Understanding Cooking Oils: Smoke Points, Health Benefits, and Risks

Kargil, May 05: The smoke point of a cooking oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and smoke. This is caused by the decomposition of the oil’s fatty acids into glycerol and free fatty acids, which can then further decompose into harmful compounds such as acrolein, free radicals and other toxic fumes.

The smoke point is affected by a variety of factors, including the type of oil, its purity, how it has been processed, and how long it has been stored.

Oils with a higher smoke point are more stable at high temperatures and are therefore better suited for high-heat cooking methods such as frying, sautéing, and roasting.

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Oils with a lower smoke point are better suited for low-heat cooking methods such as salad dressings, dips, and spreads.

It is important to note that once an oil reaches its smoke point, it may produce an unpleasant taste and smell, and harmful compounds may be released, which can be harmful to health.

Here are the approximate smoke points in descending order of some common cooking oils:

*Mustard oil: 482°F to 662°F (250°C to 350°C)

*Safflower oil: 450-510°F (232-266°C)

*Peanut oil: 450-500°F (232-260°C)

*Soybean oil: 450-495°F (232-257°C)

*Palm oil, unrefined or virgin variety: ~475°F (246°C)

*Palm oil, refined: 455°F (235°C)

*Sunflower oil: 440-460°F (227-238°C)

*Canola oil: 400-450°F (204-232°C)

*Vegetable oil: 400-450°F (204-232°C)

*Corn oil: 450°F (232°C)

*Sesame oil: 410-450°F (210-232°C)

*Virgin olive oil: 390°F (199°C)

*Extra-virgin olive oil: 320-375°F (160-190°C)

*Coconut oil: 350°F (177°C)

*Butter: 350°F (177°C)

Of these, Palm oil, Coconut oil and Butter are high in saturated fat, and should be avoided. Consuming cooking oils that are high in saturated fat has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Saturated fats have been shown to increase levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood, which is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

On the other hand, olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil are thought to be heart-healthy. A heart-healthy oil is an oil that is low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). These types of fats have been shown to have a neutral or positive effect on blood cholesterol levels, which can help to improve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease.

Some cooking oils that contain 60% or more monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are olive oil (73% MUFA), canola oil (63%), avocado oil (70%), almond oil (65%), and cashew oil (73%).

Mustard oil has both potential health benefits, such as being a good source of essential fatty acids and having antimicrobial properties, as well as risks, such as its high erucic acid content, which has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease in some animal studies. It is banned for consumption in some countries like USA and should be used in moderation if chosen for cooking.

Another problem with #mustard oil is it’s adulteration with the addition of toxic substances, such as argemone oil and nitrates. Adulteration of mustard oil with argemone oil is a common practice in some parts of India, particularly in the northern states. Ingestion of argemone oil can lead to various health issues, including epidemic dropsy, a condition characterized by swelling, fluid accumulation, and heart failure.

It is important to use all oils in moderation, as even heart-healthy oils are high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess.


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