We didn't need food connoisseur and healthy living advocate Erwan Heusaff telling us that "oils and fats are essential to cooking," but we watched him point it out in his recent 'kitchenomics' vlog anyway. While we think our meals would not taste as amazing without these shiny ingredients, it wouldn't hurt knowing which ones are the healthier options against the cholesterol-packed ones.
Yes, not all types of cooking oil sold in supermarkets are created equal. Some contain good fats, some are made from what we think are vegetables, and some contain chemicals considered harmful to the body. We picked the brain of the ex-"fat kid" about this key ingredient we might have long taken for granted—familiarize yourself with these pointers the next time you hit the grocery!
1. Vegetable oil is not necessarily healthier than lard. Vegetable oils may be extracted from plant seeds such as soybean and sunflower, but are processed in unnatural ways like bleaching and deodorizing. "You always have to look at how ingredients are transformed when put in heat," Erwan explained in the video, adding that some oils contain harmful chemicals called aldehydes. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and other diseases.
2. Look for oils with high polyunsaturated fat content. Characterized as "fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule," polyunsaturated fats help in lowering bad cholesterol, and have essential nutrients like Vitamin E, and Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Those high in polyunsaturated fat include sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.
3. Avoid vegetable oil and canola oil as much as possible. Normally used for deep frying, these two oils are unhealthy as they have high transfat content. In addition, Erwan describes the two as "refined salts" for the oil industry. Another reason to avoid them: overconsumption of these oils at high temperatures can cause acid reflux.
4. Peanut oil is best used for curry and stir-fried meals. While not as common as other cooking oils, peanut oil gives a nutty taste, and is relatively healthy when used in moderation. Filipino dishes such as kare-kare, ginataan, and Bicol Express are best prepared using peanut oil.
5. There are three kinds of olive oil. Each kind has a different purpose: Pomace for high heat cooking, regular olive oil for sautéing, and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling and salad dressings. "They are all pressed in different temperatures," Erwan explains, adding that despite their differences, all three variants of olive oil have essential nutrients the body needs.
6. Use them in moderation, always. Regardless of what oil you picked out from the shelf, you should be mindful of the amount of oil you'll be pouring into the pan. Quick fact: A tablespoon of oil contains 14g of fat, which is approximately equal to the fat content of three eggs combined. "Even if it is good for you, use them very sparingly," Erwan stressed.
7. Coconut oil is very, very versatile. Aside from being a good alternative to olive oil, coconut oil has many uses. "You can use it for your hair, for your skin, and it really helps a lot of different things," said Erwan. The down side? Coconut oil has this soapy taste that might tingle your palate.
8. Avocado oil is a good substitute to olive oil. Avocado as a fruit has its reputation for being a superfood, so why not make use of its oil as well? While not all supermarkets carry this, avocado oil is a healthy oil everyone should consider. One great characteristic about avocado oil, aside from its high heat point, is its buttery creamy flavor that can easily enhance the flavor of any ingredient. "It's really delicious with salads," Erwan could only suggest.
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Banner photograph from Instagram.com/erwanheussaff