Many have referred to it’s namesake as ‘liquid gold’ but while plant, seed and nut oils might not be worth waging war over, your body regards them as a valuable commodity. However, in order to reap the health benefits, you must choose the right variety. Zap Fitness’ dietitian lifts the lid on this fatty issue and proves that ‘oils aint oils’.
If you’ve taken a glimpse at the cooking oil section in your supermarket recently
you’ve probably noticed it’s well anointed with a growing selection of new types
of oils. Often these oils have slick labeling leaving us confused about whether we
should be putting ‘light’ olive oil from Italy in our basket or can sprayed coconut oil
I’m often grilled about what types of oil to use and how they differ. Cooking oils
are liquid fat derived from plants, seeds or nuts. They all have similar energy
content so your grapeseed oil or extra light olive oil might sound better but it
will still have around 700 kilojoules per tablespoon.
The different health benefits of oils are in the type of oil and the their ratio of fat.
Check your labels to see what type of fat is in your cooking oil.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the good types of fat. These oils can
actually lower your cholesterol. Saturated fats are bad for us and can increase your cholesterol.
Remember, that oil is a fat and fat is very energy dense. You should only need
one to two tablespoons, at the most, in your cooking. Spray oil is a great option as
it lightly coats your entire pan and it’s easier to control how much you’re using.
When choosing your oil the next thing to consider is how you want to use it.
Some oils can handle the heat and have what is called a ‘high smoke point’.
A smoke point is the point at which your oil starts to break down and lose its
nutritional value. It will also taste pretty bitter at this stage.
Some oils have a low smoke point and are best used in sauces, salad dressings
and dips. Also, be aware that oil does not like heat and light. Store your oil in a
cool, dark place so you’re not shortening its shelf life. Grapeseed and walnut oil
are particularly prone to this.
Here is a breakdown of which oils you should think about having at your
disposal. Olive oil, sunflower, canola and vegetable oils are the best choices for
stir-frying and sautéing at a high heat. These oils contain healthy fats and less
saturated fat. Peanut oil and grapeseed oil are also good for high temperature
Olive oil is one of the most versatile oils. It is often sold as virgin or extra virgin
olive oil. Extra virgin has less acid and a fruitier, stronger flavour than pure or
virgin olive oil. Olive oil labeled as light refers to its hue or flavour not its
kilojoules. Olive oil has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil.
For lower temperature cooking still use your vegetable and olive oil. If you are
baking it’s best to use foil or baking paper where you can. Most oils are now
being produced in a spray can form so use a light spray for your grilling, baking
and roasting where possible.
Salads, marinades, sauces and dips require flavour and different types of oils. Use
extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, walnut or linseed oil. Some of your oils with higher
smoke points can also be used. Good choices are avocado oil, grapeseed or macadamia oil or sesame oil for Asian cuisine.
Palm oil should be avoided as almost half of it contains saturated fat and this oil
has a big impact on the environment. Look out for it in vegetable blends. Coconut
oil is also a saturated fat that is extracted from the coconut flesh leaving behind
vitamins and beneficial polyphenol antioxidant compounds that are found in
other oils. Although, it has been promoted to reduce cholesterol there is limited
data to support this.
Australia produces some of the best cooking oils in the world. Some local
producers are not only leading the way in flavour, they are also improving
convenience with ‘easy squeeze’ plastic bottles. These are now produced by labels
such Red Island. Remember, cooking oils deteriorate easily and local products
(like all locally produced food) don’t have to travel far. This is also good for
the environment, so it’s a win win situation.
Don’t let the shelves dripping with cooking oil fry your brain. Many of the oils
have similar properties and flavour. If you have the budget to choose avocado oil
on your Italian salad and sesame oil for your noodle one then enjoy it. For most
of us simply including a good extra virgin and light olive oil with vegetable oil in
our basket should make your dishes sizzle.