The Cooking Oil Crisis

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Be it crude oil or cooking oil, lesser the better. While reduced consumption of crude oil results in a healthier environment, reduced consumption of cooking oil results in a healthier individual. As care starts from home, I thought it will be appropriate to discuss the cooking oil concerns and leave the crude oil to the leaders for now. I am no doctor or dietitian or nutritionist, who typically gives advice which in most cases is easier, said than followed. I hold an even more important position of head cook of my family and a huge part of my family’s health is my responsibility.

As much as one may say fat is not good, but some fats are essential for the body. It is also said that in order to metabolize (burn) fat, you need fat. The ‘good’ fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats while ‘bad’ fats are saturated fats and Trans fats. While one should always take fats in moderation, the latter are best avoided. What this means to your shopping basket is that oils like Olive oil, Canola (also marketed as rapeseed oil in UK), peanut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil and flax seed oil are considered more healthy option than other oils mainly because of their high polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat content.

Olive oil however is quite expensive and for this reason. Canola is sometimes thought of as poor man’s olive oil. One should bear in mind that oil properties change with temperature and ones good at room temperature produce harmful toxins when heated. Olive oil for this reason is not considered very good for high temperature cooking. I use Canola for normal cooking and did attempt deep frying once but the food smelt more like fish. I then realized Canola is not widely considered suitable for deep frying either. My choice is Canola for normal cooking and groundnut oil for deep frying. If allergic to nuts, sunflower oil is a good option as well. Coconut oil is generally considered unhealthy due to its high content of saturated fats but this is a matter of debate. Having understood which oil is better, here are some everyday tips I follow to reduce oil intake.

1. Rather than pouring out of a bottle, use a spoon so you know how much you are adding. When I started doing this, I found that I started getting uncomfortable every time I exceeded two teaspoons while before measuring I would have happily added that quantity.

2. Understand why oil is needed. Is it just for tempering or for stir fry or deep fry? The quantity of oil and temperature of cooking varies depending on why you need the oil. Some say stir fry should be done close to the smoke point of oil but we know that heating oil so much is not very good for health. Some dishes like the Indian pickles are quite dependent on oil and just need an awful lot of it but there are other dishes in which oil is used to ‘enhance’ the taste and texture and can very well be compromised.

3. Do not anticipate how much oil will be needed to cook a dish, rather add oil in stages. I have seen that sometimes Spanish eggplants cook easily in very little oil while some other times I need to dump loads of oil to make it edible. Go with the flow.

4. Try to allow the food to cook in its own moisture. Add a wee bit of salt so the vegetables give up their water and get cooked in the same. Alternately, sprinkle water frequently rather than adding oil. For some dishes, I sprinkle tamarind water so it enhances the flavor of the dish and reduces oil as well.

5. I am not a saint and I do not say I can always resist chips and other deep fried dishes. One should keep the consumption of such dishes occasional and minimal. Also, on such days you indulge, try to reduce fat intake in other meals so the balance in the diet can be maintained.

As I said, I am the head cook and practitioner of all the above tips. I try to take some time to share my recipes (including low fat, healthy, vegan and indulging recipes) on my food blog. Eat healthy and enjoy life!



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