Rising health consciousness, especially awareness on the dangers of obesity caused by increased cholesterol levels started the quest for a healthy cooking medium. It has not however been a simple open and shut issue and there is little unanimity among specialists on which oil is the best for human consumption. The traditional basis for ascertaining the safety of a cooking medium has been how low is it on saturated fat?
Polysaturated and monosaturated fats have been classified as healthy fats which help the body in absorbing nutrients and metabolize the same. Saturated fats on the other hand were believed to be difficult to break down with much of it getting deposited in the vein and the walls of the arteries, which blocked the supply of blood to the heart and resulted in complications such as obesity, heart attacks and strokes.
Viewed from this perspective canola oil and peanut oil high on such fats were considered he best cooking medium. Some however rate olive oil better as it contains the right mix of monosaturated and poly saturated fats. Hence canola, flax seed, peanut, olive, safflower, sunflower and corn oil were considered as safe and heart friendly cooking oils with no saturated fats. Sunflower. Safflower and flax seed rich in Omega 6 fatty acids and vitamins so essential for a healthy body were considered as having an edge over the others.
Traditionalists however disagree on the above claims they feel it is safer and more natural to use traditional cooking oils like coconut oil, palm oil, peanut, olive oil or even ghee, butter, pork lard or beef tallow. They underline the fact that these cooking mediums have been in use since ancient times and did not cause any heart disease in consumers. They cite that heart diseases which began to increase dramatically after the 1920’s in America and by the 1960’s in the rest of the world corresponds with their switchover to artificial polysaturated oils from the natural oils they were using before. They also cite the fact that the French who are known for their craze for rich foods enjoy better heart health and lesser incidences of heart attacks in comparison to the Americans since they stick to traditional cooking oils and not so called health oils. Some of them even go to the extreme of accusing that large manufacturers of these so called health oils influenced research to get a favourable verdict for their products and a bad label for traditional oils like coconut or palm oil to better their commercial interests.
Given this scenario and the conflicting claims, it would be very difficult for consumers to conclude which cooking oil to choose. The best health advice to customers would be to use oil in moderation regardless of which oil they are using. Even the healthiest oil can be harmful if used in excess. It is also advisable to adopt healthy cooking methods like baking or grilling instead of deep frying which consumes much more oil and using non stick cooking utensils to further minimise oil use. In conclusion we can say that the best solution to good health lies not only in choosing the right cooking oil but in exercising to burn off any excess fat that may have accumulated in spite of our precaution.