Which oil should I use? Which is the best cooking medium? These are the questions which often arise in the mind of the homemaker especially if someone in the family is suffering from some kind of heart ailment. Tall claims made by advertisements regarding the pros and cons of a particular brand of oil only add to her dilemma leaving her at the mercy of the media. Thus, a proper understanding of the different types of oil is necessary before selecting the right cooking medium.
What is the difference between fat (oil) and cholesterol?
Although the terms cholesterol and oil are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that these are two different kinds of fats; in addition, cholesterol is not present in any vegetable food products (including vegetable cooking oils). It is primarily present in non-vegetarian food products like eggs, chicken, fish, milk and milk products like butter, ghee, cheese and creams.
What are the different types of oils?
The fat that we eat can be divided into three different categories:
- Saturated fats (SFA)
- Monounsaturated fats (MUFA)
- Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA)
Saturated fats (SFA): One of the characteristic features of a saturated fat is that it solidifies on refrigeration. Food products that contain saturated fats include fatty meat, butter, ghee, coconut oil and vanaspati. A higher intake of saturated fat can lead to a higher to a higher cholesterol level. Thus there intake to be restricted.
Monounsaturated fatty Acids (MUFA): These fats are liquid at room temperature MUFA are found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, and peanut oil. One of the greatest advantages of monounsaturated fatty acids is that it decreases the bad cholesterol without reducing the good, cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): These are found in vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower (Kardi), Soya bean and corn oil. PUFA reduces both the good and the bad cholesterol levels of the body and so a higher intake is not recommended.
What are essential fatty acids?
Most polyunsaturated fatty acids can be synthesized by the body. However, two fatty acids namely linolenic acid (omega-3) and oleic acid (omega-6) cannot be synthesized by the body and hence are termed essential fatty acids. The total intake of omega-6, and omega-3, and their ratio to each other is of prime importance. An ideal ratio is 5:1 while a ratio above 10 is considered dangerous.
What is the role of essential fatty acids? In which foods are they present?
Linolenic acids (omega-3) and its derivative play a vital role in strengthening the body’s immune system and in the prevention of a number disease like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
Good source of omega-3 fatty acids are fish and fish liver oil, linseed oil, green leafy vegetables, methi, urad dal and walnuts. These are generally not consumed in very large amounts. On the other hand, the requirement of omega-6 fatty acids is very easily met since vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower and cotton seed oil is a very good source. Hence, when these oils are used as the primary cooking medium, an imbalance in the ratio is likely to happen. It is interesting to note that butter, ghee and coconut oil have a low w-6/w-3 ratio.
Which cooking oil is recommended?
Considering the above facts. It is advisable to use sunflower, safflower or cotton seed oil in conjunction with butter, ghee or coconut oil. Mustard oil has a favorable W-6/w-3 ratio and hence may be used alone. However, besides the type of oil used, keeping a check on the quantity used is of prime importance. Only 1/2kg of oil is required per person per month.