Why choosing the right cooking oil is important
There are an array of options when it comes to cooking oil. What is the best and healthiest oil? One of the most important factors that needs to be considered when choosing a cooking oil is its resistance to oxidation at both low and high heat. When oils are heated they undergo oxidation, which changes their molecular structure and could turn them into harmful compounds that are dangerous for consumption. You want to cook with oils that are stable and don’t oxidise or go rancid easily. Being aware of the smoke point of an oil will help you determine whether it’s more suitable for cooking on low or high temperatures. As a rule of thumb, the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.
Complementing sweet baked dishes and some savoury dishes (such as Thai food), coconut oils offers great health benefits and can liven up a dish with a strong coconutty flavour. In contrast, its flavours can also be masked by other dominating flavours in a dish. Coconut oil is easy to digest, enhances energy, increases metabolism and more. Read more about it in our post Health Benefits of Coconut Oil.
Coconut oil is approximately 90% saturated fat (which is higher than butter, which is about 64% saturated fat). Harvard Medical School has pointed out that a diet containing too much saturated fat is unhealthy because it increases “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which raises the risk of heart disease. They recommend using it occasionally.
Refined coconut oil is suitable for occasional high heat cooking such as frying, as it has a higher smoke point, while raw virgin coconut oil is more appropriate for low temperature cooking or baking.
Olive oil is good for low-heat cooking but it also contains enough flavour to be enjoyed uncooked, drizzled over a salad, as a condiment or as a dip for bread. Olive oil is abundant in antioxidants, supports heart health and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Olives and olive oil offer virtually the same health benefits. The biggest difference is that olive oil is 100% fat, while olives contain only 20% fat. Both offer fantastic health benefits that you can read about in our post Origins of the Olive Tree.
Tip: Olive oil should be stored in a dark, cool place away from the stove, as light and heat are detrimental to it. Look for “100% olive oil” on labels to ensure it hasn’t been combined with cheap vegetable oil. We recommend a high quality Peruvian olive oil here.
Avocado is a great oil to use for frying because of its high heat tolerance. With a mild, clean flavour and a slight hint of nuttiness, avocado oil doesn’t taste like the fruit. Smooth and light in texture, it also does very well as a salad dressing.
Traditionally used in India for ayurvedic cooking, ghee is basically butter cleared of milk solids. Golden in colour with a nutty, savoury flavour, ghee has a high smoking point and can be used to cook at high heat. The preferred cooking oil in ancient India, ghee was traditionally considered to be the healthiest source of edible fat. Ayurveda says ghee promotes longevity and protects the body from an array of diseases. It improves absorption and memory and supports the functioning of the brain and nervous system (source).
If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just use butter, removing the milk solids from ghee almost entirely removes the carbohydrates and lactose that people are sensitive to. This is the reason why it has a high smoke point, so it can be used for stir frying, deep frying and sautéing.
We encourage you use these oils to cook healthy, nutritional dishes to benefit your health and wellbeing.