Fats are one of the essential macronutrients required by our body. We have plenty of dietary fat sources around and it depends on us, how wisely we choose them. Health experts always recommend preferring vegetable oils over saturated fats like butter, cream, margarine, etc. These saturated fats should only constitute 10% or less than 10% of our ideal dietary fat intake.
Have you ever wondered why dieticians and nutritionists suggest using different oils for cooking and why we should change them every 2-3 months? Market is flooded with oils extracted from various healthy sources. Cooking oil is one of the basic ingredients used in cooking and each oil is made up of a distinct combination of three components-
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA)
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA)
- Saturated Fatty Acid (SFA)
So, every oil has its own unique health benefits and differ in terms of fatty acids, omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats, vitamins and anti-oxidants. In order to grab the benefits of all these attributes, we should keep changing our cooking oils from time to time.
Above mentioned image shows the composition of different oils in terms of SFA, MUFA and PUFA.
Let’s have a look at some of the health benefits of different oils –
1. Coconut Oil - This oil is rich in saturated fats. But what makes it unique is that fats present in coconut oil are in the form of MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides). This means that fatty acids are shorter than other fats. They take lesser time to digest due to which they boost energy levels, curb appetite and cause a positive effect on weight. Coconut oil is also anti-bacterial in nature.
2. Olive Oil - This oil is extracted from olives. Being rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, which helps reduce bad blood cholesterol levels, olive oil is a good choice for a healthy heart. Apart from this, olive oil contains vitamin E, vitamin K, anti-oxidants and possess strong anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Canola Oil - Canola Oil is rich in an essential omega 3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid and an essential omega 6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. It is also rich in MUFA which helps in managing blood cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels and regulates blood pressure. Presence of omega 3 fats makes it excellent for our eyes, brain, joints and skin health. Canola oil also contains vitamin E and is a powerful source of anti-oxidants. Compared to all other vegetable oils, it has the lowest levels of bad saturated and trans fats.
4. Sunflower Oil - Extracted from sunflower seeds, this oil is rich in omega 6 fats, vitamin A and vitamin E. Its impressive fatty acid profile includes oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, lecithin and linolenic acid. Not only it boosts heart health but also has been proven good for immunity, skin health, reducing arthritic pain and inflammation.
5. Rice Bran Oil - Rice bran oil is extracted from the bran of rice, which is the outer husk layer. It is also a heart-friendly oil due to the balanced amount of SFA, MUFA and PUFA. It is usually preferred for frying because of the high smoke point and the very light viscosity of rice bran oil thus food absorbs comparatively less oil, approx. up to 20%. Last but not the least, rice bran oil naturally contains lucrative antioxidants such as gamma oryzanol, tocopherol, tocotrienols, phytosterols, polyphenols and squalene which fights free radicals reducing the signs of ageing and cancer risk.
6. Mustard Oil - Another healthiest oil with a balanced ratio of MUFA, PUFA and less of SFA. Extracted from mustard seeds, it has a distinctive pungent taste. Mustard oil is beneficial for reducing heart complications and holds anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. External application of mustard oil has also been shown promising for skin, nails and hair health.
7. Sesame Oil - Sesame oil is extracted from sesame or til seeds. Being rich in PUFA, sesame oil keeps bad blood cholesterol (LDL) levels low and protects the heart. It contains an amino acid - tyrosine which is linked with serotonin activity in our brain, hence aids in reducing stress and anxiety levels. Sesame oil acts as a strong anti-inflammatory agent due to the presence of copper.
8. Soybean Oil - This vegetable oil is derived from soybeans. It has the ability to lower bad cholesterol levels, improve vision, improve digestive health, reduce cancer risk, fight inflammation and help relieve sleep disorders. Lecithin extracted from soybean oil is widely used as an emulsifier commercially.
9. Safflower Oil - This popular cooking oil comes from the seeds of the safflower plant. It is rich in MUFA and PUFA, hence considered good for heart health. Safflower oil comes in two varieties - high-linoleic which is high in PUFA thus good for salads and high-oleic which is high in MUFA content, thus can be used for frying. This oil possesses medicinal properties like anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, heart protectant, immunity booster, metabolic booster and anti-thrombotic.
10. Peanut Oil - Peanut or groundnut oil is derived from peanuts. It contains oleic acid, which is a MUFA hence boost good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Peanut oil also has resveratrol, which manages hypertension, prevents cognitive disorders and boosts immunity. Being rich in vitamin E, peanut oil reduces the risk of cancer and fights signs of ageing.
With so many varieties of cooking oil available around us, always read the nutritional label carefully and choose an oil depending upon your dietary needs.