Frying, sautéing, or drizzling, we use plenty of oil when we’re cooking at home. Research has shown that certain oils are healthier than others, and that using the right type for different styles of cooking can be great a benefit to your health.
Smoking point- Something you may have heard about on your favourite YouTube cooking channels, the smoking point is the point at which the oil starts smoking and burning, leading to the degradation of its nutrients. This means that some oils are better suited for cooking with intense heat, while others serve better as salad dressings or drizzles.
You’ll be looking for cooking oil that is tasty and healthy, and won’t be damaged by heat, and here we have listed popular oils, and their characteristics:
Olive Oil- Olive Oil generally comes in three forms - Light Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Light Olive Oil is the ‘lowest’ quality, made by using chemicals and heat to remove impurities. Pure Olive Oil is a blend of processed olive oil plus Extra Virgin Olive Oil, normally used in baking. Pure Olive Oil is comparatively healthier than most (thanks to a lower smoking point) and is typically used as a dressing or for sautéing vegetables.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)- Using the first cold press of olives and pits, EVOO is made without using heat. Virgin Olive Oil is the oil produced from the second pressing of olives, and has a lighter flavour and colour than EVOO. EVOO has a low smoking point, and is suited to salad dressings, bread dips, and foods that do not involve much heating. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains high amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been linked to a healthy heart.
Avocado Oil- This oil is a popular choice for cooking at low to medium temperatures, and contains desirable amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Enriched with Vitamin E, which benefits your skin, avocado oil is best drizzled over salads or grilled veggies, (despite actually having a high smoking point).
Coconut Oil- Rich in iron, Vitamin E and K, coconut oil has a higher smoking point and can tolerate very high heat during cooking. Its high content of saturated fats means however, that it is not recommended for everyday cooking.
Sunflower Oil– High in Vitamin E with a high smoking point, sunflower oil is losing popularity due to the presence of omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. A balanced intake of omega-3 and generally healthy diet means you can consume this oil without it being harmful to the body (a diet full of fish, spinach, walnuts, and flaxseeds.)
Walnut Oil- A low smoking point, so not best for cooking with heat, Walnut Oil is great for its neutral flavour and used in dressings or even on pancakes. Walnut Oil has a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, keeping inflammation in check.
Certain oils have their pros and cons, but we recommend using a variety in different cooking processes, for the healthiest lifestyle. It also keeps your meals interesting, and you might improve some of your dishes with a bit more knowledge on smoking points.
If you’re looking for some healthy recipes, don’t forget to check out our Fitness First Recipe section.