Nothing tastes quite as good as fried food: there’s just something about the crispiness and juiciness that makes us want to eat as much of it as we can. Unfortunately, all of that crispy goodness comes with a not-so-healthy downside.
Cooking food in fats and oils can have harmful consequences to your body, including increased cholesterol levels, weight gain and, if eaten too often, even an increased risk of diabetes. But there has to be a way to stay healthy and still indulge in fried foods every now then. Then good news is that if you choose wisely, there are plenty of oils you can use in your cooking — even everyday — that will give you great flavor without the harmful health risks. Here’s a quick guide to choosing the best oils to use and what types are available.
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The one thing that all oils have in common is the calorie count: every type of oil will contain about 120 calories per tablespoon, so be aware of this if you are counting your calories and you want to use oil in your cooking.
There are, however things that differentiate one oil from another, and one of the main things is the smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil starts to break down. The oil will literally start to smoke when it reaches its smoke point, which will cause it to lose much of the good nutrients and can even impart a bad taste to your food. So for frying, look for an oil with a high smoke point. Sautéing oils can be lower.
Also, look for “cold pressed” oils. This refers to the way the oil is extracted. When the oil is cold pressed, it will retain all of its nutrients, making it more healthy for you and better tasting.
Olive oil is one of the most popular oils for cooking around the world, and for good reason. Not only is it versatile, but it contains a lot of “good fats” that can help keep you healthy.
Olive oil also contains “polyphenols,” which are antioxidant compounds that can help fight inflammation, increase memory and cognition and may even help fight cancer.
When choosing an olive oil, know what you plan on using it for. If you want to make dressings, or just drizzle it over fresh vegetables, then you should choose extra-virgin oil. This will allow you to enjoy the natural, robust flavor. If, on the other hand, you plan on frying or sautéing with it, choose virgin or pure. These types are hardier and will stand up to the heat better than extra virgin olive oil will, allowing you to get the crisp flavor you want.
Coconut oil is another great, healthy oil to use in all phases of your cooking. The oil is extracted from the white meat of mature coconuts and is very resistant to high heat, so you can cook nearly anything with it.
Coconut oil is healthy because it contains mostly medium-chain fatty acids, a special type of fat that is burned rapidly by the liver so it is not stored at fat later. This can help you lose weight or keep it off altogether. It also has Lauric acid, which helps kill bacteria and can help improve your cholesterol numbers.
Another great benefit of coconut oil is its longevity. Some oils are only good for a few months before they begin to spoil, but coconut oil can be kept as long as 18 months. It also has many different uses other than cooking that you can learn about online at blog.paleohacks.com.
Canola oil is a great choice for your cooking as well. It contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with everything from cholesterol to arthritis and depression to even ADHD and asthma.
Canola oil has a relatively high smoke point, so it resists breakdown as well as coconut and olive oil. This will help the oil retain those important health benefits. This means that it’s great for drizzling on fresh foods as well as cooking your favorite dishes.
The only downside to canola oil is that most of the plants grown in the United States are genetically modified, so if you are trying to avoid GMO foods, you may want to look for another option.
Don’t give up those delicious foods: just choose the best oils for you and dig in!
Eleanor Potter is a Mom who leads a healthy lifestyle. She is a fitness instructor who is also passionate about cooking. She follows a paleo diet and enjoys sharing her recipe ideas and food/fitness knowledge online.