There are more cooking oils out on the market now than you can shake a stick at. Of course, why anyone would want to shake a stick at cooking oils is beyond us. WellWell, nonetheless, is here to provide a quick primer on some of the leading types, outlining cooking applications, health benefits and limitations. It’s a slick list.
Avocados are all the rage. They’re found in everything from salads and sandwiches to guacamole. What’s somewhat lesser known is avocado oil. That’s a shame. It has a mild taste and a high smoke point, which makes it great for cooking. Avocado oil also has an extremely high level of healthy monounsaturated fats and a low level of polyunsaturated fats. While a bit more expensive than other oils, its versatility makes it a great buy and perfect alternative for baking.
Canola oil, which comes from the flowering rapeseed plant, has sizeable amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In comparison to other vegetable oils, it is simultaneously low in saturated fats. It’s high smoke point means it is easy to cook with too, but it tends to be highly processed, which lessens the amount of nutrients it contains. This can be offset by getting cold-pressed or unprocessed canola oil. Unfortunately, these are not always easy to find.
Coconut oil has it’s advocates but it does have limitations. For example, it is solid at room temperature, which pretty much precludes it from being used in vinaigrettes. Its sweet spot is in moderate-heat cooking because, among other things, as it melts, it gives off a nice tropical scent. Unfortunately, don’t use it over 350 degrees Fahrenheit. But since it is similar to butter in consistency when cold, it comes in handy when making non-dairy baked goods.
You guessed it. Flaxseed oil is produced from ripened flaxseeds under a cold-pressed process. It also goes by the name of linseed oil, which was famed for decades by would be baseball players looking to soften up new leather gloves and mitts. Science has just started looking into the health benefits of flaxseed oil, but what they have found to date is promising. Possible benefits include reducing cholesterol, fighting cancer, treating atopic dermatitis, reducing diabetes risk and decreasing inflammation. There may be minor adverse effects though, which include increasing gas, bloating and diarrhea.
From the mighty peanut plant seeds comes peanut oil and it is increasingly used in all sorts of baking, sautéing and frying applications. When consumed in moderation, it can be a winning component of a healthy diet thanks to it being rich vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. It also contains healthy fats. Obviously, it’s got a nutty taste and has a high smoke point.
Some people just can’t get enough of sunflower oil. It has obvious cooking applications, but the oil’s reputed benefits extend to medicinal applications and skin treatments. In the kitchen it is prized for its mild flavor and high smoke point. Low in saturated fat, sunflower oil is high in the healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, while also fighting heart disease.
Grapeseed oil is on a fast track in many kitchens as an alternative to other oils, even though it is relatively new to the market. It is similar to a variety of vegetable and olive oils. While not overloaded with nutrients, it is high in beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids and also contains Omega-6 fatty acids.
First off, hempseed oil does not come from the hemp variety of the Cannabis plant itself. It comes from the seeds, which eliminates the possibility of a person getting high from sprinkling it on a salad. Hempseed oil is extremely versatile, while also delivering health benefits. Some studies indicate, for example, that hempseed oil can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack and also lower blood pressure. And if cooking needs aren’t at hand, it can be used as a hair conditioner and skin moisturizer. It may even be able to offset dry skin, reduce itching and help offset eczema.
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