Healthiest cooking oil: extra virgin, cold pressed, refined – what does it mean? How to choose the right oil? What is the difference between cheap and expensive oils? Is every oil good for frying? What is smoking point?
Oils are basically fats from plant seeds, fruits or nuts. By chemical structure fats and oils are: saturated, unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and trans fat. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (as butter, coconut oil), unsaturated – liquid (olive, sesame oil).
All oils and fats are the mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats by the different proportions.
When choosing oil or fat, we pay attention to taste, nutritional value, and smoke point.
For baking and cooking, these features will matter to us:
– Melting point –solid or liquid at room temperature
– Crystal formation – big crystal size gives pastry flakiness
– Resistance to high temperatures – lower and higher smoking points.
Animal origin fats are also great for cooking and baking:
- Lard acquired by melting down pig’s fat from any part of the body. Benefits – high smoke point forms big flakes in pastry, tasteless, high in Omega 3, high amounts of Vitamin D.
- Butter is a great source of Vitamins E and K. Is a very rich source of the vital mineral selenium. Saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. Butter has great creamy taste.
- Ghee butter has a high smoke point.Ghee is rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D and E. Ghee is suitable for individuals with lactose sensitivities.
Healthiest cooking oil. Importance of smoking point
We all know what liquid’s boiling point is. But when talking about oil, it is more important to know smoking point. This is because well before a cooking oil or fat reaches its boiling point, it will begin to smoke, producing toxic fumes, harmful free radicals and a substance called acrolein.
Cold pressed smoking oils have quite low smoking point, so to manufacturers refine them, which involves chemical dissolving, bleaching, filtering, and high-temperature heating.
Here are some temperatures of cooking:
- Frying 180°C
- Stir frying 200-250°C
- Oven baking – 170-200°C
- Barbecue, gas grills – up to 500°C
- Boiling, steaming -100°C
Vegetable oil pressing methods
Manufacturers obtain oils through the slow pressing fruits, nuts or seeds with mechanical press or a centrifuge. This method indicates that no heat (not above 50°C) or chemical additives were used to extract the oil, which can destroy the flavors, aromas and nutritional value. Using this method, only about 65-70% of a fruits’ oil is extracted, so it is more expensive that the others. Only cold pressed oil keeps its value. For example, experts test and evaluate olive oils are same as wines. It has short shelf live – 1 to 2 years, after it begins to lose its flavor and nutrition.
Oils are made with fast mechanical pressing and may create high temperatures (49-93°C), especially when squeezing hard nuts. This usually happens when working with automatic machinery in high volume.* This method allows producers to extract more oil, but destroys some of the flavors, aromas and nutritional value.
It’s the cheapest, most effective method of obtaining oil widely used since 1950-ties by large manufacturers. It allows getting around 99% of oil from fruit, extends shelf live, but involves using chemicals (hexane solvent, bleachers) and heat that causes that nutrients and flavor are lost.
How refined oils are made?
Process of the refining oil has few steps:**
- degumming, also known as water refining, the oil is treated with hot water, steam, or water mixed with acid. The oil is then spun in a high-speed centrifuge;
- neutralization: the oil is treated with caustic soda, or lye, color is removed along with undesirable free fatty acids;
- bleaching: using an acid bleaching process, the oil is heated to 100°C and pigments are removed;
- winterization: the oil is quickly chilled, solidified, and then filtered, removing solid matter such as waxes;
- deodorization: the oil is heated to a temperature of 150-260°C and steam is used to remove disagreeable tastes and aromas.
Refining the oil increases the smoke point and allows it to use in higher temperatures, but it cannot be called healthiest cooking oil, because of the heavy chemical processes it takes to make it. It is also much cheaper method that the cold pressed, so these are the main reasons why food industry use refined oils so widely in fast food industry, for baking cookies, cakes, muffins, crackers and other. It is also tasteless, odorless and gives baking’s’ desirable texture.
Concerns of using refined oil
But there is a big concern of using refined oils by the fast food industry – repeatedly heated in high temperatures they become very high in trans fats. Trans fats in small amounts naturally occur in meat and dairy. Eating not natural trans fats increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.***
The using of vegetable oils created through chemical extraction processes is linked to widespread inflammation within the body, elevated blood triglycerides, and high insulin. These oils have been linked to diabetes, cancer and heart disease in multiple studies. ****
Many refined vegetable oils are also hydrogenated. This hydrogenation process makes them solid at room temperature so they can be sold as margarine and shortening. This hydrogenation process further damages the fatty acids in the oils, creating trans fatty acids, which are particularly dangerous to human health.
Another concern is that around 80-90% of the soy, canola, corn, cottonseed oils are GMO, and are highly contaminated with pesticides.
Know your favorite oil’s smoking points; Healthiest cooking oil is resistant to high temperatures
Use different oils for salad dressing, cooking and stir frying
Keep your oils tightly sealed in a cool, dark place and, if they come in a translucent bottle, consider wrapping them in foil to extend their shelf life
When buying cold pressed oils, go to specialized stores, ask for high quality, taste them, find your favorite oils and share them with us!