What Oils To Use & Why
Always remember the smoke point of an oil ... If you use an oil above its smoke point, it becomes cancerous
Photo Credit : Bloomberg
Eating fat and oil is important. It helps us absorb the oil soluble vitamins like A, D, E, as well as lubricate our joints and decrease inflammation. They also make our food tasty. However, there is always a phobia as well as confusion around which oils to use for what. If there is an imbalance between saturated and unsaturated fats, we end up increasing our inflammation and hence of the risk of getting deadly lifestyle diseases including cancer. So it is not that some oils are good and some are bad, it is the balance that we must keep to ensure that we can enjoy the taste of our food as well as keep our minds and bodies healthy.
Always remember the smoke point of an oil and use it below the smoke point. If you use an oil above its smoke point, it becomes cancerous. Here are the oils and fats and their mysteries unravelled:
Sunflower, Rice Bran & Mustard oil: These can be used for high flame cooking and deep frying. All of them have a smoke point of 227 degrees Celsius. When we deep fry something, the temperature reaches around 177 degrees Celsius. This makes these three oils safe for deep frying and Indian cooking where a lot of masalas are sautéed on high flame and our typical “tadka” for the dal is put.
Use them sparingly as the benefits of these for heart health and lowering inflammation are limited. They are neutral except for rice bran oil, which has heart protective qualities, as long as we consume them in limited quantities.
Extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils: A lot of people who want to prove to me that they eat healthy actually say that they do all their cooking in extra virgin olive oil. This is the most hazardous thing anyone can do from a health perspective, because extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 160 degrees.
When we cook in extra virgin olive oil, we are way above its smoke point, hence making this wonderfully anti-inflammatory oil inflammatory and cancerous in nature. The same applies to virgin flaxseed oil. Hence, extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils should be strictly used raw, for salads or smoothies only. They should come in a glass bottle, not plastic, and should say ‘cold press/extraction’ somewhere on the bottle.
Extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making them ideal for reducing bad cholesterol and inflammation inside the body. Omega-3 has also clinically and in my practice as well, shown reversal in anxiety, depression, premenstrual symptoms like mood swings, cramps, weight reduction, decrease in fatty liver, preventing asthma, dementia and improving mental health to a large extent. However, all these benefits are killed if we cook with them. You should aim at 25-30 ml per day of these raw oils in salads every day to ensure that you get the amazing benefits of these two oils.
Saturated oils: These include coconut oil, butter and ghee and their smoke points are 177 degrees. They should be used very sparingly as saturated fat can increase our triglycerides and cholesterol as well as the risk of stomach-related cancers and prostate cancer. A lot of people use butter, ghee or coconut oil for tempering spices on high flame for the dals, however, the smoke point for these oils is 177 degrees Celsius. This means that when we actually put the “tadka” we are dangerously close to converting butter, ghee and coconut oil into carcinogenic oils as they have already reached their smoke point of 177 degrees. A good measure is not more than five per cent of the total fat you consume.
A great way to balance your fat and oil intake is to use minimal oil for cooking, use sunflower, mustard or rice bran oil for everyday cooking and occasionally use saturated fats like butter, ghee, coconut oils and extra-virgin and flaxseed oils on a daily basis to reduce your risk of diseases and keep your heart healthy.