We all need fats and oils in our diet for our bodies to function properly and for our food to taste food and cook properly. The question I was asked recently was which oil is the best choice? So here is a run down for you:
When choosing an oil the top things to consider are:
1. Smoke point – the temperature at which oils start to break down and release free radicals that can cause damage to the body (see my previous post on this).
2. The type of fats – Monounsaturated fats have heart health benefits and can help improve cholesterol levels. These are a better choice over saturated fats. However we always need balance so some saturated fat in the diet is also fine.
3. Flavour – an obvious essential to consider. How does the flavour suit the food you are preparing?
4. Cost and sustainability – whilst is it not always true the most expensive oils are the healthiest, they can have a better flavour and could be more sustainable.
Extra virgin olive oil
(EVOO) well known as a healthy oil due to having the highest monounsaturated fat content of all the oils making it super heart healthy. Plus, it contains Polyphenols (antioxidants) that can fight the free radicals in the body. Its smoke point is low which means it is not suitable for using at high temperatures. Better kept for salad dressings and drizzling on bread.
Light olive oil is a better choice for general purpose cooking as it has a high smoke point. A great general purpose oil for roasting, grilling and a stir fry.
Has a high smoke point, so can be used in all forms of cooking, however it’s solid nature at room temperature makes it unsuitable for a salad dressing. It has a lot of health claims but these are controversial and lacking in evidence. Whilst it is totally fine to use in normal quantities, large amounts are not going to give extra health benefits. Great for Asian dishes where you want that coconut flavour.
Rapseed has a medium-high smoke point and a neutral taste making it a good multipurpose oil. With the lowest saturated fats and a blend of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is can help with cholesterol levels. Plus it contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant good for skin health.
This is one of my top favourites for a stir fry due to it’s nutty taste and mid-range smoke point. It contains monounsaturated fats and antioxidants too, making it healthy for the heart.
Contains monounsaturated fats which are good for heart health. It has the highest smoke point of all plant oils so can be used for all forms of cooking plus dressings and cold foods. However it comes with a price tag and is not a sustainable crop.
So the verdict. For general purpose cooking choose a rapeseed or light olive oil. The other oils can be nice to have for different flavours and styles of cuisine, but aren’t essential!