The Truth About Cooking Oils — Much of Indonesian cuisine is made by goreng (fried) though if you enjoy eating locally you need to consider the oil you are consuming. The oils that are least damaging to your health are high-oleic oils such as the widely available coconut oils found in abundance throughout Bali and those lesser known oils such as grapeseed oil.
Consumers today need to look for healthy fats in their diet by replacing animal fats with vegetable fats. Nutritionists all agree the evidence favors polyunsaturated fats which are found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, as well as sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn oils rather than monounsaturated fats, found in other types of nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive, canola and peanut oils. And by replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, people reduce their risk of heart disease.
Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats is good for the heart because it decreases the levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and as well as fats in the blood called triglycerides, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
To help you select some of the healthiest oils that are still tasty, here is a rundown of healthy cooking oils:
Avocado oil is a fine oil to use, although it tends to be more expensive than other oils and may be harder to find. It has a mild flavor similar to avocado, and the oil can withstand high cooking temperatures, making it suitable for sautéing, grilling, roasting or using in salad dressings.
Canola oil also has relatively high monounsaturated fat content although it contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fat (62 percent of the fats in this oil are monounsaturated). Canola oil is also a good source of polyunsaturated fat (32 percent).
Coconut oil has been promoted as a better alternative to butter. It is white and solid at room temperature with a consistency resembling that of butter or shortening rather than a liquid oil. Consumers seem to have bought into the hype that it’s among the healthier options, and vegans, who eat no animal fat, may use it as a butter substitute.
Grapeseed oil is a versatile cooking oil extracted from grape seeds left over from wine making. A favorite of chefs and foodies, grapeseed oil has a mild flavor that can be combined with other, stronger flavors. It’s considered a good all-purpose oil that can be used for sautéing and roasting, or in salad dressings.
Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. This results in an oil that has more flavor and a fruity aroma, and is less processed, meaning it is considered “unrefined.” It is also typically more expensive than other types of olive oil and contains the most antioxidants. Refined versions of olive oil, called “pure,” are lighter in color and milder in flavor than extra-virgin oils.
Olive oils typically have the highest percentage of monounsaturated fats among cooking oils (although some high-oleic versions of other oils may have artificially boosted levels of monounsaturated fats). Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, beneficial plant compounds that some evidence suggests may improve heart health.
Light in color and neutral in flavor, sunflower oil has one of the highest concentrations of polyunsaturated fat (69 percent) among cooking oils. It supplies some monounsaturated fat (20 percent) and is low in saturated fat (11 percent), making it an overall heart-healthy option. Sunflower oil is a good all-purpose oil because it can withstand high cooking temperatures.
Soybean oil is primarily a polyunsaturated oil (61 percent polyunsaturated fat, 24 monounsaturated fat and 15 percent saturated fat). As a bonus, soybean oil contains some omega-3 fats, which are heart-healthy fats often found in salmon and sardines, but are less common in plant-based sources of food.
Vegetable oil made from soybeans is a neutral-tasting oil that does not have much flavor, nevertheless, it’s a versatile, all-purpose cooking oil for sautéing and frying, or making salad dressings.