Cooking Oils: Are you making a healthy choice?

Young woman pouring oil onto salad
Photo: © Dmitry Shironosov /

Fat is a macronutrient needed by every cell of your body not only for energy but to perform various functions like absorbing nutrients, cushioning the organs for protection, maintaining body temperature, producing hormones, etc. Chemically, fats and oils are known as triesters of glycerol and fatty acids. They are also known as dietary fats that are mainly consumed through the foods that we eat. They are generally linked with the sets of three molecules of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. Every fat and oil has a different composition of fatty acids which determines their quality. Though fat has many important roles in every cell of your body, the total consumption of fat should be 20-25% of the total caloric intake as each gram of fat provides 9kcal.

Fundamentally, these fats are classified into two major types, saturated or unsaturated, which are consumed on a daily basis by our body:

  • Saturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Monounsaturated fats

The poly and monounsaturated fats remain in a liquid state at room temperature. The saturated fats tend to solidify at room temperature.

1. Saturated Fatty Acids

These fats have a higher melting point and remain chemically stable when used in food and consumed. Consuming a higher percentage of this fat increases the body’s Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), often called ‘bad cholesterol’, which can cause cardiovascular disease. Hence, it is recommended to consume not more than 7% of the total calories from this kind of fat. These fats are typically found in animal products like egg yolk, cheese, red meat, butter, ghee, margarine and whole milk, fish and chicken. Vegetable oils like coconut and palm kernel also have a good amount of these fats.

2. Monounsaturated Fats

This fat has a low melting point and is considered as the healthiest fat. Monounsaturated fats reduce the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body and increase the amount of High Density Lipoprotein or HDL. These healthy fats help eliminate excess cholesterol from the body and provide a clean bloodstream thereby helping to prevent heart problems. It also puts less stress on the liver. MUFA is found in olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, cashews, hazelnuts, etc. They can be easily incorporated in normal cooking processes.

3. Polyunsaturated Fats

These kinds of fats are better than saturated fats. They reduce the amount of LDL when consumed in adequate amounts. They are sensitive to high temperatures and can easily break down when exposed to heat. They oxidize quickly and are prone to rancidity. Vegetable oils like Corn oil, Cottonseed oil, Safflower Oil, Soya bean oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines) are filled with these fats.

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Neha Chandna
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Neha Chandna

Neha Chandna, a university topper in dietetics from S.V.T., has worked as a nutritionist for reputed gyms and fitness trainers and as a consultant with doctors and physiotherapists. A certified Reebok Aerobics instructor, she deals with sportspersons and individuals who are victims of lifestyle issues. She also conducts seminars/workshops for corporates on the right ways of eating and living.