The Better to Cook With

Not all oils are made equal. When it comes to their effect on health, some oils are worse than others – and it all boils down to the fat content. Naomi Joseph spills on 4 oils that you should be cooking with.

There are four types of fats present in most oils: saturated fats, trans fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.

Saturated fats occur naturally in foods such as high-fat dairy products, for example, butter or ghee, as well as in fatty meat and food prepared with palm-based vegetable oil. This type of fat increases the level of bad cholesterol in your body, and should be avoided.

On the other hand, trans fats form when vegetable oils go through an industrial process called hydrogenation. This process hardens liquid oil to produce fats like margarine or shortening.

Trans fats are the worst of the two as they increase bad cholesterol levels while also decreasing good cholesterol levels. We all slip up and indulge in a deep fried treat now and then so be sure to steer clear of them – or keep your intake to an absolute minimum.

The types of oils you want to cook with are those brimming with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, as they help to improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease.

Here are four of the best oils to fulfil all your cooking needs while keeping your body happy!


Cooking Oil Takeaways:

  1. If you see smoke, stop, throw whatever you’re cooking away, and start again. Smoke produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. If you have to cook at a high heat, only use oils with a high smoke point like sunflower oil or canola oil.
  2. Don’t store oil for too long or reuse oil. Oil will oxidise over time and develop free radicals. If you need different varieties of oil for different recipes, buy them in small bottles and store them in a cold, dry place.
  3. Most oils have 14g of fat per teaspoon so use them sparingly. According to the Health Promotion Board, fat should only account for 25 – 35% of our total energy intake. Based on a standard 2000-calorie diet, that means a limit of 55 to 65g of fat per day.
  4. Spray oils aren’t always what they seem. Although they may claim to be zero trans fat, they still contain some ingredients that aren’t exactly healthy, such as propellants (which helps to get the oil out of the can) and dimethylpolysiloxane (a chemical that is a form of silicone that helps keep the oil from foaming). A better alternative would be dipping a paper towel in oil and wiping the bottom of your pan, or using a ceramic pan.
  5. That generic ‘vegetable oil’ sold in most supermarkets is actually detrimental for your health as most of it contains a mixture of oils including partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This is a trans fat, which is the worst of all fats.