Which Oil is the Healthiest? A Sneak Preview of 8 types of Oils
Discussion on oils have always gained attention of one and all since years or decades is what you can say. Which oil is the healthiest? Which oil is best for sautéing or cooking? How much oil should be consumed daily? Well, you will have all your questions answered by the end of this discussion.
Let’s check out the composition of oil first. Broadly speaking there are 3 types of fats present in oils and ghee. They are:
SATURATED FATTY ACIDS (SFA) - : These are solid at room temperature. These fatty acids contain a type of saturated fat called the Medium Chain triglycerides (MCT), which get utilized in the body immediately and do not deposit as fat. This is why new research reveals the nourishing benefits of ghee and butter – a high source of SFA. However moderation has to be definitely observed. Over usage of these types of fats can have an immense effect on your weight. Read More about Benefits of Ghee and Benefits of Butter. Coconut oil is also a type of oil which abounds in saturated fats.
POLY-UNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS (PUFA) : These are liquid at room temperature. PUFA based oils contain more of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. These lower total blood cholesterol, both, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. They may cause damage to the arteries of the heart. Moreover they are less stable and are also linked to inflammation in the body.
MONO-UNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS (MUFA) : Liquid at room temperature. MUFA are mainly composed of omega-3 fatty acids which lower only the ‘bad’ or unhealthy blood cholesterol (LDL) and improve the ‘good’ and healthy blood cholesterol levels (HDL). This helps reduce risk of heart diseases. Olive oil, canola oil and avocado oil and to some extent peanut oil are MUFA based oils.
Types of Oils
1. Olive Oil : This is one of the healthiest oil you can opt for. It has around 77% of MUFA. Olive oil, especially the extra virgin olive oil, is unrefined oil in its natural state and free of chemicals. Moreover, olive oil also possess polyphenols – a type of antioxidant which protects body cells and maintains heart health as well. Popular in Mediterranean cooking, this oil works best for salad dressings or quick sautéing recipes. They cannot be used for prolonged cooking at high temperatures.
2. Avocado Oil : This is another source of omega-3 fatty acids and a second good choice for health. This has around 70% of MUFA. Unlike olive oil, it can withstand high temperature and thus can be used in cooking. The only shortcoming with avocado oil is its availability and price.
3. Canola Oil : This oil has a good percentage of MUFA, but it also contains good percentage of PUFA. This is quite neutral in taste and flavour. It finds extensive use in grilling, stir-frying and baking. Though not very expensive, the downside is that many types of canola oil are refined and thus unhealthy. However it is a better cooking medium than PUFA based oils.
4. Coconut Oil : This is a type of oil made from the flesh of coconut. For years, coconut was acknowledged as notorious and unhealthy for heart. But recently, it has gained focus again. The new research says that in spite of being of composed of 92% of saturated fats, it exhibits health benefits. Research has revealed the presence of healthy fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) which are known to benefit our body. These MCT are accountable for reduction in Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), increase in High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), healthy gut and so on… Read about all Benefits of Coconut Oil. However, this doesn’t mean that you go ahead and blissfully make deep-fried starters and snacks with coconut oil. Moderation has to be practiced with all types of oil always.
5. Peanut Oil : This oil has the highest amount of MUFA (around 49%) amongst all the other remaining common cooking oils. The remaining 51% is PUFA and SFA. Most households in western Indian use peanut oil as a cooking medium. If you have to choose amongst the cooking oils, after avocado oil and coconut oil, this oil gets a spot-on. But when compared to other MUFA based oils, this oil is considered to be high in omega-6 fatty acids, which often may tend to harm your body without you realizing it.
6. Sesame Oil : Sesame oil contain nearly equal amounts of PUFA and MUFA, with some amounts of SFA. Accordingly, it has omega-3 fatty acids, but it also has a higher omega-6 fatty acids than other cooking oils. Not majorly used in cooking, it finds it presence in many pickles in Indian cuisine.
7. Sunflower Oil : Neutral in taste, this is another oil used in many households as a cooking medium. It is an oil which has maximum amounts of PUFA (about 69%). Supermarkets are flourished with types of sunflower oil, which may be or may not be enriched with vitamin E. Considering its PUFA content, sunflower oil would not be one’s best choice as they as considered to be pro-inflammatory rather than being anti-inflammatory. But some varieties of sunflower oils are enriched with oleic acids – a type of MUFA. However the effect of this type of sunflower oil yet needs to be highlighted by researchers.
8. Vegetable Oils : To some vegetable oil is only soyabean oil, while some promote it as a mix of oils like soyabean, canola, sunflower, corn and other omega-6 rich oils. These are often cheaper options than many oils, but they are highly processed oils. They are undoubtedly not to be reached out for, whether you are looking for salad dressings, sautéing or cooking.
The healthiest oil you can make a pick at is the olive oil which is loaded with MUFA. But its usage is restricted to salads and stir-fries. Avocado oil can be used in cooking, but it’s expensive. So what you can turn to for cooking is Coconut oil. Though it is high in SFA, recent research has highlighted its health benefits due to the presence of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Followed by coconut oil, peanut oil can be looked upon, as it has more MUFA than PUFA amongst all the other cooking oils and can withstand high heat and cooking temperatures. The effects of Sesame oil with equal proportion of MUFA and PUFA is yet to be researched. However sunflower oil, corn oil and vegetable oil are absolutely not health promoting oils. Make your wise pick now.
How much to consume, depends on your age, sex, lifestyle and the activity you are involved in. Apart from a nourishing diet, exercise plays a major role in a person’s health and staying fit. But in general, 2 to 3 teaspoons of fats (which includes healthy oils and ghee) are recommended for a healthy living.