Cooking oils form a large part of our diet. They are used in frying, baking, food preparation, and flavouring. The use of oil in cooking has raised a lot of controversies as to which is healthy and which one isn’t. People majorly focus on the health benefits of oil before purchasing them, thus paying little or no attention to whether or not it remains healthy after it has been heated to a certain temperature. There are certain kinds that decompose under a high temperature, become oxidised, and release free radicals that are toxic to the cells when they are consumed. These toxins have detrimental effects on the body system. Contrary to what you have heard, oils are not your enemies at least not when they are used in this way, among other benefits, they aid in cell growth, protect your organs, and help in nutrient absorption. The following are different kinds of oils and how they are used to improve nutrition.
Supports a healthy weight
This may be surprising but when consumed, oil truly creates a feeling of satiety which helps you to cut down the amount of food you consume. Not common to many but this is an effective method of losing weight as when you do not feel hungry, you wouldn’t be tempted to eat those high-calorie foods. You, however, wouldn’t want to outdo yourself; oils also have dense calorie content and could ruin the purpose when consumed in excess.
Decreases the risk of developing cancer
Another proven benefit of the oil is that it could lower the risk of developing cancer. This is not applicable to all kinds of oils as they are not created the same. These oils say those extracted from olives, are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. On the other hand, the availability and use of 100% pumpkin seed oil are great antioxidants and help to prevent the development of cancer. These should only be used as dressings for salads and not subjected to heat as they have low smoke points. Other kinds like safflower oil are also antioxidants and alternatively, have high smoke points hence, they do not release toxic radicals that can damage the cells when heated. Be sure to stay away from palm oil as they are highly carcinogenic!
Lowers the risk of developing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels
This might sound conflicting as oil is associated with raising cholesterol levels and causing untold damages to the heart. You may think that you must follow a strict ‘no oil diet’ in order to reduce your cholesterol but it’s the opposite. There are heart-healthy oils that help to reduce dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by increasing the beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL). These oils include canola, peanut, corn, olive, and sunflower oil containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Improves your appetite
Healthy eating is essential for the nourishment of our body but what happens when you lose your appetite? Loss of appetite could be caused by a number of factors like nausea and vomiting, some drugs, and most times, mental illness. Inhaling some essential oils like tangerine, peppermint, and ginger can help stimulate appetite and improve your nutrition.
Increases brain function
Our brain needs a lot of nutrients to function at its peak and essential oils have come to our rescue once again. The kinds of oils from avocado, fish, and other seafood are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids known to help improve memory, brain function, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s in elderly people. In addition, Omega-3 oils also help to lower blood pressure and reduce the possibility of developing heart attack and stroke.
Helps in the absorption of essential vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, and K are found in foods like fish liver, beef liver, cheese, milk, eggs, and fruits like spinach, carrots, kale, and other green leafy vegetables have been discovered to be better absorbed when taken with oils. This is because these vitamins can only be dissolved in fat and oils, so if you want to really absorb those vitamins, why not have them dressed with olive or sunflower oil the next time you have some salad.
Oils have long suffered great criticism amongst food scientists as to their detrimental effects. It should however be noted that they are not all bad. The majority of the population are misinformed about their ideal way of consumption. There are oils that are in themselves harmless but after being subjected to heat beyond their smoke point, they become harmful to our health. It is therefore important to be knowledgeable about these and their suitable temperature to ensure that what you are consuming is good for your nutrition.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.
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