It’s probably fair to say that most recipes today calling for some type of oil for cooking usually suggest “vegetable” oil or canola oil. But a recent study in Australia found that vegetable oils, which are extracted from seeds, are at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, because of how they behave in two areas:

  • Instability when heated
  • The production of harmful compounds when heated

Here’s how the study was carried out: 10 of Australia’s most popular cooking oils were heated in different ways, then returned to room temperature before being stored for later chemical analyzation. The oils tested were:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Canola oil

The researchers made interesting observations of the oils, especially in light of other studies that have taken place in recent years. In fact, some of the results were surprising and contradictory to other studies. One finding was that EVOO was rated the best cooking oil for both oxidative stability and lack of harmful compounds produced when heated.

But coconut oil, deemed to be the next safest for cooking at high temperatures, failed when levels of naturally occurring antioxidants were compared. Smoke point, by the way, is the temperature at which it exceeds safety by releasing free radicals that react with oxygen to form harmful compounds that can harm your cells and even your DNA, according to the Health Science Academy.

Avocado oil didn’t rate as high as one might expect, given other studies, such as one noted by the Healthy Home Economist, which notes that avocado oil has a higher smoke point of 480 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for unrefined and 520 degrees Fahrenheit when refined. In fact, Healthy Home Economist states, “No other oil ranks higher including ghee, tallow and lard, making avocado an excellent choice for high heat cooking and frying.”

However, the Australian study disagrees, as it found that smoke point was actually not useful in gauging a cooking oil’s suitability for heating and, in fact, those with the highest smoke points tended to produce higher levels of harmful compounds after heating. 

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