Add oil to food and you add flavour – and fat. No need to hide your cooking oil in the back of your cupboards, though – your body needs some fat, and certain kinds of cooking oils provide just the right kind.
If you choose cooking oils comprised of the right kinds of fat – monounsaturated or polyunsaturated – you help to lower your LDL cholesterol and maybe even boost your HDL. You should be consuming no more than 30 mL to 45 mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day, and you can find the fat you need in the following cooking oils:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- peanut oil
- soybean oil
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
- corn oil
- flaxseed oil
Your choice of healthier oil will depend on what type of food you're preparing. Oils have different "smoke points," the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and give off smoke. When this happens, oil loses some of its flavour and nutritional properties and can release harmful vapour into the air.
- Oils that have lower smoke points, like flaxseed oil, are better suited to use in dressings and marinades.
- Sesame, soybean, and corn oils have a relatively moderate smoke point and work well for sautéing.
- Oils that don't smoke until they've reached higher temperatures include canola, peanut, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, and extra virgin olive oil. These oils lend themselves to baked goods, stir-fry, and foods roasted or baked in the oven, and have smoke points of 400 °F (204 °C) or higher.
- For the higher temperatures required to fry, brown, or sear, you'd want to select avocado or coconut oil.
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