Looking through the labels of each and every bottle of cooking oil at your local grocery can be cumbersome. Labels and ingredients may be confusing and you may come across terms such as ‘oryzanol’, ‘oxidation’ and ‘smoke point’, and not everything may make sense at once. The fact is that different menus and recipes call for different cooking oils. You may require one thing for frying and another for making salads. In view of the fact that 8.7% of Indians in the age group of 20 years to 70 years suffer from diabetes, one needs to take into account the imperatives of taste, health and cooking in equal measure. Also, you must bear in mind whether the oil is likely to breakdown when left alone for days. Given below are 6 important points to consider by Priyanka Kharbanda, Nutritionist, Modi Naturals when buying the most suitable oil for your purposes this World Diabetes Day.
- Consider the proportion of different types of fat to keep diabetes at bay.
Our bodies need a variety of healthy fats which are naturally found in different proportions in edible oils. To understand which fats are healthy and which are not, you must remember that unsaturated fats are good and help to reduce you and your loved ones’ risk of cardiovascular disease while saturated fats are unhealthy. You can recognize saturated fats by the fact that they remain solid at room temperatures and are not easily affected by chemicals in the environment. They can be used for cooking at higher temperatures.
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are both liquid at room temperatures but the former are less stable for cooking purposes. Polyunsaturated fats also change their chemical composition when kept in the open for long. HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is fat that helps remove other types of fat from your body as opposed to LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol.
- Choose different oils for stir frying, deep frying or sautéing.
Deep frying your food requires heating the oil at high temperatures. This means that you need oils with high ‘smoke points’. This is the temperature at which the oil literally starts burning and converts into dangerous chemicals unfit for consumption. The higher the smoke point the more suitable it is for deep frying. Sesame, rice bran, sunflower and mustard oils, all have high smoke points. However, mustard oil is known to contain high amounts of erucic acid, which has been linked to cardiac muscle damage, and hence best avoided as the sole cooking oil for your daily meals.
Sunflower oil has a mild flavor, is high in Vitamin E and low in saturated fats. Rice bran oil is renowned for its richness of anti-oxidants like Vitamin E and ‘oryzanol’. Oryzanol is associated with a number of health benefits including lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. It does this by keeping cholesterol levels in the body at their optimum. These two are optimum for both stir frying and deep frying.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help boost cardiovascular health. Extra virgin olive oil contains the highest levels of antioxidants, polyphenols and oleic acid and given its rich flavor and low smoke point, is ideal for salad dressings, sautéing or dripping over food.
- Check the absorption of the oil in your food while frying.
Different oils have different rates of absorption by food which is being fried. One basically uses oil in food so that heat is more evenly distributed while cooking and making food crisper and easier to chew. So, if your food absorbs too much of the oil, it increases your intake of unhealthy saturated fat. In terms of the oil absorption of various foods, all fried foods are going to absorb some oil, usually between 8-25% the weight of the food being fried. If the temperature of cooking oil is too cool, frying time increases, leading to more oil being absorbed—thus more fat and calories are added to the food. If the oil is too hot, the outside of the fried food becomes burnt before the inside of the food is cooked through—causing an unpleasant taste and possibly a food safety issue. The ideal temperature for frying is generally between 162˚C and 190˚C.
Nevertheless, blended oils such as Oleev Active, are able to lower oil absorption by upto 20%, thus, making your fried food lighter, tastier and healthier.
- Check the presence of antioxidants and other nutrients in oil labels.
Typically, vegetable oils in India are a blend of several oils such as corn, soybean, palm and/or sunflower. However, not all of these are high in unsaturated fat or low in saturated fat.
Canola oil helps lower blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics and generally considered healthier because it contains low saturated fat and high mono unsaturated fat. It is widely used in frying at middling temperatures going to about 232 degrees C. Sunflower is both low in saturated fat content and high in antioxidants. Olive oil in all its varieties such as extra virgin, virgin, extra light and refined is very high in mono unsaturated fats and helps reduce heart disease risk. Rice bran oil has been mentioned above.
- Keep in mind how long the oil can be stored and under what conditions.
Oils in general, remain liquid when kept at room temperature so it is best to store oil away from sunlight and moisture. Oils that are high in monounsaturated fat will keep up to a year, while refined olive oil, having the highest of monounsaturated fat, can last a few years. Extra virgin and virgin olive oils will keep about a year after opened. The shelf life of most other oils after opened is usually six-eight months. At any event, one can sniff the container to check for rancidity and decomposition. Consumption of rancid oil can be bad for your health in the long term and also lowers the nutritional value of your food.
- Use blended oils for optimum health.
Blended oils combine the benefits of different types of oils, which optimize the advantages of substances unique to each variety and maximize health benefits for the consumer. Doctors advise using a combination of 2 or 3 oils to help keep cardiovascular disease at bay. Transfats found in hydrogenated oils such as vanaspati should be completely avoided.
It is advised to measure your oil usage daily to regulate the amount of dietary fat intake to hold off lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Check for devices such as oilometers in containers or use measuring beakers to pour oil into the pan before cooking.