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Healthy Oils Guide - Become OIL WISE!

ONE CLAIMS to cut cholesterol and the other says it has Omega fatty oils that protect the heart. Which to choose? This is a common dilemma faced by anyone who walks into a grocery store these days with the intention of buying some cooking oil. The claims made by each brand differ and the deluge of advertisements aired on TV make it tough to decide which benefit is worth its money.

But just remember, not all oils are created equal. In fact, no single oil can be used for the same purpose. Each has a distinct place in the kitchen and if you select the wrong one then both your taste buds and your favourite cuisine can go array. We help you sift through the most common cooking oils, their nutritional benefits, smoking point and the diet they work best for.


SAY COCONUT oil and the first image likely to come to mind is the ubiquitous sight of palm trees in Kerala. Coconut oil is a staple part of the diet in Southeast India and its easy availability makes it a hot favourite. Though it could be a good nutritional replacement for your butter, margarine and cooking oil, its intense coconut flavour and aroma doesn't marry well with all foods. "Remember that the strong taste and distinct flavour of coconut oil is ideal for popular dishes of southern India and it is likely to spoil the taste of northern Indian favourites such as aloo mutter and bread pakodas," says Dr.Rekha Sharma, president, Indian Dietetic Association. "Coconut oil is made of different saturated fatty acids and upto 92 percent of this is plant based healthy saturated fats with a maximum of 2 per cent polyunsaturated fatty acids,"says Neelanjana Singh,Chief of Dietetics, PSRI hospital.


In the pan, this oil can be used for anything from stirring to deep frying. It is extremely heat stable and thus suited to methods of cooking at high temperature of upto 200°C.

It can be repeatedly heated at high temperatures without the formation of trans-fat. It is highly stable, slow to oxidize, resistant to rancidity and can last up to 2 years because of its high saturated fat content.

Nutritionists say that coconut oil does not have bad cholesterol.


THE STRONG pungent taste of this oil seems to work like magic, making it a predominant part of the diet in West Bengal and Northern regions. It is cultivated on a large scale in northern India and thus used for cooking in this region. "While mustard seeds can be used to add flavour to your dishes by heating them first, mustard oil develops a subtle and mellow flavour when heated. It's pungent flavor makes it suitable only for cooking vegetables and frying pakodas but it would be hazardous to dress your salads with raw mustard oil, "says Dr.Sharma.


In the pan, it has a medium smoking point and sustains more than ? an hour of cooking, taking its temperature beyond 150°C.

It is suitable for all types of cooking including stirring and frying. It can also be used in combination with other cooking oils to reduce the content of erucic acid in it, which is not good for your health.

The oil contains omega- 3 fatty acid, which most oils lack. It has a high proportion of MUFA (good for lowering bad cholesterol) and is also a rich source of PUFA (lowers both good and bad cholesterol).


OLIVE oil is the latest oil to have joined the line of other cooking oils in most Indian homes now. It's distinctive flavour, however, is best suited for certain Mediterranean cuisine and it isn't always appropriate for Indian cuisine. A pretty good general purpose oil, it has a relatively low smoke point, so it burns if you use it for high heat cooking. With olive oil, you have to be really specific about the kind of cooking you are doing. "For example, a good quality olive oil can be one of healthiest options for salads as well as low moderate cooking like sauteing, but definitely not for deep frying your pooris," says Dr.Deepshika, dietician, Jaipur Golden Hospital. When you fry pakodas with olive oil, they will only turn soggy as the smoking point of olive oil is very low. If you heat it beyond a point, it starts smelling foul and spoils the taste of the food.


In the pan if heated above 150°C, it burns and the taste is killed. It shouldn't be used for deep fried food.

It's flavour is best when cold and at the most, it can be used for sauteing. It should be used for baking, salad dressings, dipping sauces and is best consumed uncooked, more Use for meat and vegetable preparations that require very low temperatures.

It's mix of monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats make it one of the healthiest oils. It also has a golden mix of important antioxidants.


MOST cooking oils with the label of "vegetable oil" are made from soybean oil. Infact, many brands of margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressing contain soybean oil and this is the most popular cooking oil for the Chinese. Soybean oil has poor thermal stability and it is not a great choice for deep fried foods though. The rich polyunsaturated fatty acids present in them make them go bad easily. "Soybean oil just cannot withstand high cooking temperature and can even get harmful if heated really high," says Dr.Sharma.


Not a great choice for deep frying with a medium thermal stability ranging between 150° C to 160°C.

Pair your soybean oil with the Indian recipes that already include flavourful spices as it has no distinct flavour. It is at best used for sauteing meats and vegetables at low temperatures. You should also not dress salads with this oil, as it lacks flavour.

Soya oil also contains vitamin E and polyunsaturated fats which can help reduce the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol levels. It contains omega-3 fatty acids and natural antioxidants, retained even after prolonged heating.


GROUNDNUT oil with its neutral flavour is one of the most commonly consumed oils in Indian homes, particularly in rural belts. This is predominantly used for deep frying in northern and eastern India. "It has a nutty flavour and is perfect for deep frying because of some of its unique properties. It does not absorb the flavour of other foods cooked in the oil. You can cook several different items and they will maintain the great taste when cooked in this oil," says Dr.Singh.


It has a medium to high smoking point between 175°C and 205°C depending on different brands. This works because it can be heated to high temperatures and it results in less oil pick up in the food.

One of the world's most traditional deep frying oils, it helps in keeping the food crispy outside and moist inside. Also a good choice for stir frying and sauteing.

It is trans fat free, cholesterol free and low in saturated fats. It also is a source of antioxidants and vitamin E. With a high MUFA content, it lowers your cholesterol in the body without reducing the good level cholesterol.


SESAME oil in South India is similar to Olive oil in the Mediterranean cuisine. "It is great for stir frying and baking and is used best as a flavour enhancer. Though south Indian cuisines use it for stir frying purposes, it is great for Chinese food. It should be used sparingly as it's more of a condiment and loses its flavour when you cook it for too long," says Dr.Shilpa Thakur, chief dietician, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.


Great for frying purposes, as it has a long shelf life because of its high smoking point which goes beyond 210° C. It hardly turns rancid when kept in open.

Use it for saute or stir fry. Roasted sesame oil can be used for seasoning too. But don't deep fry.

It has a high level of polyunsaturated fats and a high levels of omega-6 fatty acids plus omega-9 too.