If you enjoy spending hours experimenting in the kitchen, you have undoubtedly wondered which oil was the best to use for cooking. There are dozens of options when it comes to choosing the best vegetable oil, and some are better for you than others.
What Is Vegetable Oil?
Vegetable oil is a broad term for many different types of plant-based oils, including canola oil. Other oils that may fall under the umbrella term "vegetable oil" may include oils made from corn, safflower, soybean, peanuts and sunflower.
Most of the time, however, when you pick up a bottle of vegetable oil from your local grocery store, it is going to be either soybean or corn oil. In general, vegetable oils are inexpensive compared to other types of oils. They are also considered an excellent choice for baking and cooking due to their high smoke point and neutral flavor.
The nutritional benefits of vegetable oil vary based on what plants they are extracted from, what fatty acids they contain and how they are processed.
Unlike olive or coconut oil that are typically extracted by physical or expeller pressing, typical vegetable oils are extracted through use of chemicals. Many vegetable oils:
- Include soy and come from genetically modified sources.
- Involve a chemical extraction process that uses solvents to extract oils from plants.
- Contain artificial antioxidants and preservatives such as Butylated Hydroxytoluene, or BHT, and Butylated Hydroxyanisole, or BHA.
The Difference Between Virgin and Refined Oils
When producing any oil, two steps typically occur — extraction and refining. First, the oil needs to be extracted from the plant, seed, fruit or nut. Manufacturers can accomplish this step either via chemicals or physical pressing. After the manufacturers complete the extraction process, many oils go through a refining process, removing impurities, cloudiness, odors and unwanted flavors and aiding in stability on shelf.
Refining can sometimes include a chemical process as well. If this is the case, plant matter is pulverized, saturated in a chemical solvent, heated and purified. If a bottle does not specify otherwise, the oil inside was most likely chemically refined.
You can think of virgin oil as a pressed oil extracted under intense pressure with no chemicals or heat, that is not refined. The aroma, flavor and nutritional values of virgin and extra-virgin oil tend to surpass refined oil varieties.
On the other hand, refined vegetable oil is a type of oil extracted from plants using either an oil or chemical solvent mill. They are often refined and purified and sometimes chemically altered. The extraction of refined oil involves a process that increases the product's shelf life at the cost of its nutritional values and taste. Consequently, health-conscious consumers prefer extra-virgin oils over refined varieties. Refined oils are often used for cooking that requires a neutral oil without flavor and odor.
Not All Plant Oils Are Created Equal
Why are some vegetable oils are considered healthier than others? Studies invariably link polyunsaturated fat to a reduced risk of heart problems. This evidence has led many nutritionists to believe that vegetable oils are heart-healthy.
Despite their potential health benefits, some scientists are wary about how much vegetable oil people are consuming. These concerns mostly apply to oils that contain large amounts of omega-6 fats.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. This means that you need some of them in your diet because your body cannot produce them. However, throughout evolution, humans consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a specific ratio — a ratio estimated to have been approximately 1:1.
However, this ratio in the Western diet has shifted immensely in the past century or so. Today, it may be as high as 20:1. Scientists have hypothesized that excessive omega-6 intake proportionate to omega-3 may contribute to chronic inflammation.
What Is the Best Vegetable Oil?
If you are looking or the best vegetable oils for your kitchen, health is probably one of the factors you will want to consider. The following varieties of oils have high amounts of healthy fats:
- Coconut oil: With a low melting point, coconut oil is one of the best vegetable oils to use for frying, baking and deep-frying. That said, virgin coconut oil can have a strong flavor that you might not like in some dishes.
- Sunflower and canola oils: Sunflower oil makes an excellent all-purpose oil because it can handle high cooking temperatures. Similarly, canola oil is designated as a high-heat oil, meaning it can withstand temperatures up to approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people prefer these options over coconut oil for high-heat cooking since they don't add a noticeable flavor.
- Olive oil: Primarily composed of oleic acid, olive oil has many health benefits and is the perfect ingredient for dressing your favorite salad.
- Linseed or flaxseed oil: Although it's not suitable for cooking, flaxseed oil is extremely rich in healthy omega-3. Use this tasty oil as a salad dressing ingredient and remember to keep it out of heat and light to avoid oxidation.
Browse All-Natural Artisan Oils From La Tourangelle
Whatever kinds of oils you decide to stash in your kitchen, La Tourangelle offers a range of all-natural artisan options to complement your cooking.