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Cooking oil serves an integral part in almost all types of culinary practices and it helps bring out a distinct flavour and texture in foods. From sautéing, frying to roasting and baking, cooking oil plays an imperative role in various cooking methods.
Cooking oil plays an important role in human nutrition too. They are a good source of fatty acid compositions which play a vital role in the prevention of diseases, promote brain function, aid in the growth and development of human embryo and prevent inflammation .
Fatty acids are classified into four categories saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), polyunsaturated (PUFA) and trans fats. These fatty acids are found in vegetable oils .
The vegetable oils are derived from plant-based sources and these include peanut, canola, soybean, sunflower, sesame, grapeseed, olive, palm, coconut, corn and avocado oil, to name a few . Some of these cooking oils are high in saturated fat which needs to be consumed in moderation.
So which cooking oils are healthy? It depends on the type of cooking you are doing, smoke point of the cooking oil and the fatty acid content in the cooking oil.
The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil burns and smokes. Oils with a higher smoke point are ideal for deep-frying, while oils with low smoke point below 200 degree Celsius are ideal for shallow frying . Reheating oils past their smoke point loses its flavour and is considered detrimental to health.
Read here to know which cooking oils are good for your health and which ones should be consumed in moderation.
Best Cooking Oils For Health
1. Olive oil
Olive oil is a primary ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. It is high in phenolic compounds and contains about 72.961 g monounsaturated fatty acids, 13.808g saturated fatty acids and 10.523 g polyunsaturated fatty acids .
Consumption of olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil can help lower the risk of heart disease and mortality in people who are at a higher risk of heart disease .
• Extra-virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 191 degree Celsius, which can be used for shallow frying.
2. Sesame seed oil
According to a study, sesame seeds possess 50 to 60 per cent of oil which is loaded with polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, sesamin, sesamolin and tocopherol homologues. The fatty acids present in sesame oil are 35-50 per cent of linoleic acid,35-50 per cent of oleic acid, with small amounts of 7-12 per cent of palmitic acid and 3.5-6 per cent of stearic acid and only trace amount of linolenic acids .
Sesame oil is high in nutrients and antioxidants. It is known to have antihypertensive and anticarcinogenic properties . Consumption of sesame oil can reduce fatty acid concentration in the liver and decrease serum cholesterol levels.
• Sesame oil is used for deep-frying. Refined sesame oil has a higher smoke point than unrefined sesame oil.
3. Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil has a neutral flavour and is light in colour. 100 g of sunflower oil possesses 19.5 g monounsaturated fatty acids, 65.7 g polyunsaturated fatty acids and 10.3 g saturated fatty acids .
Sunflower oil may help lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol, according to a study .
• Sunflower has a high smoke point and is often used in high heat cooking.
4. Soybean oil
Soybean oil contains 7 to10 per cent palmitic acid, 2 to 5 per cent stearic acid, 1 to 3 per cent arachidic acid, 22 to 30 per cent oleic acid, 50 to 60 per cent linoleic acid, and 5 to 9 per cent linolenic acid. Soybean oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids that can help reduce serum cholesterol levels, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease .
• Soybean oil has a high smoke point which makes it ideal for deep-frying.
5. Safflower oil
100 g of safflower oil has 7.14 g saturated fat, 78.57 g monounsaturated fat and 14.29 g polyunsaturated fat .
A study showed that post-menopausal obese women with type 2 diabetes had a significant reduction in inflammation, blood lipids and blood sugar levels after consuming 8 g of safflower oil daily .
• Safflower oil has a high smoke point which is considered good for high heat cooking.
6. Avocado oil
Avocado oil contains 16.4 per cent saturated fatty acids, 67.8 per cent monounsaturated fatty acids and 15.2 per cent of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A study showed that 13 healthy adults who regularly were on a hypercaloric and hyperlipidic diet replaced butter with avocado oil for six days, which resulted in a marked improvement in insulin, blood sugar, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels .
• Avocado oil has a high smoke point and can be used in sautéing, grilling, baking and searing.
7. Peanut oil
Peanut oil has a nutty taste and smell. Peanut oil is most commonly used in Chinese, South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. 100 g of peanut oil contains 16.9 g saturated fat, 46.2 g monounsaturated fat and 32 g polyunsaturated fat .
Peanut oil is rich in phytosterols that inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, lower inflammation and stop the growth of lung, stomach, ovarian, colon, breast and prostate cancer cells .
• It has a high smoke point of 229.4 degree Celsius which is ideal for deep-frying foods.
8. Canola oil
100 g of canola oil contains 7.14 g saturated fat, 64.29 g monounsaturated fat and 28.57 g polyunsaturated fat . A study has shown that canola oil can significantly lower both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, increase vitamin E and improve insulin sensitivity than other dietary fat sources .
• Canola oil has a high smoke point, which is suitable for high-heat cooking.
Image source: Healthline
9. Corn oil
Refined corn oil has 59 per cent of polyunsaturated fats, 24 per cent monounsaturated fats and 13 per cent saturated fats. It is high in vitamin E that protects it from oxidative rancidity. Corn oil has good amounts of linoleic acid, which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid which boosts skin health and aids in proper functioning of cell membranes and immune system. Consumption of corn oil can help lower LDL cholesterol due to the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids .
• Corn oil has a high smoke point and can be used for deep-frying.
Image source: hfimarketplace
Cooking Oils To Consume In Moderation
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is used as an edible oil in the food industry and there has been mixed reviews on the usage of coconut oil for cooking. One study shows that coconut oil is resistant to oxidation and polymerization, which makes it a suitable oil for cooking. Unrefined coconut oil has a low smoking point of 177 degree Celsius which means it is ideal for single-use shallow frying.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat which is about 92 per cent and this type of fatty acid should be consumed in moderation as studies have shown that consuming high levels of saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease , , .
Another study conducted on 32 healthy participants who consumed 15 ml of virgin coconut oil daily for eight weeks was linked to a higher increase in HDL cholesterol. However, further studies are required among patients with low levels of HDL cholesterol who need to increase their HDL cholesterol levels .
2. Palm oil
According to the American Heart Association, palm oil is high in saturated fat,  which should be consumed in moderation. 100 g of palm oil contains 49.3 g of saturated fat, 37 g monounsaturated fat and 9.3 g polyunsaturated fat .
Tips For Using Cooking Oils
• Avoid any cooking oil to burn above its smoke point.
• Don't use cooking oil that smells bad.
• Don't reuse or reheat cooking oil.
• Buy cooking oil and store them in a dark, cool area.
According to the American Heart Association, replace bad fats like saturated fat with healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as they are good for your heart. So, choose healthy cooking oils for preparing food such as safflower, sunflower, peanut, avocado and olive oil. Consume coconut oil and palm oil in moderation as they are high in saturated fats.