Vegetable oils are part of those nutrients called “lipids”, fundamental in the daily diet (one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet) because they provide a good source of energy and play vital roles (make up cell membranes throughout the body, allow the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, feed on the central nervous system, protect vital organs, are precursors of hormones, etc.).

How to properly choose the oil for cooking at high temperatures and one to be used as raw simple seasoning? Find out in this article!

The property to check for the correct choice are only two…

  1. The extraction method: Can be obtained from seeds, legumes, dried or fresh fruit, through cold pressing or hot processes or refining. Normally, oils obtained by cold pressing have higher properties than refined or hot-pressed because the latter two methods change the odor, flavor, color and nutritional properties. There are also products obtained by hydrogenation of fatty acids (saturation process) to make the product more stable to cooking (example: vegetable margarines, high oleic sunflower oil).
  2. The content of fatty acids present in the oil (Figure 1): saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Normally in vegetable oils in food use prevail unsaturated ones, with the exception of palm oil and coconut that contain a high amount of saturated fat; for this reason these last two oils are semi-solid at room temperature, unlike the others that are in the liquid state (such as olive oil). The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly used in cooking is the oleic acid (olive oil) and more polyunsaturated ones consumed are the linoleic and linolenic (omega 6 and omega 3). It is important to remember that both the unsaturated fatty acids to saturated ones are useful for the proper functioning of the organism (in proportion 2:1).

Vegetable oils

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General rules for choosing vegetable oil

  1. A good oil to be consumed raw, as a condiment or preparation of a sauce, must be first cold pressed (preferably extra virgin) to be able to assimilate the most of all its properties (vitamins, polyphenols, carotenoids, etc.).
  2. Use oils with a high level of unsaturated fatty acids (soybean oil, sesame, corn, sunflower, safflower, flax, walnuts) always and only in raw . In general, the higher the level of instauration of the fatty acids, the lower the oil stability (Figure1).
  3. The oils obtained by hot pressing, refining or hydrogenation best used to cook or fry.
  4. But attention to the exceptions! You can also cook with a first pressing olive oil, if they’re high in saturated fatty acids or monounsaturated (Figure 1.): coconut oil, palm, peanut, olive, rapeseed. In fact, these oils are more stable and better resistance to oxidation and heat.

Coconut oil

Contains a 90% saturated fat, is semi-solid, stable at high temperatures and perfect for cooking and frying .

Thanks to its texture, similar to butter, is used to process sauces and desserts, as a substitute for animal fat.

It is easy to digest than other fats and helps in case of difficult digestion (pancreatic or intestinal diseases). Nourishes the nervous system and, thanks to its content of caprylic acid, it helps fight unwanted guests such as Candida albicans (anti-candida effective action).

Palm oil

There are two types of palm oil:

– Palm oil red (image) that contains high amounts of carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene) and an action antioxidant, useful for maintaining the health of the retina and protects skin and mucous membranes;

– Palm oil colorless, which is refined, devoid of carotenoids and often used in Alimentary.

In general it contains a 50% saturated fat (palmitic acid) and a 50% of unsaturated fats (including oleic acid).

It is used to process butters, margarines and bakery products. Thanks to saturated fatty acids, keeps well and is resistant to high temperatures.

Peanut oil

It has a light color, a very intense flavor and a high percentage of acids saturated fats (about 20%), acids monounsaturated fats (47%) and a good content of vitamin E. For these reasons, good resistance to heat and can be used for cooking or frying.

Consumed raw, it is a good antioxidant and is useful in cases of arthritis, poor circulation, and premenstrual syndrome.

Soybean oil

It has a light color, slightly acidic flavor and contains polyunsaturated omega 6 (50%) acids and saturated and monounsaturated fats (38%).

Soybean oil is a substance called lecithin, which together with omega 6, prevents the cholesterol accumulates in the arteries and is therefore useful for preventing and combating cardiovascular disease.

Sesame oil

Characteristic flavor contains omega 6 (45%) and therefore it is recommended the use in raw as a condiment; good value omega 6 / omega 3 and is rich in vitamin E.

All this results in a power antioxidant and anti-inflammatory importantly, useful in cases of poor peripheral circulation (recommended the application in cold hands and feet to make more heat), headache, menstrual pain, intestinal spasms, rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis and muscle pain (massage the affected areas).

Corn oil

It is a light oil, a neutral flavor, rich in fatty polyunsaturated omega 6 (53%) and vitamin E. It is recommended raw as seasoning but, if you wish to use for frying or cooking, you can find the oil refined maize high content of oleic acid (high oleic).

Great antioxidant, useful for the health of circulatory system and the nervous system (stress, anxiety, insomnia and nervous).

Olive oil

The quality of olive oil depends not only on the quality of the olives but also from its extraction and its final content in nutrients and antioxidants. It is a pillar of the Mediterranean diet, rich in oleic acid (monounsaturated fat omega 9) and has a balanced ratio of omega 6 / omega 3 Just a good virgin olive oil or extra virgin (well, not refined) contains vitamin E, iron, carotenoids, chlorophyll, sterols and polyphenols.

To enjoy its characteristic flavor better to use a virgin or extra virgin raw as a condiment. To use it to simmer prefer the one virgin or refined; for frying it is only recommended to refined, lighter and with high thermal stability.

Powerful antioxidant helps regulate the level of glucose and cholesterol in the blood and is essential for the proper absorption of fat-soluble substances (vitamins A, D, E and K) and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, favoring the formation and resistance of the bones. It also stimulates the secretion of bile, improving the labor liver and digestion and, in the intestine; it acts as a lubricant favoring the evacuation of stool.

Sunflower oil

It is an oil rich in fatty polyunsaturated omega 6 (66%) and vitamin E, light and neutral flavor color. It is a good antioxidant when eaten raw but, if you wish to use for frying or cooking, you can find the refined sunflower oil with a high content of oleic acid (high oleic).

It improves blood circulation, reduces LDL cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol and helps the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Safflower oil

It is the richest oil omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (77%) and also contains a large amount of vitamin E and phytosterols. Using raw as a condiment or to create sauces.

It is indicated in cases of prostate hypertrophy and is useful for controlling the level of cholesterol in the blood. It is a good anti-inflammatory and, thanks to the effect lubricant is recommended in cases of constipation.

Linseed oil

It is the richest oil acids omega 3 polyunsaturated fats (56%) and is therefore to be taken raw and not to be used for cooking.

Improves circulation and blood clotting (careful in case of anticoagulant drugs), is used for inflammation and pain, for bowel diseases such as colitis or Crohn’s disease and is a valuable ally for depression, hyperactivity and nervous.

Walnut oil

Contains more than 70% of polyunsaturated fatty acids, it has a distinctive flavor and is best used only raw.

Useful for high cholesterol, circulatory diseases (in excess is anticoagulant), inflammation (such as arthritis), promotes the proper functioning of the nervous system and combats constipation.

Rapeseed oil (canola)

Such as olive oil contains acids monounsaturated fats (62%), but among them there is also the erucic acid potentially toxic. To overcome this problem, the canola oil to use with food (picture) is located in the “varieties canola” low erucic acid. It has a very intense flavor and you can use both raw as a condiment and for cooking.

The canola oil is recommended for the health of the heart and arteries and prevents the increase of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

Conservation of plant oils

Vegetable oils should be handled with care, being sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. Excessive exposure to these factors during storage or cooking can change the chemical structure of fatty acids, create toxic compounds, produce off-flavors and cause the loss of vitamins or other nutritional values. To prevent all this, it keeps your oil in a dark, cool, dry and, once opened, consumable in a short period of time (1-2 months).