Eating healthy is essential in keeping our bodies strong. One way to eat healthy is to prepare and cook food with ingredients that can prevent serious conditions such as heart problems, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Cooking with healthy oils, for example, can help maintain a healthy body because they contain higher percentage of monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol, and less saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol.
Olive oil is probably the most popular among the healthy cooking oils, thanks to the famous chefs that continue to promote it on television, magazines and websites. It contains 74 percent monounsaturated fat and 14 percent saturated fat. It also contains 12 percent of polyunsaturated fat, which also helps lower cholesterol. Use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for stronger aroma and taste. Use olive oil for pan searing and roasting. It is also an excellent choice in making salad dressing.
Olive oil has a smoke temperature of 425 degrees F only; therefore, not the best option for deep-frying. Excessively heating olive oil will cause the alcohols and esters to evaporate, which can diminish the taste and fragrance. Heating olive oil can lessen its flavor, but not the health benefits. Opt for canola oil instead for deep-frying your food.
Canola oil, also known as low erucic acid rapeseed, has a good balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It has 58 percent monounsaturated fat and 35 percent polyunsaturated fat, which leaves only 7 percent of saturated fat. Canola oil comes from mustard rape or rapeseed. It has a smoke temperature of 475 degrees F, which is why it is ideal for deep-frying foods.
Canola oil became a target of bad rumors and controversies in recent years. Many people blamed it for mad cow disease at one point. However, extensive scientific research proved canola oil nutritious. (Please see Resources.)
Avocado oil is high in natural chemicals that lower cholesterol and fight diseases. This oil contains antioxidants such as vitamin E, which can reduce coronary artery disease and help nourish the skin. Containing lutein, a carotenoid, which protects the eyes against diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration, avocado oil guards against prostate cancer. Like olive oil, avocado oil is predominantly monounsaturated. It is light and, therefore, mixes well with food. This oil has a smoke temperature of 490 degrees F, which makes it ideal for frying.
Almond oil has 73 percent monounsaturated fats, 19 percent polyunsaturated fats and 8 percent saturated fats—and has a smoke temperature of 420 degrees F. Use it as a substitute for olive oil in many recipes. Almond oil has a smooth, nutty flavor and a light finish, adding the right hint of almond to any dish. Use it for baking, drizzle over vegetables or mix into pastas. Almond oil has laxative properties. A couple of tbsp. of almond oil can help in softening stools. It is rich in Vitamins E, B and P.