Our grandmothers never thought of cooking their food in refined vegetable oils. But we chose to turn up our noses on the ghee and the full fat butter that they generously used to smear our rot is with! What ghee? Butter? That’s harmful for our hearts! But the truth is, they stayed healthy until the ripe old age of 90, at least my granny did live that long and we are suffering from all the modern lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol, thyroid, diabetes, fatty liver and so on.
The past two decades have seen our thoughts being fed by the lobbyists of vegetable oil. Remember the advertisement where the wife of an unfit man with high cholesterol was given the boon of a vegetable seed oil? The man miraculously normalised his cholesterol levels and smilingly declared on TV, we should do that too!
We naively followed it, capitulating to the packaged wonders which, as they proclaimed, had all the goodness in the world, packed in a bottle! The big plastic bottle of golden fluid seemed so enticing. But looks like we were wrong all along, while our grandmothers were right! The latest research has revealed certain startling facts on our kitchen staple, the so called healthy cooking oils.
There is strong evidence pointing to the fact that animal fats aren’t responsible for the epidemic levels of heart disease, it’s actually vegetable oils. Research also said that butter consumption at the turn of the century was almost as much as 18 lbs. per person per year and the use of vegetable oils was unheard of. Also, diseases like cancer and heart disease, deemed as a modern menace, were rare. Today, now that we have said hello margarine and vegetable seed oil and bye-bye butter, diseases have soared.
What are Vegetable Seed Oils and which one should you ban from entering your Kitchen?
Lets us get down to the definition first, what is it about vegetable oils that has earned it a bad rap recently? We have learned in the past few years that processed foods are bad and unprocessed foods are good for our health. So, you can imagine that oil which has been refined by using chemicals can be really detrimental to our health.
The processing of oil also means to ‘purify’. But do you know what is done to your cooking oil in the name of purification? It literally means that the oil undergoes a treatment with acid or is purified with an alkali, or even bleached. That’s not all, it can also be neutralized, filtered or deodorized with chemicals like Hexane!
When these types of cooking oils are processed and refined, it leads to PUFAs; or in other words, rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids which turn toxic when they undergo high heat. So, while these oils are being extracted from the seed, they oxidize and turn into trans fats. That’s not all, when they oxidize, it is just so rancid that it has to undergo a cleaning process to bleach and deodorize it.
Now compare it to the making of ghee at home, which part of the process turns it so inedible that it has to be processed to make it look good enough for consumption? Therein lies the difference between the processed and unprocessed foods. And if you thought vegetable oils were healthy, well, think again! Here are a few oils which you can absolutely throw away for good!
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Vegetable oil
- Safflower oil
- Corn oils
- Margarine (or any other spread)
Hydrogenated oils are the worst kind on the market today! It has even been banned in a few European countries, but not in our country. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is made by forcing the hydrogen gas into the oil at a very high pressure. When the oil is hydrogenated, they come in a solidified state such as margarine or lard. When hydrogenated oils are produced, the healthy fats are stripped off it, converting it a dangerous kind of fat, known as trans fat.
You know too well that trans fats are bad for you, this is one thing that every doctor, scholar, and scientist agrees upon. Trans fats should be avoided like the plague, while healthy fats (which you will find in ghee, cold-pressed coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and avocados) should be consumed.
Trans fats are bad for you, and yet it is estimated that approximately 95% of packaged cookies, 100% of crackers and about 80% of frozen breakfast products contain them. But even if you change your oil at home, what happens when you eat out? That’s a tricky one, because most of the foods you eat outside are cooked in trans-fat loaded oils like rapeseed oil and other harmful hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Vegetable Oils and it is High Levels of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Our bodies are getting too much of omega 3, is that a problem? Well yes, the levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats should be in balance, and the ratio should be 1:1. But people nowadays consume a markedly higher amount of Omega-6 fats, and this is the root cause of all health problems.
The edible Vegetable oils contain an abnormally high concentration of Omega 6 fatty acids and also polyunsaturated fats. This leads to an imbalance of these oils in the body. Omega 6 fats can easily get oxidized by either heat or light exposure. The frightening fact to take from here is that the imbalance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fat levels is thought to be one of the reasons for cancer.
There has been ample research done on the effects of different fats on the body. The University of Western Ontario came up with pretty interesting facts. The result would blow your mind, as saturated fats have been regarded as the big villain. But the results show that while saturated fats produced the least number of cancers, the opposite is also true; omega-6 polyunsaturated fats produced the most number of cancers. The main reason why omega-3 doesn’t is because saturated fats do not break down to make the deadly free radicals.
Do you know that 3% of our body is made up of polyunsaturated fats, of which approximately half are Omega-3 fatty acids and the other half is Omega-6 fatty acids? There must be a proper balance of this. Add more omega-3’s to your diet as it not only reduces inflammation, it can also be your chief weapon to fight against cancer.
Impact of Vegetable Oils on your Body
While we already know some of the dreadful effects of vegetable oils on our body, here is a quick recap of why vegetable oils are certainly not the best cooking oils for health.
- It raises your risk of cardiovascular disease- Some randomised trials have proven that vegetable oils increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- The consumption of vegetable oils can increase the risk of some of the other diseases also- It causes eczema and asthma in small children, depression, and even cancer in some ways.
- Vegetable oils are not fit for human consumption- Too much of processing kind of destroys the nutrient content of the oils. All it contains is a highly toxic form of oil which causes immense harm to the body.
- It messes up the fatty acid quotient of the body- Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are biologically active, and it is imperative that humans consume it to balance and function optimally. Excess Omega-6s can cause great damage to your cell membrane.
- Vegetable oils can cause inflammation- Inflammation is caused by the imbalance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats.
Oils and Fats to Use Liberally
Which is the best cooking oil for health? This is the million-dollar question, as there is much debate about the one oil that can fix all our health issues. But what you should know and follow is that to stop consuming cheap vegetable oils or you have to pay a hefty price in the end! Here are some of the healthier substitutes which you can try.
- Ghee – Finally, my favorite is enjoying its place under the sun. Ghee is flavorful, nutrient-rich and delicious. It contains the good kind of saturated fats and is a stable fat used for cooking. There is no end to its benefits. One thing is for sure; when in doubt, have ghee!
- Olive oil – Always use the cold-pressed varieties which are unrefined. Read labels and go find out the right one. Olive oil is not really fit for Indian cooking, but you can use it for your salads!
- Grass fed organic butter – Welcome back butter! I hated bread without butter, and finally, you can have it too, without the metallic taste of margarine! Butter is a whole food and hence good for the body, period. You should choose butter made from raw milk.And of course, make sure this milk is from grass fed cows and is hormone-free!
- Coconut oil – Coconut oil is one of the best oils as it is the least fattening of them all. It got a bad rap from the 1970s, but it contains saturated fats and is great for your heart health too and also helps reduce the fat from your body.
2 Recipes of some Heart-healthy foods with Best Cooking Oil
What is the best cooking oil in India? Some people will say mustard oil, some will say coconut oil, but whatever may be your choice, make sure you settle for the unrefined stuff. And just to prove the fact that foods cooked with good fats are not only healthy but taste awesome as well, try the setwo heart-healthy, rich in nutrient recipes and believe us, you won’t touch vegetable oils again.
1. Sweet Potato Fries
What is the unhealthy snack you had to give up to get healthy and lose weight? Nine out of ten would say potato fries! Yes, we know it is kinda sad that you have to give up potato fries, but how about settling for a healthier version of it with coconut oil? Sweet potato is an extremely good source of a host of nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, and niacin, phosphorous and so on. Add to that dollops of the best kind of saturated fats and you have a winner on our hands!
For the Fries:
- 1 large sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 ounces of cheese
- 1/2 cup of black beans
- 1 cup shredded spinach
- 1/2 cup of black beans
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 400˚ then start washing the sweet potato well, slicing them into 1/4″ slices. Rinse the sweet potatoes under cold water and pat dry. Take a bowl and toss the sweet potatoes with the coconut oil. Sprinkle in the cornmeal and continue to toss it till all the fries are coated well.
Take a lined baking tray and lay the fries in a single layer. Bake the potatoes for a good 35-40 minutes until fries are brown and crisp. Remove them and put them into a pile in the center of the pan. Add the cheese on top of fries and put it back to the oven, bake the fries for another 4-6 minutes until the cheese is gooey and melted. Put the fries on a plate.
While the fries are baking, make the topping. Combine the black beans, spinach, avocado, and onion together. Take a small bowl and whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, and honey. Pour over the spinach mixture and toss well.
Serve the fries well with the spinach mixture and your exotic fries are ready.
2. Ghee Cauliflower
Cauliflower is full of antioxidants. It is a rich source of vitamin C, potassium and manganese. I bet you love your cauliflower but have you cooked it with ghee? Believe me, it tastes wonderful!
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 Tbsp. of ghee from grass-fed cows, melted
- 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. cumin powder
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 T toasted sliced almonds
- 2 T raisins (golden raisins would be delicious as well)
- Wedge of lemon
- Red chili flakes
- Himalayan pink salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a large bowl and combine the melted ghee, spices, salt, and pepper along with garlic cloves. Toss the cauliflower in the spice mix until it is all coated.
Transfer the ingredients into a sheet pan and roast it for 15–25 minutes until it is soft and slightly browned. Take a medium-sized bowl and toss the roasted cauliflower with the nuts such as the almonds, raisins, and the torn cilantro. Plate the cauliflower, drizzle it with lemon juice and garnish it with more cilantro, chili flakes, and Himalayan pink salt.
Vegetable seed oils are bad news! Slowly but surely, try to eliminate them from your diet. They are so processed that they aren’t fit for human consumption. Are you willing to take that risk and sacrifice your health? Think and answer, and do let us know what you think in our comments section. We would love to know what cooking oil you use at home. Till then, stay fit and stay healthy!