Best Cooking Oils In India

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When it comes to healthy cooking oils, things can get pretty confusing. It is like a never-ending debate, leaving us scratching our heads about which option is truly the best. While some folks swear by coconut oil, claiming its goodness, others warn about its saturated fat content. So is the case with most other oils confusing the wits out of you.

That’s precisely why we rolled up our sleeves and delved into extensive research on cooking oils. We scoured through countless research papers to separate the wheat from the chaff, uncovering the true health benefits and risks associated with various types of oils.

First, let us take a look at some of the key phrases that you come across when we talk about oils.

Saturated vs Unsaturated Fat

Fat is essentially carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. On a molecular level, the difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat is that saturated fat consists of carbon molecules bonded by single bonds, whereas unsaturated fat possesses double bonds between carbon molecules.

However, in the realm of everyday life, we often differentiate between the two based on their physical state. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature, much like butter, cheese, and coconut oil. On the other hand, unsaturated fats, such as most plant-based oils, remain in a liquid form.

Scientists unanimously agree that unsaturated fat, which includes monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are good for health. Mono-unsaturated fat is found in olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, nuts like almonds and hazelnuts and seeds like pumpkin and sesame. Polyunsaturated fat, on the other hand, is found in sunflower oil, soybean oil, walnuts, flaxseed, fish etc.

However, when it comes to saturated fats, even scientists are yet to form a consensus. While some argue that saturated fat have adverse effect on cardiovascular health, others differ in their findings. Despite long-standing emphasis on following a low-fat diet, cardiovascular diseases are on the rise. Hence, scientists are starting to question whether connection between saturated fat and cardiovascular diseases are causative or not.

Recent findings in fact suggest that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates did not reduce risks of heart diseases. But substituting polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat may be beneficial. Taking a holistic approach, newer recommendations suggests focusing on food-based dietary recommendations rather than a single nutrient. And this approach seems to make a lot more sense when trying to follow a healthier diet.

Next, let us take a look at yet another important term you come across when talking about oils- Smoking Point.

Significance of Smoking Point

best cooking oils in India

Smoking point, as the name suggests, refers to the temperature at which oil starts smoking. When oil smokes, the fatty chains break down and get oxidized. In this process, free radicals are released which are unstable atoms that can cause cell damage. When body doesn’t have enough anti-oxidants to neutralize these free radicals, it causes a condition called oxidative stress. In such a condition, the free radicals may alter proteins, lipids and even DNA triggering inflammatory diseases and even cancer.

So when frying food, it is important that you use oil with high smoking point. Else, you may inadvertently consume food with oxidized oil, which in turn may adversely affect your health. On the other hand, oil with low smoking point is sufficient for stir-frying, tadka etc., when oil is not heated at high temperature for long duration.

Next, let us take a look at different methods of processing oil and how it affects the quality of oil.

What Is Cold Pressed vs Refined Oil?

cold pressed coconut oil

You may have often heard terms like cold-pressed, unrefined and refined oil. Let us explore what they are.

Cold-pressed oil are produced by mechanically crushing oil seeds to extract oil. The remaining cake retains about 5-25% of oil in this process. Hence, it doesn’t provide as much yield as refining oil. However, as no heat is used in cold-press extraction, oil retains better flavour and nutrients. Cold-pressed oils are unrefined by nature. And this brings us what refined oil is?

As mentioned, mechanically extracting oil from oil seeds is not the most efficient method. Using solvents increases the yield, which is what all manufacturers need. In this method, oil seed is flaked, steamed, crushed and softened first. Then, a solvent is poured into this mixture which dissolves the oil into the solvent. Then, the mixture is distilled to remove the solvent from the oil. Hexane is the most common solvent used for oil extraction. Other solvents used are pentane, heptane, octane etc.

After this, oil undergoes a series of refining processes. The ones like rapeseed and soybean oil are first degummed to remove gums like lecithins, phospholipids and metals. Then, it is neutralized to remove free fatty acids. After this, it is bleached by processing it with a type of clay called bleaching earth. Finally, it is deodourized to remove unpleasant odours and flavours. After all these processing, refined oil is still found to contain 0.005 -0.460 mg/kg of hexane. Fortunately, it is within permissible limits. Even so, many researches have found that refined oil are not as good as cold pressed oil for health.

Now that we have a grasp of the fundamental concepts surrounding oils, let’s delve into the realm of popular oils in India.

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Best Cooking Oils In India

Sunflower Oil

sunflower oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used edible oils in India. It is considered to be a healthy oil as it is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. Moreover, it is a good source of Vitamin E and K. Sunflower oil is also rich in oleic acid and linoleic acid which is positive for heart, brain and nerve health.

But, on the negative side, sunflower oil when heated has the highest emission of aldehydes. Many of these aldehydes are carcinogenic by nature. So even though sunflower oil has a high smoking point of 232 C, it isn’t advisable to use sunflower oil for deep frying or for any other high-temperature cooking.

According to ConsumerVoice, among 12 tested brands, Gemini, Emami, Dhara, Fortune and Goldwinner ranked the highest.

Groundnut Oil

groundnut oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Groundnut oil is yet another popular cooking oil in India. It typically contains 20% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat and 30% polyunsaturated fat. Peanut oil is also found to be rich in Vitamin E. The high concentration of unsaturated fat is shown to be healthy for heart. Moreover, it also improves insulin sensitivity.

On the flip-side, peanut oil is rich in Omega-6, which is an essentially fatty acid ( this means our body doesn’t produce them). Omega -6 has several health benefits. However, if the ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 is not in balance, it may increase inflammation and cause other adverse health effects. This doesn’t mean you should avoid peanut oil. Instead, reduce packaged foods as they are generally high in omega-6. Also, increase omega 3 by adding more fish, flaxseed, chia seed and hemp seed to your diet.

As for suitability for frying, the studies are mixed. Some say the high smoking point of 232 C makes it suitable for frying. But others suggests peanut oil is not the best for deep frying because when heated, peanut oil oxidizes to form free radicals which can cause cell damage, heart diseases and even cancer.

Tests of Indian brands rate Gemini, Fresh&Pure, Ankur, Porna and Dhara as best groundnut oils in India.

Coconut Oil

coconut oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Coconut oil happens to be one of the most contentious oils out there. It has gained recognition for its potential advantages in skin and hair care. However, when it comes to its health benefits, there is a divergence of opinions among scientists due to its high saturated fat content.

Coconut oil is said to contain Lauric acid, which could potentially help in weight loss as it gets converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. Studies conducted in Asian countries claim coconut oil have a positive effect on heart health and serum lipid levels. In addition, polyphenols and flavonoids in coconut oil acts as antioxidants neutralizing free radicals in body.

On the flip side, as mentioned earlier, some studies suggest high concentration of saturated fat may have an adverse effect on cardiovascular health.

When it comes to frying, coconut oil has a moderately high smoking point of 171 C. Moreover, it is found to have less polar components and higher resistance to oxidation, which means it produces lesser free radicals when heated. Hence, coconut oil is considered an apt choice for frying. However, not everyone may be fond of its distinct taste.

Coconut oils sold in the market are often found to be adulterated. Hence, it is important that you buy only those with FSSAI seal.

Mustard Oil

mustard oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Mustard oil in moderation is found to be immensely beneficial as it is rich in monosaturated and polysaturated fatty acid, with low concentration of saturated fat. It is found to be beneficial for heart health, may reduce chances of developing cancer, strengthens RBC and decreases cholesterol. However, mustard oil contains erucic acid in large concentration. Studies in rodent have found that erucic acid is linked to increase in fat deposit in heart muscles. This led to ban of mustard oil for cooking in the US. But, on the other hand, mustard oil is heart healthy by the Lipid Association of India.

Tests by Consumer Affairs Department has found Dalda, Tez, Dhara, Nature Fresh, Reliance and Emami to be some of the top brands selling highest quality mustard oil.

Rice Bran Oil

rice bran oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Rice bran oil is slowly gaining popularity in India owing to its health benefits. It is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. As a result, it helps reduce cholesterol. Further, it is rich in polyphenols, tocopherols, tocotrienols and other compounds which have anti-oxidative effect. It is also said that food cooked in rice bran oil absorb up to 15-20% lesser oil.

Rice bran oil has a high smoking point of 232 C, which makes it an ideal option for deep frying.

According to ConsumerVoice, Gemini, Good Life, Freedom, Patanjali, Emami and Fortune are some of the brands selling highest quality rice bran oil.

Olive Oil

olive oil which is one of the best cooking oils in India

Mediterranean food is found to have significant protective effects against cancer and coronary diseases. And olive oil is a significant part of their diet. It is rich in oleic acid, which is the most common monosaturated fatty acid. As a result, it is known to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Moreover, it is rich in phenolic acids which have antioxidative properties which in turn reduces free radicals.

Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 210 C. Studies have also shown that olive oil is resistant to degradation when frying.

Best Oil For Frying

Oil with high smoke point and resistance to degradation are best suited for frying. Several studies suggest coconut oil, olive oil, ghee are ideal for frying. Options like sunflower oil, peanut and palm oil are not the best for frying as they tend to degrade at high temperature releasing aldehydes or free radicals which can adversely affect health.

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