Do you feel lost when you get to a certain section of a grocery store where there are so many choices that you have no idea which one is actually good for you? Many people want to eat healthier but they often lack accurate information to help them make the right decisions.
Consumers are bombarded with so much data on a daily basis, that after awhile they simply block it out and as the result often buy products that look good or have the lowerst cost rather than choosing items that are actually beneficial to their health. Take a walk through a shopping aisle containing variety of cooking oils and you will see what I mean. With so many available choices it’s hard to pick the most beneficial oil for your health. Here are few tips to help you choose the right type.
Two main sources of fats found in our diets are vegetable oils, which come primarily from plant sources and fats which are hydrogenated from processing. Typical oil is liquid at room temperature but fats (butter, margarine, shortening, lard, etc.) are usually solids. This rule does have a few exceptions however, due to differences in manufacturing processes.
Typical Selections On The Grocery Store Shelves
Below is a list of the usual types of oils you can find in the typical supermarket. By understanding the scorch (or smoke) point of these varieties, you can best decide which product is best suited for your dinner preparations.
- Nut Oils: (walnut, cashew, almond etc.) – Most of the nut oils can not withstand fairly high heat without breaking down. Therefore these varieties are better used for cold processes such as salads and salad dressings.
- Macadamia and Peanut Oil – These two oils can and do like high heat so they are excellent for frying oils. Often many restaurants and chain restaurants use peanut oil in their deep fryers because it can withstand such high heat. This oil is also more cost effective for the restaurant than any other variety.
- Canola (rapeseed) oil, sunflower and safflower oil – Each of these also have a high scorch point which makes them excellent for use in frying, baking and stir-fry recipes.
- Corn oil – Corn oil is the most common of all the cooking oils. It is extracted from the maize (or corn) plant through several different operations. Although it is the most widely used, mainly because it is the least expensive, it is high in omega 6 fatty acids. Current research is suggesting that a diet high in omega 6’s and deficient in omega 3’s is currently suggesting a possible link to breast cancer in many women. To date though, not enough data has been collected to date to confirm this theory.
- Olive oil – Many varieties of olive oil differ considerably in their scorch points due to the different methods of processing. Cooking applications therefore must be changed to match the type of oil being used. Every variety of olive oil is part of the monounsaturated fats line (the good fats) and high in omega 3’s which is commonly known as the heart healthy selection.
- extra virgin oils: all break down at low temperatures so use for non-cooked foods only.
- virgin olive oil has a medium scorch point. Although not generally recommended for deep-frying, baking or high-heat stir fries, it can withstand regular skillet frying on the stove top.
- light olive oils do withstand high temperatures so any application is generally considered safe.
- Trans fatty acids (TFA), partially hydrogenated oil and hydrogenated oil: each of these are not quite as familiar in the cooking oils section of the store shelves but check the labels before purchasing to be sure. The shortening or lard varieties will generally include this information on the ingredient label. Avoid all of these whenever and wherever possible. Their melting point is actually higher than the temperature of the human body thus commonly being used mostly in the food service industry. After ingestion, these type of oils stay in our system as a solid which leads to clogging of the arteries on a continuing basis.
As you can see different types of oils are better suited for different things, therefore it’s generally a good idea to have few different varieties in our kitche cabinet and use the one that is more suitable for your cooking needs.