Oil in good taste

By Indira Laisram
Sheetal Kallada

From the decadent ghee (clarified butter) to coconut oil to mustard oil, Indian cooking involves one or more of these. For many, no oil means no taste. But as we relish the different types of oil, the debate on what is good fat and bad fat in oils continues. For Sheetal Kallada, a naturopath with Chemist Warehouse in Melbourne, oil has been a part of her study and as part of her profession as she deals with problems associated with obesity, diabetics, and so on. “So, obviously, fats, carbohydrates, proteins are the main components of our study when it comes to diet and nutrition as we have to create diet plans and advice on healthy living,” she says.

Kallada, who completed her Bachelor in Homoeopathy from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences with an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy from the Australian Institute of Applied Science, has always been interested in holistic healthcare with an inclination towards the mind, body and spirit healing in the journey towards wellness. She talks about the benefits of oil.

What kinds of oils are toxic to the body?

Any refined vegetable oil such as sunflower, canola, safflower, corn, soybean, rice bran and peanut can be toxic to your system as they undergo mechanical and chemical processing during manufacturing. Margarine or hydrogenated oil too should be avoided as they are a form of trans fat.

What is healthy oil and which are these?

Healthy oils are the ones that are heart friendly, boost energy, support cell growth, protect your organs, keep your body warm, aid in nutrient absorption and support the manufacturing of hormones. Healthy oils include coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, ghee, butter, lard, sesame and mustard oil.

What kind of oil is best suited for Indian and Asian cooking?

Coconut oil, unrefined sesame seed oil, unrefined mustard oil, ghee or clarified butter and butter. Olive oil would be the best oils suited for Indian cooking.

What is different about organic certified coconut oil?

Organic certified coconut oil is grown without the use of pesticides and has not been genetically modified. But when it comes to choosing coconut oil, always go for one that is cold pressed extra virgin over refined. Cold pressing method involves less heat with no additives or preservatives being used.

What about mustard oil and ghee, two musts in Indian cooking?

Mustard oil is made from pressing the seeds of a mustard plant to produce a spicy oil. The oil’s strong taste comes from a compound that is also present in horseradish and wasabi. It has a high smoke point and is perfect for all methods of cooking. Real mustard oil, however, is banned for cooking uses by the FDA. This is because it contains an ingredient called erucic acid that has been shown to cause heart problems. Erucic acid is a fatty acid that it is not well metabolised. It is considered a contaminant. Although the oil has not actually been tested in humans, the FDA still does not allow it to be sold for food purposes legally in the United States. Mustard oil is used extensively in countries such as India without reported negative reactions or harmful side effects.

Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which could mean that it benefits cardiovascular health. It also contains a compound that may have anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps improves circulation, boosts metabolism, relieves sinus congestion and most importantly invigorates digestion.

Ghee is rich in saturated fatty acids, which can handle high temperatures without being damaged. Heating ghee also appears to produce much less of the toxic compound acrylamide than heating vegetable and seed oils. Ghee is believed to assist with digestion by allowing food to be broken down more efficiently, by stimulating digestive enzymes. Ghee also contains known vitamin E and beta carotene, which are known antioxidants. One of the best ghee benefits is that it is free of lactose and casein protein. Ghee has conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid which may be effective in reducing body fat, preventing cancer formation, alleviating inflammation and even lowering blood pressure.

Ideally, what kind of oils should be used for cooking?

When you use the healthy oils for cooking, be aware of their smoke point. You can change healthy oil into a toxin once it is heated past its smoke point. When you are cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and do not oxidise or go rancid easily.

When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that you do not want to be consuming. The most important factor in determining an oil’s resistance to oxidation and rancidification, both at high and low heat, is the relative degree of saturation of the fatty acids in it.

Avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, mustard oil, sesame seed oil can be used for frying, sauteing, stir frying and baking as these have high smoke point.

Butter and lard should be used for sauteing, stir frying and baking.

Can oil be reused?

One should avoid reusing oil more than twice. Reusing oil too many times can increase exposure to free radicals, which can cause cell damage. Heat-sensitive vitamins and antioxidants will be reduced after each use. Never reuse oil if it foamed or changed colour during heating, or if it has an odd odour as this is called oil rancidification.

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