This article is all about cooking oil, informing you about the different types of cooking oil, its purposes and debunking some of the commonly heard myths in this millennium. For many decades, we have witnessed what our grandmas and own mothers cooked. From stir-fry to deep-fry, which oil did you see them pouring into the wok/pan? Yes, those are vegetable oil. For my entire life, I kept asking myself how we can extract oil from vegetable until I did some intensive research about it. When I was younger and slightly concerned about fitness, I actually tried squeezing oil from kai-lan vegetable but didn’t get any. Funny, but it is true. This fancy name, vegetable oil, is a marketing gimmick that marketers have used all these years to promote the product. The truth is, it is not made from vegetable, but beans, seeds, and grains. There are many articles out there and I urge you to read about it. As technology advances, we have refined oil, cold-pressed, extra virgin etc. I will cover these in a short while so that you can better shop for the right cooking oil. Please bear with me because this article is going to cover technical terms which are not pleasant to the eyes but I will try my best to use simple terms to help you understand.
Let Us First Understand The Different Types Of Fats Found In Oil
Fats are nutrients which provide us with energy. It is essential for many vital functions of the human body. For instance, fats help in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is impossible for you to have no fat content in your body. In fact, a person with low body fat content is not necessarily healthier than a person who has a normal range of fat content. Having said that, I am here to tell you honestly that during my competition days, I had very low body fat content. I maybe at my strongest, but my body was not the healthiest. I am not going to get too technical about it. So, let us go straight to the simple fat terms.
We need saturated fats to destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The human body needs saturated fats for hormone production, organ padding and maintenance of cellular membranes. These fats are commonly found in animals, even the leanest meat on earth. The bonds in these molecules are fully filled up, hence, it is called saturated fat. Consuming too much saturated fats, on the other hand, may raise the bad cholesterol levels in the body. Anyway, there are actually two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) aka the “bad” cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) aka the “good” cholesterol. Just remember, LDL is bad and HDL is good. Animal skin is considered a type of saturated fat. In my opinion, the skin of organically-fed, free-range chicken is actually healthy for consumption. The main reason why a lot of us are shunning away from animal skin and fats is because most of the poultry that we consume today is factory-farmed and injected with chemicals.
There are actually two types of unsaturated fats, namely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. The term poly and mono actually refers to the number of chemical bonds found in an unsaturated fat molecule. Poly means many and mono means single. Compared to saturated fats, there is no extra bond present for other purposes.
This is the type of fat you would want to avoid at all cost. Usually, fried items have the most trans fats. Trans fats are derived from chemical processes that changes the bonds found in fats. One good example is the process called hydrogenation, which is exemplified in the case of Adam’s peanut butter and Skippy’s peanut butter. Most consumers found the layer of oil present in Adam’s peanut butter disgusting. To encourage consumers to purchase the product, brands like Skippy have removed the oil through hydrogenation, a chemical process which adds hydrogen bonds to the fat molecular structure. By doing so, the structure alters and its functions change. The layer of oil on top of peanut butter is actually good unsaturated fats known as healthy oil. So now you know, please do not remove the peanut oil. Instead, drink it!
Refined And Unrefined Oil
Unrefined oil simply means the oil underwent the least processing procedures while refined oil is the one that is processed.
Extra Virgin And Virgin Oil
Virgin oil is obtained through mechanical hydraulic press without heating, while extra-virgin olive oil contained no more than 0.8 percent of acid, according to the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC).
Cold-Pressed And Pressed Oil
Cold-pressed refers to mechanical hydraulic press without heating. These oils are the purest form of oil. therefore, they have the most colour, odour, and flavours. Pressed oil is oil derived from mechanical hydraulic press after heating. The latter does not retain the taste and colour as well as cold-pressed due to the heating process.
Pure And Light Olive Oil
These are actually a mix of virgin oil and refined oil. One of the lowest grades of oil. I would not recommend you to buy these as the price shows too.
Which Oil Should I Cook With?
I do not hold a Ph.D. and am not a doctor. I cannot comment much on this but through my personal experiences and conversations with clients, I would recommend you to cook without oil. It is quite common sense if you think about it. Just observe the oil you pour into your cooking pan. You will realise that the viscosity of the oil changes before and after heating. In science, this means the molecular structure of the oil has changed. Unsaturated fats would have become saturated fats as a result of heating. One of my clients had tried using heated cooking oil and unheated cooking oil in his meals. He noticed that he would sweat more and his body feels weird whenever he cooked his meal with oil. But, the unheated cooking oil that he had used as a salad dressing, did not give him any uncomfortable body reactions. For myself, I would cook with oil once in a while. But, most of the time, I would just pour a tablespoon or two of oil straight into the meals I have cooked or simply gulped the oil down after my meals.
Which Oil Is The Best?
None! Every oil has its own nutritional value. My personal favourite is coconut oil. Believe it or not, recent scientific studies have proven it to be one of the healthiest oil. And, I have been using it for many years too. Other options that you can consider are avocado oil, palm oil (although you can hardly find it in Singapore) and rice bran oil.
Which Oil To Avoid?
Needless to say, vegetable oil. As mentioned above, vegetable oil is not derived from vegetables but beans, seeds and grains. Don’t be deceived by its name.
I hope you have a better appreciation of cooking oil and which one to buy for your cooking etc. To end off my article, I would like you to google about the bad effects of olive oil. Yes, you did not read wrongly. There are actually a lot of articles on the the bad effects of olive oil etc. This is just to tickle your mind a little. Peace out!
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Your Coach, Amirrudin Ong