Choosing a healthy cooking oil can be a hard decision to make; especially when there are so many on the market and at some point or another, each and every one has been marketed as the healthy alternative. But what should you truly be looking for in a cooking oil? One of the first things you should take into consideration is what you plan to cook and what cooking method you are using to prepare it. Secondly, you should consider the oils fat content, specifically, fatty acids. Generally speaking, there are typically three classifications of fatty acids and each oil contain all three of them, however, it is classified as the fatty acid that it contains the highest percentage of. The three types of fatty acids are Saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated; each oil has different nutritional properties and the different types of fatty acids and content levels also affect each one’s cooking ability, according to, WebMD.
- Saturated fats are most commonly solids when they are at room temperature, making them easier to spot. High levels of consumption of saturated fats have been linked to high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease.
- Polyunsaturated fats are different from saturated fats and can be distinguished by their liquid form. Polyunsaturated fats will remain in liquid form, even during refrigeration. In comparison with saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels, which in turn will show a reduction in the risk for heart disease.
- Monounsaturated fats are slightly more challenging to spot. They do remain in a liquid for when stored at room temperature, but upon refrigeration, will appear cloudy as a partial amount of the oil begins to solidify. Monounsaturated fats have also been shown to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Are your healthy oil choices really the healthy option?
How many healthy oils have you purchased? And how many of them are truly the healthiest option for cooking oils?
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil has made its name as a healthy oil simply by being rich in vitamin E and being a polyunsaturated fat. But it isn’t the healthy oil that it has been chalked up to. Grape seed oil is extracted from the grape seed, as the name would imply. It has become a way for winemakers to use up the bulk supply of grape seeds they are left with during the winemaking process. The oil is extracted from the seeds using chemicals and high heat. The grape seed was originally considered healthy due to the high volume of nutrients found in the grape seed. The problem is, that all of those nutrients aren’t found in grape seed oil. The chemical processing causes the oil to lose the nutrients, including all of the antioxidants. Grape seed oil is composed of 10% saturated fat, 16% monounsaturated fat, and 70% polyunsaturated fat. Similar to other seed and vegetable oils, grape seed oil is high in omega-6 and low in beneficial nutrients.
While it is true that canola oil is one of the healthier options in cooking oil, many are concerned by the extreme amount of processing that it endures before reaching the supermarket. Due to its refined state, canola oil doesn’t contain the antioxidant’s that other otherwise healthy oils do. Most canola oil is genetically engineered. If canola oil is the healthiest cooking option for you, you should seek out organic canola oil to avoid the over processing and be sure that it is certified organic canola oil that you are purchasing. Some other concerns of consumers are that canola oil causes diseases; there is no scientific proof that canola oil causes any diseases what so ever. Canola oil has a relatively neutral flavor, that won’t have an ill effect on the foods that you are cooking in it. It also has a rather high smoke point, similar to vegetable oil, that makes it much more ideal for frying or cooking at high temperatures without burning and giving your food a rancid flavor. Canola oil is considered a monounsaturated fat, it is made up of 62% monounsaturated fat, 31% polyunsaturated fat, and only 7% saturated fat.
What exactly is vegetable oil? I mean the term “Vegetable” isn’t very specific. Vegetable oil is a triglyceride extract that comes from plants and is defined as plant-based oils that don’t solidify. Vegetable oil is chemically extracted from seeds. While soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and grape seed oil are all technically “Vegetable Oil’s”, generally speaking when people mention vegetable oil they are talking about oil found in the supermarket that is simply labeled “vegetable oil”. For many decades, vegetable oil has been labeled as a heart-healthy oil, leading consumers to believe that it is good for them. Vegetable oil is a polyunsaturated fat, which led to the belief that it is heart healthy, but it is also considered to be one of the unhealthiest fats readily available to consumers. Vegetable oils contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can be harmful to one’s health when they are consumed in an excessive manner.
Soybean oil is extracted from soybeans by heating them and then chemicals are used to extract the oils. Soybean oil is very commonly found in processed, pre-packaged foods. Similar to other seed oils, the majority of nutrients that can be found in soybeans will be lost by the end of the extraction process. Soybean oil has a high smoke point, making it appealing to those who are looking to cook at a higher temperature. It is also more on the affordable side from some other oil choices. These factors make it appealing to consumers, without considering what the oil really contains.
One of the biggest consumer concerns with corn oil is that it is made from different crops of corn all over the world, including, GMO’s. There is no evidence yet as to what GMO crops that have all been treated with more and more chemicals and pesticides, will have on the human body and organs as it works to break down the oil. Corn oil is considered a vegetable oil and similar to the others has lost its natural nutritional value by the time it reaches our tables. Corn oil also has high levels of omega-6, which can prove to be unhealthy in large amounts, such as that contained in oils.
Vegan Butter Substitutes
The initial fear of what a vegan butter could contain is almost self-explanatory. It can’t be butter or dairy at all, so that pretty much takes “natural” out of the equation. Vegan butter substitutes can be found in many forms, a common one being good old margarine. While even margarine as a vegan supplement will need to be purchased as 100% dairy free, as most margarine still contain a trace amount of dairy; most margarine is still made of extremely processed soybean oil and are hydrogenated. Just because it has a vegan label on it, doesn’t make this form of soybean oil any healthier than liquid soybean oil. It still has an extremely low nutritional value and is high in omega-6. Not to mention, the added processing that it has gone through to be used as margarine in a solid form.