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Oils: The Cream of the Crop

The world has gone mad about cooking oils at the moment, for years and years people traditionally cooked with butter or lard, then the Mediterranean diet came in to play and it was olive oil for everything. These days everyone is loving on coconut oil, avocado oil, the list goes on. It all comes down to an oils nutritional profile and its smoking point. There is no point using an oil that is full of healthy fats if it breaks down at high temperatures because you will lose all of those wonderful benefits. So what are the differences between the most popular oils? What oils should we be using for cooking?

 

Olive Oil

Kind of the holy grail of oils, olive oil has a good name for a good reason. It is packed with monounsaturated fats which are great for reducing inflammation and for heart health. The fats are also wonderful for your skin and hair. The not so good: olive oil has a low smoking point. This means that if you cook with it at high temperatures, the fats break down and become much less beneficial. Extra virgin olive oil has the lowest smoking point so should be saved for delicious salad dressings. More refined olive oils (virgin) and high quality extra virgin olive oils are slightly higher so can be used for some cooking but should not be used for roasting and frying.

Best for: salad dressings, sauces, sautéing

 

Coconut Oil

The most controversial of them all. Coconut oil contains a high amount of saturated fats, similar to the levels found in butter. Saturated fats are known to raise our cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. However, these saturated fats are slightly different from those found in butter and may not have the same effects on our cholesterol. The jury is still out on this debate as the research is not strong enough either way. There is nothing wrong with a bit of saturated fat in our diet, we do need some, coconut oil also contains an array of vitamins and minerals too. It has a strong coconut taste so is best used for baking and for dishes with coconut flavours (a lovely Thai curry). It has a higher smoking point than extra virgin olive oil, but not as high as rapeseed, virgin olive oil or avocado oil. It is also pretty pricey per tub!

Best for: baking, sautéing

 

Rapeseed Oil

A completely underrated oil. Rapeseed oil not only has a high smoking point, it is also the lowest in saturated fats and the highest in omega 3s. It has 10 times the omega 3s of olive oil and is cheap compared to the others. It also has a fairly neutral flavour, meaning it works well for most things at all temperatures.

Best for: dressing, roasting, frying, sautéing, even baking!

 

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is the wild card here, you may not have heard much about it before but it is actually a great oil. It has the highest smoking point out of all oils and is rich in monounsaturated fats and vitamins. It also has a lovely light taste that goes well with most dishes. The downside is that this is one of the priciest oils out there, definitely not one for everyday use.

Best for: dressing, dipping, frying, sautéing

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