Cooking oil: Make the right choice

Myths and facts surrounding five of the most commonly used oils

To many it may sound funny, but oil and salt are the two ingredients that remain constant in any cuisine the world over. Oils come in many varieties and we’re spoilt for choice. And, thanks to globalisation, we can avail of any oil from any country. Usage of cooking oil has always been closely linked to our health.

While most of us are consciously trying to make choices that define a healthier lifestyle, lack of sufficient knowledge about the exact benefits of each option has one feeling confused about what to pick. It is important to make an informed choice, especially when it comes to an essential item like cooking oil.

Choosing the right cooking oil

Even in a diverse country like India, cooking food mostly revolves around, frying, sautéing and grilling. It is important to pick a neutral tasting cooking oil that does not overpower the taste of the ingredients of our preparations, and is ideal for high heat cooking methods like sautéing and deep-frying.

When it comes to cooking oils, we often hear the terms saturated fat and unsaturated fat with the former sounding like a death threat. In simple words, saturated fat is the ‘bad’ fat which increases the LDL or the bad cholesterol. On the other hand, unsaturated or ‘good’ fats are further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and are actually considered good for your health. They increase the HDL or the good cholesterol in your body. These include omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids that are known to benefit heart-health, maintain cholesterol levels and provide essential vitamins. Simple? Now for some myth busting around five of the most commonly used oils in Indian kitchens. Use it as a little guide to help you the next time you visit the supermarket

Groundnut oil

One of the main ingredients in the traditional Indian pantry, groundnut oil is extensively used here.

Myth: Groundnut oil may not be best suited to prepare dishes that are deep fried.

Fact: Groundnut oil has a high smoke point which makes it ideal for frying.

Benefits of groundnut oil

  • Suitable for different forms of cooking such as frying, seasoning and grilling.
  • High in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, this oil helps in lowering bad cholesterol.
  • A good source of vitamin E which acts as an anti-oxidant and protects the skin from acne or scars.

Canola oil

Produced extensively in Canada, canola is considered to be a heart-healthy oil. It is also well known for its nutritional as well as culinary benefits.

Myth: Canola oil comes from rapeseed oil and is harmful for consumption.

Fact: Canola oil comes from crushed seeds of the canola plant. It can safely be used for all kinds of cuisines and is the most commonly used oil in the US, Canada and Japan. According to a health claim by the US FDA, the use of canola oil in one’s diet can help reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases.

Benefits of canola oil

  • Because of its light texture, canola is a versatile cooking oil that is neutral in taste and allows the flavours of the Indian spices to come through in dishes. It is suitable for baking desserts and makes good salad dressings.
  • A high smoking point of 204 degrees C makes refined canola ideal for Indian cooking, and suitable for sautéing and frying.
  • It contains a high content of good fats.
  • It has only 7 per cent of saturated fat content, which is half of what olive oil contains and 35 per cent less than that of sunflower oil.

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