Best of Kitchen Oils
Healthy Cooking Oils
Whether you cook out of passion, compulsion or necessity, kitchen oils remain a staple. Any respectable kitchen (even if microwave is about the only cooking equipment) will have at least one bottle of kitchen oil. So, how does your kitchen oil stack up? Do you use the standard canola oil for everything or are you selective and have a variety of kitchen oils? If you cook, even if you do so occasionally, you may be interested to know some advice on kitchen oils. According to two American-Italian chefs, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo who recently wrote the book, The Frankies Spuntino with Peter Meehan, some kitchen oils are better than others. The choice of kitchen oils also depends on the type of food you’re making.
Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of wine-making.
If you’re ready, let’s take an in-depth look at their choices of kitchen oils.
Ask the two Franks, both veterans of gourmet cooking, and they will frankly tell you that grapeseed oil is the queen of kitchen oils. What sets it apart? High smoke point, clean and light flavor—the main reasons they choose grapeseed oil as their top choice of neutral oil for cooking and salad dressings.
I recently switch to grapeseed oil for cooking that requires high heat. Now, that’s before I heard about the Franks. I’ve read that for cooking that requires high temperature such as sautéing and frying, grapeseed does the deed. So, of course, I’m doubly pleased to know that I’ve made an informed and wise choice.
So, what’s so good about grapeseed?
Grapeseed oil comes from the seeds of grapes. Since the seeds are more deeply seated in the fruit, they are quite naturally protected from chemicals and additives that are normally given to the vine in the growing process. Now, if that sounds like a good thing to you, you’re right.
Each seed only yields about 16 to 21 percent of the oil, so extracting the oil can be a tedious process. However, it is well worth the effort as grapeseed oil offers lots of health benefits:
- It has high levels of Vitamin E, about 60 to 120 mg per 100 grams of oil.
- It has proanthocyanidins, more potent antioxidants than Vitamin C and E. We are all familiar with the “police” like qualities of antioxidants, arresting damaging free radicals, (aka the bad guys) causing health ills such as cancer, poor skin health and diseases.
- Stimulates the circulatory system.
- Treat and prevent varicose veins (yeah!)
- Grapeseed oil boasts high levels of monounsaturated fats (lower bad cholesterol and bolster good cholesterol). It’s especially high in Linoleic acids, a super healthy omega acids—especially good for promoting good skin.
- Its anti-inflammatory nature makes it an excellent balm for wounds and sunburn.
This light, sweet and slightly nutty oil is good for baking, deep frying and sautéing. Use it to make salad dressings and marinades.
Sunflower oil has loads of Vitamin E.
The sunshine flower offers more than beauty. The oil from sunflower seeds reputedly supplies more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. There are three main types of sunflower oils available in the market: NuSun, linoleic and high oleic. What’s the difference? They’re all developed with standard breeding techniques but differ in their levels of oleic content and each offers unique properties.
The American diet is particularly lacking in several nutrients including vitamin A, E, C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. Recently, the United States Department of Health and Human Services specifically recommends using sunflower oil as an important dietary supplement. Here are some compelling reasons:
- Its high levels of vitamin E can help you meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin E.
- It is relatively low in saturated and trans fat and high in essential fatty acids, particularly omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids help to build strong hair and heal wounds. Omega-9 fatty acidshelp to preserve memory, prevent cancer, and reduce blood pressure.
- Sunflower oil contains an array of antioxidants and phytochemicals (not technically nutrients but health-giving compounds). To name some: betaine, phenolic acid, choline, arginine and ligans. They exert both individual and collective benefits to fight and protect against cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
According to a study in the Journal of Food Science, pan-frying cod fish with sunflower oil may increase the level of omega-3 fatty acids. Cooks recognize the frying performance of this light oil. Use it to pan-fry, deep fry or to sauté foods. NuSun sunflower oil is noted for its ability to withstand higher temperatures than most cooking oil. It does not form trans fat as many oils do when they are cooked or baked. Using sunflower oil to bake is the healthier way to go.
Extra-virgin olive oil is best.
What about olive oil, the most ubiquitous of kitchen oils? Well, Homer didn’t call it “liquid gold,” for nothing. Mediterranean diet with a strong emphasis on olive oil use is touted as one of the healthiest diet. And rightly so (will discuss that soon) but first there are different grades of olive oil. What is best-- virgin, extra-virgin or refined? Health experts agree that virgin and extra-virgin olive oils have higher concentration of polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) than their refined counterpart. What do the Franks think? They picked cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil.
- According to Portuguese researchers, reported in Sciencedaily, olive oil contains DHPEA-EDA, a potent antioxidant, which offers the greatest protection against heart attack and stroke. DHPEA-EDA is capable of protecting red blood cells from damage more than any other part of olive oil.
- Since extra-virgin oil is the most digestible of edible fats, it helps to facilitate nutrient uptakes, particularly vitamin A, D and K.
- It slows down aging, not just when added to our diet but it is also a good skin moisturizer.
- Olive oil helps bile, liver and intestinal functions.
Extra-virgin oils are best for salads, dressings and vinaigrettes. Make a flavorful dip by adding
some herbs or spice to extra-virgin olive oil. You can use it as a dip for breads or drizzle it over baked potatoes (or mashed). Toss it with steamed vegetables or brush it on fish or meat before serving.
When deep frying, use “olive oil” grade, as it has a higher smoke point (about 410 degree Fahrenheit) than virgin or extra-virgin olive oil.
Remember, the fresher the olive oil, the greater the antioxidant properties, so use it fairly quickly (once it’s opened).