Compare Cooking Oils and Fats

Oils have picked up a bad reputation, but not all oils and fats are bad for you. What is important is the type of oil or fat that you are eating. Most American diets include too much saturated fats and trans fats and don't include the good unsaturated fatty acids. Oils do increase the fat content of what you cook but they also add flavor.If you are using the right oils they have many health benefits and can actually help reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer. When unsaturated oil or fats are mixed with food containing vitamin D & E or lycopene, the vitamins are more easily absorbed by the body.

Which Cooking Oils Should I Watch Out For?

The bad fats are saturated fats and saturated oils (found in dairy and meat) and trans fats (found in processed foods and hydrogenated oils). Saturated fats increase cholesterol levels in blood including the bad LDL cholesterol. Trans fats not only increase LDL cholesterol they also decrease HDL the good cholesterol in your blood. Some of the oils that contain bad fats include vegetable shortening, margarine, butter, palm oil and coconut oil.

Various Types of Good Oils for Cooking (monounsaturated oils and polyunsaturated oils)

  • Walnut Oil

  • Walnut oil has a delicate roasted flavor and costs more than other oils so it is generally used sparingly. Walnut oils have a shorter shelf life and can turn rancid quicker than other oils, so it can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life. Walnut oil contains ALA (omega -3 alpha linolenic acid), magnesium, potassium and vitamin E. Walnut oil is not a pan frying oil because high heat destroys its antioxidants and flavor. Walnut oil is used in salad dressing, vinaigrettes, dipping oil for breads, tossed with pasta or brushed on meats or vegetables before grilling.

  • Olive Oil

  • Olive Oil has a light grassy flavor. Choose extra virgin oil or virgin olive oil that has been put though a cold press instead of regular olive oil (labeled 100% Pure Olive Oil )which is extracted by heat or chemical additives. Always look for extra virgin oil or virgin olive oil high in monounsaturated fats that have heart health benefits such as lowering cholesterol. Olive oil contains antioxidant plant compounds and has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. extra virgin oil or virgin olive oil usually work best in no heat or low heat cooking such as in salads, with vegetables or in light sauté. Regular olive oil is more stable under heat; but not recommended for frying.

  • Canola Oil

  • Canola oil has a neutral taste and is preferred by chefs as an all purpose oil because it tolerates heat well. Canola oil is low in saturated fat; high in monounsaturated fat and beneficial omega-3 fatty acid and used sparingly can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Canola oil works well in high heat cooking and in baking.

  • Flaxseed Oil

  • Flaxseed oil has a nutty tasting flavor. Unfiltered flaxseed oil contains more nutrients than filtered varieties. Flaxseed oil can be stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness and flavor. Flaxseed oil is a great source of ALA (omega -3 alpha linolenic acid) which is a good source of omega-3 for people who do not eat enough fish. Flaxseed oil is not good for cooking with heat but is great on salads, in pesto or hummus.

  • Peanut Oil

  • Peanut Oil has a rich nutty taste. High in monounsaturated fats peanut oil contains phytochemical resveratrol the same as found in red wine. The antioxidants help in the prevention of cancer. Peanut oil is the oil of choice for stir fry cooking because it can handle high heat cooking and is frequently used as deep fry oil.

  • Grape-Seed Oil

  • Grape-seed oil has a neutral but light nutty taste. Grape seeds contain only small amounts of oil and most is extracted using chemical extraction. Grape seed oil is high in antioxidants and a group of bioflavonoids known as procyanadins and is a polyunsaturated oil rich in linoleic. Used in salad dressings and because of its high smoke point it's used in deep frying, stir frys and sautéing.
Cooking with Oil Tips:

Since most oils are sensitive to heat and light; store them in a cabinet, pantry or other cool dark place.
Oils that have a short shelf life can be stored in the refrigerator to prevent them from going rancid.
When frying with oil use oils that are made for frying and can withstand the heat, if the oil smokes the heat is too high.

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