I have lately been doing some research regarding cooking oils and never thought that this subject required so much thought and knowledge, to begin with. I switched from sunflower, to olive oil and finally coconut oil…and with good reason. Have a look below to find out why!
Lets first begin with understanding the types of cooking oils with respect to their chemical composition.
Broad types of cooking oil
Saturated fats – Coconut oil, palm oil
Mono-unsaturated fats – Olive oil
Poly-unsaturated fats – Vegetable oils (soybean, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower)
Trans fats – Margarine (processed foods like chips)
Why coconut oil
For many years, it was believed that coconut oil had adverse effects on the heart as it contained saturated fats. Therefore, people in many countries refrained from using this oil for cooking purposes. However, recent studies have now brought the spotlight back on coconut oil and claim that not only does it NOT adversely affect the heart but in fact is good for it. Coconut oil is known to decrease the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL). Coconut oil contains lauric acid which helps achieve this. In addition to this, lauric acid also gives coconut its benefits such as protection against bacteria, virus and fungi.
Coconut oil is also great for weight conscious people (which I guess most of us are!). It not only helps reduce apetite but also leads to efficient burning of energy.
And there’s more…
Another factor one must consider while choosing a cooking oil is its resistance to heat. Oils that cannot withstand high temperatures are not considered good for cooking. This is also one of the reasons I have switched from using olive oil to coconut oil.
A cooking oil’s tolerance to heat level has lots to do with its chemical composition and hence the oxidation of the oil (oil’s reaction with oxygen at high temperatures which form free radicals are unhealthy). Saturated fats have only single bonds in the fatty acid molecules, monounsaturated fats have one double bond and polyunsaturated fats have two or more bonds. Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are pretty resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided for cooking. Hence, coconut oil emerges as a winner here yet again.
For those who dislike the flavor, taste or smell of coconut, I can assure this oil can be easily used for cooking since one cannot feel the coconuty taste in the food. I have been using coconut oil for stir fry, Indian high heat cooking and even in smoothies and you really do not get to know the difference.
Furthermore, when choosing a coconut oil, try going in for organic virgin or extra virgin. Avoid using any oil using the term refined or hydrogenated.