Hello Dietitian, Which Cooking Oil is the Healthiest?

Nigerians are becoming more aware of how their food choices affect their overall wellbeing and so is alot of nutritional misinformation about cooking oil within the market space with lot of nutritional labels of cooking oil reading ‘no cholesterol’, leaving consumers convinced that those are the best options and taking their eyes off the important nutritional information – which is the saturated/transfat content of the oil.


Bubble bursted: Plant oils generally contain little or insignificant amount of cholesterol.

Cholesterol averages perhaps 50mg/kg total lipid in plants, it can be as high as 5 g/kg or more in animals.

Surprised? As you should be! The phrase ‘cholesterol free’ on most cooking oil is a marketing gimmick to get you to buy the product thinking it is healthy. When thinking cholesterol content of foods, cooking oils are not the culprits! Yet there is something in cooking oils that can raise your blood cholesterol or lipid levels!


High intake of Saturated and Trans-fat can result in high blood cholesterol level.

Contrary to popular beliefs that only food high in cholesterol increases the body’s total lipid/cholesterol levels, lots of research studies showed that foods high in saturated and transfat including certain cooking oils, baked foods, dairy products and some meats increases the LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


What to look out for when buying cooking oil!

1. Saturated and transfat content

All types of oil are usually a blend of unsaturated (which includes polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) and saturated fats. Lots of studies have shown that replacing solid fat (those that are very high in saturated fat) with liquid fat (high in unsaturated fat) is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and death from heart disease. It is recommended that 20-25% of your daily food/calorie intake should be from unsaturated fats  which is about 1½ tablespoons (20 grams) of oils containing high levels of unsaturated fat if you are on a 2,000kcal diet.

As a rule of thumb, choose oil that are very low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and moderately high in Polyunsaturated fat. Examples of such oils are olive oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, canola oil and sunflower oil.


2. Exposure to light or heat

It is very important to avoid buying oils that are exposed in the sun or light in open market spaces. This is because heat and light causes the oil to breakdown (oxidize) and turn the oil rancid, the oil may become cloudy, smell stronger than usual and have an unpleasant taste. Only buy oils that are stored in a cool dark place and when storing in your kitchen , choose a spot away from the oven. The best temperature for storing oil is typically between 57-70°F.

3. Is the oil appropriate for your method of cooking?

When it comes to the ability of a cooking oil to withstand heat while cooking, consider the smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which a heated fat or oil starts to break down and produces smoke, giving an unpleasant smell and taste to food. A seemingly healthy oil can become unhealthy if cooking at the wrong temperature. All oils have different smoke point and it is advised not to heat oil beyond their smoke point.

Choose oils with  a high smoke point >375°F for high temperature cooking, such as grilling or stir frying such as light olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil.  For low-temperature cooking such as sautéing, drizzling or adding to dishes and salad dressings, choose oils with lower smoke points (<350°F)  or higher omega-3 fatty acids such as extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, and walnut oil.



Choosing a healthy oil could be tricky considering the misleading nutritional labels, always consider the level of exposure to light/sun, saturated and unsaturated fat content before buying a cooking oil. Also, choose the cooking oil with the right smoke point for your method of cooking!










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