Scrolling Notification

When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Sunday 6 November 2011

Cooking Oil and Aching Hearts

Walk into any mall or departmental store.  You want to purchase cooking oil.  What you come across is mind boggling!  It is not the brands, but the variety of oil on the racks that foxes you: Coconut, Groundnut, Mustard, Olive, Rice Bran, Safflower, Sesame, Soy bean, Sunflower...  Each one sports a luring label: 'Total Protection for Your Heart', 'Fight Cholesterol', 'Shed Excess Weight'.... You are confused: 'Which one should I buy?  How safe would it be?'

The first thing to know is, each type of cooking oil differs in characteristics from the other.

This depends on the method of extraction. Take for example Refined oil. When treated with chemicals to refine, the oil loses its flavour, colour, odour and suspended particles. The Unrefined oil extracted through cold pressing, however, loses only undissolved substances. Its original bio-active compounds, flavours and vitamins remain untouched.

Smoke Point:
Equally significant is how much and how long you heat the oil while cooking. Beyond a certain temperature, the oil begins to break down, affecting both its flavour and nutritional values. Consider the much hyped Olive oil. At room temperature, extra-virgin Olive oil is green and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. But as you heat, these components are 'smoked out'. That the Olive oil is thermally stable, because it is highly mono-saturated, is a fallacious theory.

Fatty Acids:
Between Saturated and Unsaturated fatty acids, the former is more harmful, because it is not easily digestible. The Unsaturated fatty acids are of two types: Mono unsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) and Poly- unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA). MUFA is healthy, PUFA supposedly isn't.

To ensure longer shelf life and increased temperature stability, the manufacturers of cooking oils resort to 'Hydrogenation'. This process, in which hydrogen is added to the oil, produces Transfats. Being PUFA rich, Transfats have a negative impact on your health.

Cholesterol, Triglyceride, and Lipoprotein are nothing but different forms of essential fats. Cholesterol helps in building cell membranes and supporting digestion. Most of what is required of it comes from the liver. We also get it from meat, poultry and dairy products that we eat.

Fat is fuel for the body. Depending on your physical activity, the body uses these fats as required. The surplus is converted in the form of Triglycerides and stored in the cells.  This meets the body's additional demands.

All such fats (lipids) have to be transported to various parts of the body. Being insoluble, the fats combine with certain proteins in the blood to achieve mobility. The compound thus formed, is called Lipoproteins.

The Lipoproteins are classified amongst others, as High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Intermediate Density Lipoprotein (IDL) and Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL). For the sake of brevity, let us assume that anything other than HDL is LDL.

Watch Your Lipids:
The HDL acts as main transporter for the lipids. The LDL helps in the process, but goes on depositing extra fats onto the inner walls of blood vessels. Gradually it accumulates, causing the vessels to thicken and narrow, and hampering the flow of oxygen-rich blood. If it happens in the coronary artery, your heart is affected. If the arteries on either side of your neck get clogged, lack of blood in the brain causes a stroke. If the blood flow to your limbs, pelvis or kidneys slows down, you face other fatal ailments.

Even as the LDL goes about damaging your health, the HDL extracts the deposits from the vessel walls and carries it back to the liver for processing and eventual expulsion from the body as waste. That is why you hear a lot about the 'Total Cholesterol to HDL' ratio, or the 'good HDL to bad LDL' ratios.  The HDL level shall be ideally higher than the LDL.

Be Safe, Be Healthy
  • Cooking oils do not contain Cholesterol. They only promote the formation of Cholesterol in the body. However, they do contain Transfats, because of Hydrogenation. Hence, traditional oils could perhaps be a better option. If you choose Unrefined oils, use it only for light sautéing, not for frying.
  • Use at least three different types of oils for Sautéing, Shallow frying, and Deep-frying. Do not mix them.
  • Avoid heating and using the same oil again and again. When you re-heat, 'smoke point' of the oil drops. It turns rancid and starts releasing cancer causing components.
    "Had I known I was going to live so long,
    I would have taken better care of myself."
    - Mickey Mantle
     * Do not take my word for everything. Seek expert advice in case of doubts.*


    1. Good post.
      Are you sure on the fact that PUFA isn't healthy?

    2. Thanks.
      Many medical researchers caution against using polyunsaturated oil because it contains long-chain fatty acids considered to be extremely fragile and unstable. But it is still a debatable point.

    3. Frank Martin10:14 am

      Well written post. Have not come across till now, a more simple and easy-to-understand article on the subject. Great work. Keep it up.

    4. Thanks Frank for your appreciation.

    5. Phiroze P6:00 pm

      Absolutely brilliant. Not just this post, but every one of them in your blog. Easy writing style; Great topics; Professional approach. Congrats friend.

    6. Thank you Phiroze. I am overwhelmed. Thanks once again.

    7. rema.singh9:23 am

      A very very useful article. You explained the likely damages and suggested a safe remedy in a clear and convincing way. Thank you Mr Rajuda

    8. Very informative! Today we are spoilt for choices! :-)

    9. Rita Gomez9:58 pm

      Very good post. Even my doctor agreed with your suggestions. I am happy that I am now better informed to choose cooking oils safe for me and my family. Thanks.