Oils – part 1


There are a variety of oils available. Some are good for cooking, and some are good to use as salad dressings. Either way, healthy oils have several benefits and should be included as part of a balanced diet. 

It is, however, important for us to know whether an oil is still healthy after it’s been heated.

Heating reduces the stability of cooking oils and, depending on the smoke point of the oil, some can be heated more than others before becoming unstable.

This is important because as an oil breaks down it starts to oxidize which causes it to release free radicals. Free radicals damage our cells and can lead to the development of chronic disease. Overheating or burning the oils we cook with is even more dangerous to our health.

Cheaper oils tend to be more highly processed whereas unrefined oils undergo less processing. Refined oils are typically extracted using chemical solvents, whereas unrefined oils, like those that are cold pressed, are usually extracted by pressing the seeds or plants.

Unrefined oils are healthier and they usually have a richer color, tend to be more flavourful and they also contain more nutrients, but they tend to go rancid more quickly than refined oils.

Some of the healthier oils include olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, and peanut oil.

Olive oil

Olive oil has a smoke point of around 176 degrees Celsius and since this is a common cooking temperature, makes it good for low and medium heat cooking as well as baking. Extra virgin olive oil is best for cooking and for salad dressings. Olive oil is a good source of the antioxidant Vitamin E. Olive oil is classified as a monounsaturated fatty acid, which is a healthy fat.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil, which, like extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and has a smoke point of about 271 degrees Celsius which makes it ideal for deep frying and high heat cooking. It can be used heated or cold for savoury or sweet dishes and because of its high smoke point, remains stable at high temperatures. Avocado oil contains one of the highest amounts of monosaturated fatty acids, making it a good fat and one that we should consume regularly.

Sesame oil

Sesame oil has a slightly lower smoke point of around 210 degrees Celsius so is also good for medium heat cooking and sauteeing.

Peanut oil

Peanut oil has a smoke point of around 232 degrees Celsius, which allows for it to be used at high heats, and like avocado oil it has one of the highest contents of monosaturated fats.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 27 July 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am. Our next talk will look at coconut and vegetable oils.