Cooking oils are a staple in almost every diet around the world, even though there are varieties. From the palm-oil-loving West to the delicious Banga-soup of the South as well as groundnut oil from the North, we can’t avoid cooking oils.
Akara, fried plantains, yams, meats, chicken, even sea food are parts of daily life on this side of the globe. Our street foods are incredibly made up of mostly fries and oil drizzled barbecues.
Despite all these, oily soups and stews, word on the street still remains; fats, fries and oily foods are bad. The big question remains what are the alternatives to these foods? Cutting out fries and removing oil from soups completely is a tall order that is highly unsustainable.
The key to living life in any way has always been striking the right balance. How to balance love for all things fried and the deliciousness of local soups with the need for a beating heart? Well, the first step is making the easiest compromise.
If you must get some oil, then make use of the healthiest oils at your disposal. There are a great number of oils and fats to choose from. And quite frankly, the options are a bit staggering.
First, let’s highlight the factors to consider when picking your cooking oils.
What Makes A Healthy Cooking Oil
There are a lot of factors to consider in picking a healthy cooking oil. These factors are desirable in different situations and some are undesirable for other situations.
This is the temperature point at which a particular oil starts to produce smoke. Oils with a low smoking point tend to burn easily and produce toxic compounds that could be carcinogenic. Cooking Oils with high smoking points are best for frying and deep frying.
There are three grades of fats used in classifying oils. There are the Monounsaturated fats, the Polyunsaturated fats, and the Saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are the most desirable for oils. Polyunsaturated fats undergo changes to give toxic chemicals in fried foods. An ideal oil should have a ratio of monounsaturated plus saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats of 80:20. While saturated fats are touted as unhealthy, they produce less toxic aldehydes and chemicals when used for frying than polyunsaturated.
Cooking oils from different sources contain different vitamins and other nutrients. The more nutritious oils add more value to your food. Deep frying is a cooking method that aims at sealing in the nutrients. A nutrient packed oil provides more and locks in greater nutrition than a less nutritious oil.
Oil extraction methods affect various components of the oils. Flavors and nutritional value are the most affected. Cold press and manually pressed oils have a higher nutritional value which makes them good for raw consumption. However, cold-press produces oil with a very low smoking point. Therefore, oils such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cold-pressed coconut oil should not be used for frying. They can only be used in low-heat cooking, dipping, drizzling over salads or sautéing.
Most oils undergo oxidation which leads to the release of aldehydes and lipid peroxides. When heated, oils oxidize faster and this is one of the consequences of smoking points in oils. The oxidation reaction is also responsible for rancidity in oils. The ability of an oil to undergo oxidation is measured as its stability. This oxidation occurs even at room temperature in some oils. Saturated fats are more stable and less prone to oxidation.
Trans fat and Processing
Oils that have to be extracted or refined through tedious industrial and chemical procedures need to be reconsidered. The processes involved could result in the formation of trans fats or even the inclusion of hexane in some cases. Most seed oils fall into this category and are
Best Cooking Oils for Frying
- Coconut oil. With above 90% saturated fat content, this oil is the best for deep frying.
- Ghee: Or clarified butter is a relatively purified butter without the milk solids. Also contains more saturated fats and less polyunsaturated fats.
- Butter: Butter is better for cooking and less for deep frying due to the presence of milk solids that can make it burn and become rancid.
- Lard/ Tallow: These are all animal fats which consist of saturated and mono-unsaturated fats; great for deep-frying.
- Refined Olive oil: Though it may not be as flavorful and rich in anti-oxidants as Extra virgin Olive oil, it’s about the healthiest cooking oil. Olive oil is also great for deep-frying. It contains mostly monounsaturated fats.
- Avocado oil: similar to olive oil.
- Peanut oil
- Palm oil: Has a high smoke point. also, it’s full of mono-unsaturated and saturated fats and is often unrefined and has little possibility of trans fat.
Listed below are some popular cooking oil which includes seed oils. But most of them are terrible choices for high-heat cooking.
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil (also called rapeseed oil)
- Cottonseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Rice bran oil
- Grape seed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil