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Apr 11

What is the best cooking oil

The growing awareness of health foods and increased research has led us to change a lot of our habits when it comes to what and how much we eat and how we cook. Of course, all research indicates that consuming excessive fat and calories is harmful and can lead to heart disease. Especially since a large majority of us lead sedentary lifestyles and are too lazy or incapable of exercising the required amount to stay fit.

And in order to minimize the fat we consume, a lot of us have switched from butter or ghee to healthier cooking mediums. But is ghee really that bad? And if not ghee, then which oil is the healthiest?

University of Kansas medical center provides the Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid content of various oils available.

Approximate PUFA content of various oils and fats:

Safflower oil (75% PUFA)

Sunflower oil (65% PUFA)

Sesame oil (41-45% PUFA)

Canola oil (30-37% PUFA)

Palm oil (8% PUFA, 50% SAFA)

Olive oil (8% PUFA, 14% SAFA)

Butter (4% PUFA, 50% SAFA)

Ghee (4% PUFA, 48% SAFA, 2% cholesterol)

Coconut oil (2-3% PUFA, 92% SAFA, 0% cholesterol)

According to their research, any oil that has more than 20% PUFA should be avoided. Ideally, the PUFA content should be under 10%. PUFAs are easily oxidized by oxygen and heat and must be handled very carefully else they can become unsafe for consumption. Their top recommendation for cooking oil is coconut oil. However, the taste and smell of coconut oil does not appeal to everyone.

Olive oil: This oil leads the way for the health conscious. In the list above, olive oil has a safe 8% PUFA. Also, it can bolster the immune system and help against viruses, and has also been found to help fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Visit http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-benefits for details on how.

It is rich in antioxidants and vitamin E. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols, which are good for the heart. Monounsaturated fatty acids are known to reduce bad cholesterol and may even help increase good cholesterol. Also, it may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which is great for diabetics. Of course, olive oil is not for the cost conscious people out there. Olive oil is more expensive than most other oils. For instance, olive oil can cost almost double that of canola oil.

Canola Oil: While canola oil has a high PUFA percentage in the chart above, it is considered a good choice for sautéing and baking. It is the richest cooking-oil source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health. It can, however, be dangerous if heated beyond its smoke point since it is at that stage when disease-causing carcinogens and free radicals are released. So, no oil should be heated to that point. Canola oil has a medium-high smoke point, which makes it a good choice for certain types of cooking. But it would not be recommended for frying.

Ghee: Traditionally, most cooking was done in butter or ghee. This changed when consumption of ghee was linked to high cholesterol and the general belief was that ghee is not good for health because it increases bad cholesterol and can increase cardiovascular disease risk. However, research has shown that when consumed within limits, ghee helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. About 2 tablespoons per day are good for heart health. Apart from these benefits, ghee is also a good source of vitamin K and vitamin D. This may vary, however, depending on the diet and living circumstances of the dairy cow. Also, ghee has a high smoke point, which makes it an ideal medium for frying.

Coconut Oil: This is another oil that finds favor with many experts. Its health benefits include building resistance to bacteria, positively affecting hormones for thyroid and regulating blood sugar. It is also helpful in lowering bad cholesterol and has even been linked to weight loss. However, its strong taste mean it does not find favor with everyone.

In conclusion, I would recommend cooking in ghee if you can limit the amount of oil to be consumed on a daily basis. Most cooking does not require more than 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee per preparation and the health benefits of using ghee are numerous. If you are unsure, the next best alternative is olive oil. In any case, be mindful of the kind of oil you use, and be sure that it is used for the right type of cooking, since oils have varying smoke points.

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