Apr 132013

cooking oilsOkay, we all know that olive oil is a super-star, and is favored by most health conscious cooks–but there’s a whole new world of oils getting the attention of culinary experts, and home cooks alike.  Used for both cooking and finishing, sales of specialty oils are booming, and they are making their way into some of the hottest culinary kitchens around.  Read more for your new cooking oil guide, and you may be surprised at the cosmetic benefits as well.

The facts:  A tablespoon of any plant-sourced oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.  The recommended amounts for cooking uses vary, as does the nutrition, but the bottom line is the combination of saturated and unsaturated fats that make them healthy, or not.

Cooking Oil Guide

Avocado oil–Avocado oil can be used for both cooking and cosmetic purposes. Its unusually high smoking point and aromatic flavor make it suitable for both high temperature frying and grilling, as well as an emulsifying salad oil.  It is extremely rich in monounsaturated oleic acid (OA). OA can inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol and triglycerides by blocking their transport into your bloodstream, protecting your cardiovascular system.  It also has a natural balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that both intake and topical application of avocado oil can reduce the appearance of age spots, fine lines and wrinkles.  I will definitely check this out!

Canola oilCanola oil has the lowest saturated fat of any oil, 7 percent, a neutral flavor, and high smoke point which makes it a good choice for sautéing.  It’s also a good choice for baking and salad dressings.

Coconut oil–The health benefits of coconut oil have been long included in hair care and skin care, but recent studies are showing some health benefits, despite its high saturated fat content. That’s due to the fact that it contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.  A small amount can go a long ways in imparting a coconutty flavor.

Hemp oil—Move over olive oil! With a pleasant nutty flavor, Hemp Seed Oil is being marketed as the “new healthy oil.  It’s ideal for use in salad dressings, mayonnaise and dips.  Recent research reveals that it contains all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids necessary for human life. Because it contains Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids it is a great alternative to fish oil for vegetarians, without the danger of ingesting toxins. It is not suitable for frying as this reduces the benefits.

Hair, skin, and nails are all formed from the same line of dermal cells, so it is no surprise that people who use hemp oil report thicker and shinier hair, softer skin, and stronger nails.  It can detoxify the skin and even out skin tone. You can safely use hemp oil as a skin moisturizer without worry of it clogging the pores.

Olive oil—Olive oil is a superstar for its heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and fabulous flavor.  Use the milder, less expensive oil in cooking, and the expensive kind for finishing and dipping.  There’s nothing like some good balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sourdough bread.  Try making your own flavored oils using olive oil, like garlic or oregano.

 Pistachio oil—Once considered a specialty oil, more chefs are using this nutty oil in pastas, risotto, and rice dishes.  It can also be using in as a butter substitute for drizzling over vegetable, in marinades, and baked breads and muffins.  It has only 14% saturated fat, but a little bit goes a long ways.

 Sesame oil—If you like the taste of sesame, this is a very healthy oil to use in cooking.  It has just 14% saturated fat, the same as olive oil.  Depending on the light or dark varieties, its smoke point varies; so many times it’s added at the end of a dish, such as stir-fry.  Light sesame oil has a higher smoke point.  Sesame oil has the power to unblock arteries, provide cells with essential nourishment, lower cholesterol and stores for a longer period of time than olive oil.  Try the toasted variety on top of sautéed vegetables for a burst of nutty flavor. Sesame oil is also high in linoleic acid, which makes your skin soft and youthful, but your body can’t produce it on its own.  Try it as a super healthy scalp massage.

 Walnut Oil—this oil with high omega-3 fatty acids has a rich, nutty flavor that is perfect for salad dressings, to toss with pasta, or to liven up deserts. Add walnut oil to a chicken or turkey salad along with some grapes and chopped walnuts.  Toss freshly cooked pasta in a mixture of walnut oil and spices, or brush a small amount on fish and steaks just before serving. It does not hold up well when heated, and can taste slightly bitter.

Fat is necessary for a variety of reasons—it helps absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), is needed for growth and metabolism, and healthy skin and hair. Fat helps us feel fuller, and prevents us from being hungry.

While olive oil and canola oil are arguably healthier than some of these specialy oils, including a variety of oils in one’s diet is a healthy strategy that can add new and exciting flavor to your meals.  Moderation is the key.

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