This article was written by Noor Abdallah, Qualified Nutritionist & Food Scientist BSc.
There are numerous misconceptions about all kinds of oils, the most common of which is that they are can be harmful when heated harmful. The countless contradictions regarding oils are beginning to confuse people. So, are they harmful to our health? Should they be avoided entirely? Well, allow me to debunk a few myths about oils.
Myth No. 1: “Oils should be eliminated from our eating patterns”
Reality: Cooking oils are mostly made of fat, which is an essential macronutrient.
Fats, which are made of fatty acids, are an important part of a healthy eating pattern and they have many health benefits. For example, they are a source of energy and help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. Additionally, the use of cooking oils helps enhance sensory attributes of our food, such as flavour and texture.
Myth No. 2: “All cooking oils are nutritionally the same”
Reality: Just like any other plant food, different cooking oils come from different botanical sources.
For instance, olive oil is derived from olives, canola oil from canola seeds, and hemp oil from hemp seeds. Consequently, each oil has a distinct nutritional composition, including types of fatty acids and vitamins present. Some oils are higher in monounsaturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, while other oils are higher in saturated fatty acids, such as coconut oil. Saturated fat consumption should be limited as per health and dietary recommendations.
Myth No. 3: “Olive oil should not be used for cooking”
Reality: Olive oil is highly nutritious and considered a good cooking oil. Heating oil can speed the fat oxidation process, which can produce harmful products.
However, olive oil contains a high amount of compounds that help keep olive oil stable at high temperatures. These compounds are known as antioxidants, which include phenolic compounds and vitamin E. In addition, olive oil contains high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids which helps with its heat stability.
Myth No. 4 “Quality of cooking oils does not change over time”
Reality: The quality of cooking oils changes over time, as oils are subjected to spoilage, due to oxidation.
The shelf-life of oil is determined by multiple factors such as fatty acid composition, the temperature at which it is stored and its antioxidant content. Manufacturers can also add antioxidants to cooking oils to help extend shelf-life and improve nutritional value. Oxidation of oils can be delayed by storing it at the recommended temperature in a dark place. Additionally, it can be stored in an opaque container to protect it from light. Food packaging labels are a good starting point to learn more about how to appropriately store your cooking oils. Saying that “cooking oils are bad for our health” is a broad statement. Oils have many nutritional benefits and help enhance the flavour and texture of our foods. However, cooking oils should not be heated above their recommended heating temperature and should be stored appropriately to ensure they retain their incredible health benefits.