Is Frying Food Healthy? Oil Options For A Healthy Lifestyle
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Whether or not you are on a diet, or are looking to lose a few pounds, or are conscious about nutrition or what you eat, you’ve certainly heard about how bad and even dangerous too much oil can be.
Now, I’m not going to tell you to go to McDonald’s and order a double cheeseburger with an XL fries. Yes, that much oil is definitely not helping your body. Regardless of whether your health or weight is an issue, or not. But somehow, people seem to avoid frying like the plague, thinking that it has no place in a healthy lifestyle.
In truth, as long as fried foods are not your breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack, frying can be just as much a part of a healthy diet as other forms of cooking. Frying adds flavor, and sautéing can help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins those veggies contain. It’s all about using the right products, and of course, in the right amounts.
The Joys Of Frying Foods: Why Fry?
So first of all: the flavor. There’s no doubt about it; frying offers a unique flavor and moisture content to your foods. You just don’t get the same results through other forms of cooking like baking or boiling. It also takes a lot faster to cook, so if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to wait an hour for your chicken to bake, frying or stir frying is a good alternative.
And when it comes to vegetables, frying has been found to release the highest level of phenolic compounds (antioxidants) than any other form of cooking vegetables, or even eating them raw. So yes, controlling the amount of oil you use and not frying too often is important. Still, a healthy dose of fried foods in your diet – especially vegetables – could actually turn out to be a good thing.
Flaxseed Oil For Frying Explained
Also called linseed oil, flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant. It’s a pricey oil, and must be stored refrigerated. Even then, it’s best to only buy it in small amounts, since it can go rancid (off) very fast. The reason you’d choose to buy flaxseed oil is because of its amazing health benefits – it’s high in omega-3’s and has cancer-fighting and heart disease-fighting properties.
However, by heating the oil to the temperature you’d need to fry something in it, the nutrients begin to break down, and you end up losing all those benefits. Therefore, it’s best to use alternative natural oils for frying, and keep your flaxseed oil for dressings or pouring over your already-cooked food.
Sesame Oil For Frying Explained
I’ll give you three guesses where sesame oil comes from. Did you say sesame seeds? Hey, you’re smart! Because of this, it’s not a good idea to use sesame oil in foods that you don’t want to have a sesame flavor.
While a little sesame oil can add a delicious flavor to a dish, you don’t want it to be overpowering. And because it doesn’t have the highest smoke point (the point at which oil heats safely before releasing smoke), it’s not generally recommended for deep frying and the like. However, to quickly sauté some vegetables and give them a subtle, nutty flavor, sesame oil is safe to use.
It works best when added to a marinade, stir fry, or any Asian dish, and comes in light and dark versions. Toasted sesame oil, which is dark, has far too strong a flavor to be used for frying, but adds an exotic twist when drizzled over a completed dish.
Olive Oil For Frying Explained
You knew this one was gonna make the list. Olive oil has numerous health benefits, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also low in calories when compared to many other oils. Almost every recipe for the health conscious that uses oil requests olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil.
However, for frying, pure or virgin olive oil is best, since extra-virgin has a lower smoke point. For deep-frying? It’s probably best to skip the olives altogether and stick with canola oil. I’ve used extra-virgin olive oil in pasta dishes or to sauté garlic, and it adds a lot to the flavor. Just keep your eye on it, and make sure your oil isn’t reaching its smoke point.
Coconut Oil For Frying Explained
Aside from being incredibly healthy, coconut oil is one of the most stable oils and is able to withstand high temperatures, making it the ideal oil for frying. If you love coconut (all together, now) then you’re good to use unrefined coconut oil. This oil has a broader nutrition profile and a strong coconut flavor. If you’re not a fan, or you don’t want your dish to taste like Hawaii, opt for refined coconut oil, whose flavor tends to be subtler.
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Canola Oil For Frying Explained
Ah, good ol’ canola oil. It’s one of the most commonly used oils, and you’re likely to come across it in most households. Canola oil is stable and can withstand higher temperatures, so it can be used in anything from marinades to deep-frying. It’s perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes.
However, keep in mind that to some people, canola oil can have a “fishy” taste when used for frying. Not everyone finds this, but there’s a 99% chance you’re going “OMG yes! I never thought of it like that but I completely get what you mean!” (Yes, I just made up that statistic, but it’s probably true.)
Still, using very fresh and good quality canola oil can usually get rid of this problem. Just don’t save the oil after frying for future use, if you are especially sensitive to the fishy taste. On the plus side, canola is considered one of the more heart-healthy oils, due to its high fatty acid content. Plus, it contains no cholesterol. Despite its benefits though, canola oil is still considered one of the oils to use sparingly. If you can, you’re better off using coconut oil.
Vegetable Oil For Frying Explained
Popular in Western countries, vegetable oil refers to oil that is derived from any plant. It might contain a mix of plant oils, such as soybean or palm oils. Despite how it sounds (I mean, vegetables are healthy, right?), it’s actually not the best oil for your health.
Put it this way: large fast food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and Burger King all use vegetable oil. And we’re all aware how well-known those places are for their healthy menu options, right? Not.
Vegetable oils have a high ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s which is really not great news for your body. A diet that relies too heavily on such fats can result in changes to cell membranes (and not good changes, either), inflammation and weight gain. Not to mention, an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Bottom line: if you’re looking for a healthy way to incorporate frying into your diet, I’d steer clear of vegetable oil. Opt for olive or coconut oil, instead.
Coconut oil takes the cake as the best all-rounder: it provides healthy fat, has a long shelf life, and can be heated to high temperatures. Even so, other oils do have their time and place. Olive oil goes great with Italian food, and it won’t kill you to fry your eggplant in canola oil once in a while.
Still, it’s important to be wary of which oils are actually good for you and which you would do better to avoid. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor about which oils will be best for you. And remember that while it shouldn’t be your main method of cooking; in moderation, frying can be a part of a healthy, tasty diet.