If you are looking to lose weight or improve your overall health, there are some key considerations you need to be aware of when choosing how much and which oils to use in the kitchen.
When it comes to the matter purely of calories, then all oils are created equal. Classed nutritionally as fat, any oil will provide nine calories per gram, which is more calorific than protein or carbohydrates, which both weigh in at four calories per gram. However, you shouldn’t let this put you off oil completely as fat is a vital component of any diet, whether you are looking to lose weight or not.
Dietary fat plays a number of roles within your body. It’s vital for cell growth; it protects your organs; keeps you warm; and it plays a part in the production of important hormones. Simply put, your body wouldn’t be able to function without fat.
Some good fats also contain omega-3 which lowers inflammation and accompanying pain. A regular intake of omega-3 fats also helps to keep your metabolism functioning well and is thought to guard against stroke and heart disease. Flaxseed, walnuts, oily fish and olive oil are all rich in this essential nutrient.
Are All Oils Created Nutritionally Equal?
While it’s without doubt that your body needs fat, the kind you consume will offer differing levels of benefit.
If you are cooking with oil, take extra care with your choice. Heating oil causes oxidation and this can promote free radicals. These are chemicals which have the potential to cause cell damage. Damage which may even have an impact on us developing serious illnesses such as cancer. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil has the lowest oxidation rate of cooking oils so this can be a good choice in the kitchen.
Olive oil is also beneficial in helping to lower your LDL, or what’s known as bad cholesterol, and raise your HDL levels, the good cholesterol. Plus olive oil contains a number of nutrients vital for health, including vitamins A, D, E and K, beta carotene and omega-3, mentioned earlier.
However, olive oil is not your only choice and some people would even argue that it’s not the best option for frying. There is a wide range of other cooking oils available, from coconut through to canola, and you should always research the pros and cons of each to make the healthiest choice for you and your family.
Balance In All Things
The benefits of consuming fat mean that while you might want to lessen your intake of oil, you don’t want to stop eating it completely. Restrictive diets which eradicate food groups or rely heavily on either protein or carbohydrates often become unbalanced.
For a long time there was a push towards low fat or half fat produce, such as cheeses and yoghurt. However, while these items were lower in fat they were often higher in sugar, to improve the taste, and this high sugar intake can be just as detrimental to health. Try to eat a diet which is balanced and includes protein, carbohydrates, lots of vegetables and fruit, plus enough fats to keep you healthy.
When it comes to cooking many people decide between shallow frying and deep-fat frying. While the first heats the oil to a lower temperature it does mean you need to cook the food for longer. Deep-frying is faster but is done at a higher temperature which brings us back to those free radicals. However, there is a third choice and that is air frying. Air fryers use 80% less oil than other methods and work because air is super-heated to cook the food quickly and efficiently.
To cut back still further on your oil use, plan your meals in advance and opt for baking or grilling on some days. Baking might take longer but it’s a healthy choice and can then ensure you keep frying days for those occasional treats. Also don’t think that olive oil particularly is only for cooking. It can be great cold, drizzled on salads or used to dip bread. Just be careful if you are aiming to lose weight as you probably don’t want to lose sight of the amount you are consuming.
Whichever oil you opt to cook with, always ensure it is fresh. The older the oil and the more cooking cycles it has been through, the more free radicals it will harbor. The best way to purchase oil is in small qualities, and then storage should be in a cold, dry place. Heat, air and light are the enemies of oil and thus your oils should be kept away from windows and stoves. A container made of tinted glass or stainless steel, which is a non-reactive metal, is the ideal solution.
If you are cooking with oil, always dispose of it after each frying session and use a fresh batch on the next occasion. This is a healthier choice, lessening the impact of free radicals, plus it will lead to better tasting food. It’s also important to dispose of your cooking oil carefully. Fats poured down the sink can lead to fatbergs in the water drainage system, so instead choose a more environmentally friendly option.
All of us balance our busy lives against the backdrop of making healthy choices for your families, while still feeding them food they enjoy. There are pros and cons to using oil in the kitchen, and no-one would propose eating fried food every day. However, treats, such as French Fries and homemade doughnuts, do have their place in family life and provide energy for our busy lifestyles.
As in all things when it comes to health it’s vital to seek balance. Make the healthiest choices possible in terms of the oil you use; mix up your cooking methods; and use seasoning, including fresh herbs, to make your food as tasty as possible. Remember the aim is to lessen the amount of oil you cook with, not to eradicate those healthy fats completely. Children and adults alike need them to promote great health and to provide the vitality to live our lives to the full.