Is Oil Healthy and if So, Which One?
Fat make up one of the three macronutrients. While there is a lot of opinions on the internet about how much fat we should be consuming, most organisations recommend the fat content not to exceed the amount of 30% of a diet. And this is mainly healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds. Oils should only make a small part of it, due to the fact that oil are very high in calories (9kcal/g) and low in their energy density.
There are some nutritional benefits such as vitamin A, D, E & K, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Most of us like oil due to its taste and aromas. And let’s be honest, oils make so many things taste better.
But first let’s answer the question: What are vegetable oils?
Vegetable oils are the isolated fat component and thus an extract of a high fat plant such as seeds or nuts. In this process the fat component is extracted and only a minimal part of the valuable ingredients is kept as most of the nutrients are lost. The energy value of the extracted oil is also much higher compared to the actual nut or seeds. That’s why daily consumption should be kept to a minimum. Usually oils are liquid at 20°C and fats are solid.
Which oils are the healthiest and best for cooking?
Firstly, it depends on the quality of oils:
- Cold pressed virgin oils: can contain more valuable nutrients compared to refined oils
- Organic oils: low pesticide content, which is better for us as a consumer and for the environment
- Type of fat: Saturated fat (coconut oil) – not the healthiest; monounsaturated fat (olive oil) – little healthier due to oxidation stability; polyunsaturated fat (essential) – need to consume through food, not that stable, but are the healthiest
Which oils have a high smoking point?
A high smoking point means that these oils can be heated very high. These oils are coconut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil and soybean oil.
What oil is best for salad dressings?
The best choice would be oils with polyunsaturated fatty acids such as flax oil, hemp oil or walnut (these should not be heated).
What can I do with olive oil?
You can moderately heat olive oil or also use it for salad dressings.
What else should you know?
You have to keep in mind that generally, speaking from a nutritional point of view, oils have less positive value than the product it has been extracted of. Hence, it is always better to use the food item in its whole form (flax seeds over flaxseed oil).
In case you have an underlying disease (such as cardiovascular disease), it would make sense to completely stay away from any type of oil.
Generally I would say that I personally try to avoid cooking with oil as much as I can, as I do not see that much nutritional value in it and I prefer the whole food over the refined one. But I try not to avoid it any cost, as for example most restaurants add oils to their dishes.