Cooking oil forms an integral part of Indian dishes. In today world on social media and telemarketing are exposed to a variety of edible oils each asserting a whole lot of health claims. The right selection of edible oil is essential, especially in the Indian context where cooking methods are different from that of the west.
At first, let’s understand the science behind these oils.
Edible oils have several fatty acids which have their own function in human metabolism. These fatty acids can be differentiated into three classes:
- Saturated fatty acids (Subgroups-a) Short Chain b) Medium-chain c) Long-chain SFA)
- Monounsaturated (MUFA)
- Poly Unsaturated (PUFA) (Subdivided into linoleic & Alpha-linolenic Acid & trans fatty acid)
In addition, edible oils contain several antioxidants like tocopherols, Oryzanol, carotenoids, tocotrienols, Phytosterols and micronutrients.
Both polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, if consumed in moderation and used as a replacement of saturated or trans fats, are known to help lower the cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart ailments
What’s smoke point and how it works?
Every oil has a smoke point limit. If heated beyond that, the oil starts to break down and releases harmful chemicals that not only affects the taste of the food but also makes it harmful for consumption. In India, cooking oil is subjected to very high temperatures like deep frying where the oil temperature can go above 170° C. It has been demonstrated that certain oils especially refined oils with high PUFA are degraded easily to toxic components like free radicals, transfats malondialdehyde, etc. which are potentially mutagenic and atherogenic.
Additionally, in India, we have a habit of repeated frying of the oil. This can further damage the components and produce more toxic compounds that are highly harmful to the heart. Reusing the same oil repeatedly (example for frying) been analyzed and have shown to a high TFA (Triflouro Acetic Acid).
Hence for Indian cooking, one can use coconut oil (preferably virgin coconut oil), mustard oil, groundnut oil or pure desi ghee. Olive oil which is one of the healthiest oils is good for salads and mild sautéing and not recommended for deep frying which is an integral part of Indian style cooking.
Did you know? Blending oils is better
Apart from using these oils, the ideal fat content in a balanced diet aims to give a PUFA / SFA scale of 0.81-1.0 and linoleic & Alphalinolenic Acid of 5-10. Using a single type of cooking oil cannot achieve this has each oil lacks one or the other essential fatty acid. Therefore, for ensuring this appropriate balance of fatty acid in a serial-based diet, it is necessary to increase the Alpha-linolenic Acid intake and reduced the quantity of linoleic Acid obtained from the cooking oil.
Blending off oils can increase the efficiency of 2 or more different oils to offer the balance of fatty acids and antioxidants. This approach is also used to enhance the oxidative and thermal stability of oils. A blend of rice bran oil and safflower oil (70:30) with added antioxidants has reportedly improved several lipid parameters and certain inflammatory markers. Similarly, canola (Single) or in blend with flaxseed oil has been reported to reduce serum cholesterol and LDL. Therefore, replacement of commonly consumed fats with canola – flax seed oil or blending of various types of oil is a viable option to achieve ideal dietary recommendation.
A simple and feasible modification of blending of cooking oils can lead to a good health outcome without affecting the unit texture/taste of Indian cooking.
So next time, choose the right oil for your kind of cooking and enjoy your meals!
Dr. Ashashri Upadhya | Senior Dietitian, Clinical Nutrition | Sahyadri Narayana Multispeciality Hospital Shimoga