your pantry, experiment with different recipes, and discover which ones you enjoy the most. Each type of oil has its own, best purpose, and there is a lot to consider when choosing one. Generally speaking, however, it’s wise to consider how high the heat is going to be, and ask yourself whether it’s an appropriate temperature for the oil you are thinking of using. And, remember that if you don’t experiment with different oils, you might miss out on many different nutritional benefits. And finally…using a variety of cooking oils is the best way to ensure your recipes are flavourful, nutritious, and fun to eat!