There are many cooking oils available so how you do know which one is best? As a result of the types of fats used, possible health benefits and chemical structure, different oils are suitable for different types of cooking.
A note on smoke points
As oil heats up, the chemical structure changes. All oils break down and start to smoke at different temperatures, affecting the nutritional value, flavour and chemical composition. This means some oils are more harmful than others at higher temperatures. Generally, the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.
Known for its many health benefits, olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. The benefits of this oil are that it is full of mono-unsaturated fats, antioxidants, omega-3 and vitamins A, D, E and K, making it one of the healthiest oils. It may also reduce the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes and some cancers. When buying this oil, extra virgin olive oil contains the most health benefits. The ‘light’ versions of this oil are more processed, lighter in colour and weaker in flavour.
How to use: Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, meaning it heats up quickly. Light olive oil takes a while longer to heat up so it can be used for frying at hotter temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil is best used for drizzling over salads, dipping, marinading and cooking at lower heat.
Canola oil has been attributed with being high in mono-unsaturated fat and having one of the lowest levels of saturated fat. This means it’s an excellent choice for keeping your heart healthy. It’s more refined and has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so it’s great for frying. However, it does contain comparatively fewer antioxidants than pure olive oil.
How to use: Canola oil is best for baking, oven cooking and high temperature cooking, such as quick frying.
Avocados are well-known for being a source of healthy fats, and avocado oil holds up too. A diet rich in avocados offers cholesterol-lowering benefits similar to olive oil. Avocado oil, which contains Vitamin E and about 70 per cent mono-unsaturated fat, may help to lower blood pressure.
How to use: Avocado oil has a high smoke point and works well for high temperature cooking, making it suitable for frying, searing and browning, as well as dipping, and drizzling on salads.
Flaxseed (or linseed) oil
This oil contains a very high amount of plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fats, making it great for brain health and as a way to help lower blood pressure.
How to use: It has a low smoke point, so its best used on foods not requiring cooking. Try flaxseed oil for salad dressings and dips and for adding to smoothies and yoghurt.
Some studies suggest that a diet rich in almonds could help reduce blood pressure. Almond oil is known for having a distinctive nutty flavour and for being low in saturated fat.
How to use: Almond oil has a high smoke point, so it’s good for searing and browning. It’s also suitable for use on salads.
This oil has recently become popular because it may have disease-preventing properties, however, the truth is that coconut oil contains the highest amount of saturated fat of any oil, so it may be a potential health hazard for those at risk of high blood pressure.
How to use: While coconut oil has a medium smoke point and very resistant to heat, it’s best to stick with olive and canola for heavy cooking. Coconut oil can be used (sparingly) for light sautéing, low-heat baking, and in sauces.
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