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Selecting cooking oils for health and taste

cooking oils

In the past, choosing a cooking oil was easy. Consumers had just a few types of cooking oils to select from on supermarket shelves, such as corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil—all clear, pale, odorless, and tasteless. Today the range of unrefined plant oils has increased drastically, making this task challenging. Supermarkets now offer a range of new oils such as unrefined, cold pressed avocado, almond, peanut, grapeseed, hemp, flax, red palm, walnut, and coconut. Each has its own benefits, flavors, and cooking properties.

Before diving into more detail about oils, let’s get some information about its composition. Fat is an essential macronutrient the body requires for cell growth, absorption of important nutrients like vitamin B and is a source of energy. Cooking nutrient-rich foods like vegetables and lean proteins in oil helps them become caramelized, which is the browning of natural sugar and amino acids, so they have more depth and flavor and keep you satiated longer. Fat can also add creaminess to things like salad dressings, making them more enjoyable, and you don’t feel a need to mindlessly snack after a meal.

Now how can we choose the correct oil? It is important to consider the type of cooking the oil would be used for. I understand many of us are trying to be more health-conscious when selecting the healthiest oils for cooking or trying to make nutritional changes to get the best sources of fat in our diet. Therefore, is important to know how the various oils behave when heated so you can choose the best option.

When we are cooking in high temperatures, including grilling. Is important to select cooking oils with a high smoke point; or more than 375°F.  For low-temperature cooking such as sautéing, or adding to dishes and salad dressings, choose oils with lower smoke points (below 300°F) which usually contain higher omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are known for their anti-inflammatory action. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in oils are important for health, but a greater proportion of the omega-3 fatty acids are desirable.

The smoke point is important to pay attention to when you are choosing your oil for cooking. The smoking point is the temperature at which a heated fat or oil starts to break down and produce smoke, giving an unpleasant smell and taste to food. At that point, the fat is breaking down and can produce potentially toxic compounds. Because of this you should not cook with a low smoke point oil (below 300°F) at a high temperature.  Doing so can change your healthy oil into something not so good for your body.

A high smoke point is typically one above 375°F, as that's the temperature you usually fry at. Be sure you choose the fat that has a smoke point above the temperature you will be cooking.

Storing Oils:

• Most oils will last for 1 year when stored properly, with the exception of coconut oil and peanut oil which will last for 2 years.

• Oils should be stored in a cool, dry, dark cupboard, away from the heat and light.

• Best oils to refrigerate are avocado oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil.

• If storing in your kitchen, choose a spot that’s away from the oven and will not come in contact with heat.

• The best temperature for storing oil is typically between 57-70°F.