Cooking oil is the first and most basic ingredient in Indian cooking. No household can go without it even for a single day. The earlier trend was to select one particular cooking oil (type of oil and maybe even brand) that was suitable to your way of cooking or simply continue with the cooking oil that was being used by the elder ladies of the house. And then, stick to it forever. We hear our Grandmothers say, “Humare ghar mein toh saalo se yeh hi tel vaparte hain” This trend was probably because there were not many options out there at that time and even if there were, they were not much explored. But today, there is a plethora of cooking oils available in the market. Thus, it is extremely important to understand the different kinds of oils available and select the best suited for you and your family.
Scientists say that there is no single oil that has the best Anti-oxidant profile to keep your body healthy. This is because every cooking oil has a unique chemical composition. Essential fatty acids (EFA’S) are important fats which cannot be synthesized by the human body and cooking oils contain them. However, different oils contain different EFA’s and the proportion of these essential fatty acids (EFA ratio) present also varies.
How then, do we freeze on the best option to obtain maximum health benefits?
Scientists from NIN (National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad) suggest regular rotation/changing of cooking oil. By doing this right, you can ensure a favorable combination of fatty acids, Vitamins and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that work in harmony to exert an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Chronic inflammation is the cause of several diseases like atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries), arthritis and cancer. Apart from inflammation, the human body needs Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats for many functions, from building healthy cells to maintaining brain and nerve function. Requirements of Omega-6 fatty acids are easily met with our modern diets due to the prevalent use of PUFA rich vegetable oils. What we need to concentrate upon is Omega-3 fatty acids. Balance of these two is extremely important, failing which pro-inflammatory compounds may get produced in the body. Omega-3 and MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) rich cooking oils include olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil, soyabean oil.
It is recommended that you use 3 different types of fats in rotation.
To give an example, one can use rice bran oil (Omega-6 source) plus mustard oil (Omega-3 source) along with a saturated fat like ghee in rotation. An alternative and more practical approach is to change your type of cooking oil at least once every 3 months. However, remember, blending of cooking oils is not advisable.
What about Saturated fats?
Interestingly, researchers and health practitioners claim that there is no strong link between dietary saturated fats and Cardiovascular Heart Disease (CVD) or Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Hence, there is no need to completely avoid saturated fats like ghee, butter, cheese, etc. to prevent heart disease if you are generally healthy. At the end of the day, since they are pure fats, they need to be used sparingly, to the limit of 1 teaspoon a day.
Word of Caution:
Even the healthiest oils contain lot of calories so moderation is the key. General recommendation for edible fats is 3 to 4 teaspoons per person per day. Avoid deep frying of foods and go for methods like stir frying, grilling and baking as these take up lesser amount of oil.