Whether we want to lose weight or control our cholesterol levels, we have always seen cooking oils as our enemies. After all, we have been told it’s the number one culprit when it comes to causing obesity, cholesterol and other associated health problems. There is no denying it, but there’s also plenty of half-information and knowledge available on the internet. This brings us to a few important questions, if oils are so bad for health, should we not just boycott their usage? 

Well, theoretically, zero-oil cooking may be the best option, but practically, it is not at all sustainable and takes the joy out of life. Moreover, essential fatty acids present in these oils are essential for survival and functioning. Even FSSAI suggests using oils/fats in moderation. 

What should you do? And how much oil is enough? 

As you cannot eliminate cooking oils from your lifestyle, what you can do is use them in moderation to have delicious yet healthy meals.  Remember, some oils can also contain healthy fats.

When it comes to how much oil is safe to have, it depends on a person’s age, body composition, family history, health condition and activity levels. Moreover, the type of oil matters too. It is suggested you avoid or limit saturated and trans fats and opt for unsaturated and omega-3 fats. 

WHO recommends that 30% of your energy should be derived from fats, including 10% from saturated fats, 6-10% from Omega 3 fats and less than 1% of trans fats. 

Why are oils important for health? 

Oils contain essential fatty acids. Fat and essential fatty acids play pivotal roles in the body. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help in lowering blood cholesterol levels. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, which include omega 3 and omega 6. You can find omega-3 fats in fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil and omega-6 fats in seeds, sunflower, corn and soybean oils. As for monounsaturated fats, they are found in olive and canola oils, nuts and avocados.

Functions in a nutshell 

Fat has several crucial functions to perform in our body. Fat stores provide energy in instances of limited food intake. It also helps in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K and protects vital organs against physical shock. Moreover, fats beneath the skin also preserve body heat. It is also the building block for hormones and cell membranes.

How do you pick the healthiest oils? 

As per experts, one must choose cooking oils that are liquid at room temperature. Other oils which freeze or go into solid states at room temperature can contain significant amounts of saturated fats. These include palm, coconut, and kernel oil. Apart from that, animal fats, such as butter are also rich in saturated fats. Remember, unsaturated oils are comparatively healthy. 

Here’s a bifurcation in brief: 

Saturated fats are unhealthy. You must avoid them. 

Unsaturated fats are healthy (although, moderation is still necessary). They are classified into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are further classified into Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. 

Remember, cooking oils have a combination of all these fats. While some may be rich in saturated fats and have less unsaturated fats, there will be others rich in unsaturated fats and have little saturated fats. The latter is the healthier. You must pick oily that have high proportions of unsaturated fats and less saturated ones 

In this regard, olive oil, mustard oil and safflower oils can be healthier alternatives. But once again, moderation is the key, no matter which oil you are using. 

On the contrary, you must avoid palm oil, coconut oil, fish oil and walnut oil.  

Closing thoughts 

By now, we know we cannot completely boycott oil. Not just because it has become a part of our lifestyle and adds flavours of taste and joy to our food but also because oils contain good fats which are vital for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. 

So, the key here is moderation and picking up cooking oils that have more unsaturated fats and less saturated fats. Read the labels carefully to make a healthy and informed choice. 

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