Last week on my regular grocery shop, I made my way down the oil aisle (that IS hard to say). As I reached for my regular brand and realised it was sold out, I was forced to take in the five shelves stacked with a smorgasbord of vegetable, fruit, nut, rice, seed oils in elegantly curvaceous bottles.
It got me thinking … Is grapeseed oil a by-product of wine? Yes. How about rice bran oil – do I use it to make stir-fries? Yes. And there are so many varieties in varying degrees of virginity! It means “produced without chemicals”.
But the biggest question is, with so many to choose from, which is the healthiest?
Why Oils Ain’t Oils
Before trying to decipher which oils you should eat and which to avoid, first know the different types of fats that make up oils. Keep in mind that whichever oil you use, they are all high in fat BUT they’re also naturally cholesterol free.
Saturated Fats: These are packed tightly together and are solid at room temperature. They are very stable when exposed to heat and light. Avoid consuming too much saturated fat – your heart and your cholesterol levels will thank you.
Monounsaturated Fats: These fats aren’t so tightly packed together and are relatively stable when exposed to heat so are a good choice for cooking. Choose oils high in monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
Polyunsaturated Fats: These fats are not packed together and are unstable when they are taken out of whole foods. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats are not suitable for cooking with, but can be used in salads and dressings.
It’s important to know what type of fats are in the oils you buy so you’re using the best oil for whatever you’re cooking or preparing, such as making a dressing or marinade, frying or baking.
The other thing to be mindful of are the words “extra light” (which refers to colour not calories) and “cold pressed” (which means pressure has been used to extract the oil rather than heat making the flavour stronger and the level of antioxidants higher).
Experiment With The Taste of Oil
Next time you’re doing the groceries, instead of grabbing the prettiest oil bottle or the one you have always bought to use on everything, spend a bit of time researching, reading labels and trying something different.
You may discover macadamia oil is delicious on your salads or a few drops of sesame oil can accentuate your stir-fries! Your tastebuds and your heart will thank you for getting to know your oils!