Smoke Point – which oils are healthy to cook with?
Oils, fats or spreads?
There’s so much confusion just now around cooking oils, and olive oil in particular, ‘it’s good for you but you shouldn’t cook with it’, ‘use butter not oil to cook’, ‘only have a small portion of fats a day’, ‘fats are bad’… and the list continues.
Not one day goes by in the national press without us hearing something about fats and how they can either be healthy or bad for us. We wanted to dispel some of these myths and go under the olive branch to find out exactly why we have these questions about cooking with oils. Let’s start with the differences; oils are a form of fat but are liquid at room temperature.
Oils are derived from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish – they provide essential nutrients for our bodies. Most oils are high in mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) do not contain any cholesterol. Solid fats are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation.
The important thing to remember when it comes cooking with either is that they both have a ‘smoke point’ A smoke point is a temperature at which the oil or fat stops point the oil begins to breakdown and a low grade mix of oils can give off lipid peroxides which can cause oxidants such as free radicals to form. Good quality virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants and Vitamin E and the main purpose of Vitamin E is functioning as an antioxidant within the body.
The smoke point of oil varies with its quality; a well-filtered or clarified oil will have a higher smoke point.
If you are looking to cook with an oil then choose the best quality oil that you can afford, with the highest smoke point. over fresh salads and ingredients but you can also fry with it too.