All about oil

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Oil is indispensable to cooking. Every form of cuisine and most methods of preparation explore the myriad flavours of oils. Oil is an integral part of a balanced diet providing energy, essential fatty acids, aids the absorption of fat soluble vitamins- A, D, E and K. Cooking oils contain 45 kcals per teaspoon. Oil should be used in a fixed proportion as they are 100% fat and full of calories. In general, a healthy amount of fat in the diet ranges between 20% and 25% of total calories.


When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and unhealthy components that you definitely don’t want to be consuming. When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily.

Here are some facts to remember:

  • Chemical structure of the fat called saturation determines if fat is good or bad for health. Saturation is determined by the composition of the fat molecule composed mostly of hydrogen atoms attached to carbon atoms in a carbon chain.
  • Oils with high omega-3 content such as flax oil and hempseed oil are unsuitable for cooking.
  • Two kinds of unsaturated fats exist : monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Research shows that polyunsaturated fat, found in great proportion in safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils, seems to protect the heart more than monounsaturated fat does.
  • Quite a large percentage of your brain is composed of both saturated fat and cholesterol, which means our most vital organ needs saturated fat in order to function to its best.
  • Tran’s fats are to be eliminated from your diet by avoiding foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Less than 7 percent of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats
  • It is advisable to not buy large batches at a time. This way you will most likely use them before they get the chance to damage by oxidation.

Here is a list of oils and their properties to keep in mind before using them


  1. Unsaturated fatty acids:

This is found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, almonds and avocados. Too much of this oil is unsuitable as they are made of double bonds, highly reactive and bind oxygen to form peroxides and can cause a bad flavour and odour.


  1. Soya bean oil:

They are a good source of linoleic acid and oleic acid and vitamin E.


  1. Sunflower oil:

A good choice for many as it is a light, odourless oil pressed form sunflower seeds. It lowers the levels of both good and bad cholesterol.


  1. Safflower oil/Kardi oil:

This is flavourless and colourless and contains PUFA. It is the best oil for salad dressings as it does not solidify when chilled.


  1. Sesame oil:

It is fragrant and has a nutty flavour most used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. It is not used as a cooking agent but more like a flavour addition. In India, it is known as til oil and is mixed with jaggery.


  1. Groundnut oil:

This is the most commonly used Indian oil which contains heart-friendly MUFA that lowers the level of bad cholesterol in our body and protects the heart. It is the best for deep frying as it has a high smoking point.


  1. Olive oil:

Quite a fad these days, every rising middle-class uses olive oil in cooking in some form! It has the highest amount of heart-protective monosaturated fats and anti-oxidants. The oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives and comes in different varieties depending on how much it is processed.


  1. Extra virgin olive oil:

It is extracted by cold pressing olives and has the most anti-oxidants and is preferable for salad dressing and unsuitable for high-temperature frying.


  1. Mustard oil:

It is most used in West Bengal because of its pungent flavour. It has both MUFA and PUFA. It also contains erucic acid which can have a bad effect on health when consumed excessively.


10.Canola oil:

This is made from rapeseeds and is also known as LEAR oil for low erucic acid rapeseed. It is high in MUFA and omega-3 fatty acids and lowest in saturated fats. It can be used for salads and for frying purposes.

11. Coconut oil:

Extracted from the flesh of the coconut, it is very high in saturated fat and therefore its intake should be strictly limited.  It is used extensively in south Indian dishes and Thai food. Coconut oil has been believed to cause reductions in blood lipid content (including excess triglycerides. Coconut oil has numerous benefits like aiding weight loss and maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Also used for cosmetic purposes and has a nice fragrance.

12. Palm oil

As guessed, Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of oil palms. It consists of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Thus palm oil a good choice for cooking. Red Palm Oil which is unrefined palm oil is best. It is also rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme and other nutrients. However, there have been questions about the sustainability of harvesting palm oil, which limits the area available for animals.