27 Feb The lowdown on oils3 minute read
Eating oils is a great way to amp up your healthy fats. Here are some of the best—plus one to avoid.
Best for salads: Flaxseed oil
With a high proportion of omega-3 fats, regular consumption of flaxseed oil can help with a range of heath issues, from high blood pressure to dry skin. Omega-3 fats are unstable in heat, however, which means that oil has a very low smoking point. Add to salads for a rich and creamy flavour.
Best for drizzling: Extra virgin olive oil
This contains a whopping 73 per cent monounsaturated fat, which, as several studies confirm, can lower your risk of heart disease if eaten in place of saturated fat . Make sure you choose an unrefined version, and avoid cooking with it, since even temperatures below smoking point can result in significant losses of phytonutrients. Drizzle over everything from feta cheese to roasted peppers.
Best for sautéing: Ghee
This isn’t liquid at room temperature, so technically it isn’t an oil. However, you should use it in a similar manner to oils! A foundation of Indian cooking, this is butter with the milk solids removed. With no milk solids, there’s no lactose (sugar) to burn, which means you can cook with it at higher temperatures. Opt for organic if possible, add a few spices and use it to sauté some vegetables for a delicious side dish.
Best for stir-frying: Sesame oil
Cold-pressed sesame oil contains the compound sesamol, which some studies have shown to protect against DNA damage . What’s more, it has a smoking point of 204°C, which means you can fry with it without damaging its nutrients. Its nutty, rich flavour adds a nice depth to Asian dishes in particular.
Best for roasting: Coconut oil
This may be high in saturated fat, but there’s a crucial difference in that it’s composed of medium-chain fatty acids. A review in The Journal of Nutrition found that this type of fat actually increases energy expenditure as it’s broken down and, because it’s so satiating, it can lead to lower energy intake overall . Coconut oil also had a very high smoking point, which means it’s suitable for roasting at high temperatures.
Best for grilling: Avocado oil
Unlike many oils, this is derived from the flesh of the fruit rather than the seed. It’s chock-full of monounsaturated oleic acid, which can help reduce your cholesterol. It’s so stable that you could use it to deep-fry fish—but, since we’re being mindful of cholesterol, grilling is a much healthier alternative!
And one to avoid: Sunflower oil
It’s long been used to fry foods, but research suggests that cooking with sunflower oil should be avoided altogether. Studies have found that when heated, sunflower oil released very high levels of aldehydes—chemicals that have been linked to cancer, heart disease and dementia . Avoid cooking with it, and watch out for it on ingredients lists of deep-fried foods such as crisps.
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