When it comes to deciding whether or not to use a cooking oil based on the health benefits or drawbacks of that oil, let’s face it, there are so many different messages about which are safe and healthy and which are not that good for us… One week we are being told that coconut oil is the cure-all and safest oil for cooking and consumption and the next we hear it has relatively little nutritional benefit. Another day we read that extra virgin olive oil is toxic when heated and should not be used for cooking and only used for dressing salads or cold dishes, even though we have been using extra virgin olive oil for most of our life believing it is good for us. It is very easy to get confused by all these conflicting messages!

Good news it there is some new research that helps navigate the jungle of cooking oils and we have summarised the findings for you right here so keep reading for the latest findings on this topic.

A recently published report by leading Australian researchers De Alzaa, Guillame, and Ravetti (2018) have uncovered the facts and myths about common cooking oils safety and nutritional content. The main component of cooking oils effects on human health boils down to how they react when they are heated. Degradation of cooking oil can occur when the oil reaches a smoking point and, by-products such as polar compounds, oxidisation, and free fatty acids increase. These by-products can have detrimental effects on human health and have been linked to degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease and some forms of cancer.

Range of cooling oils

To carry out their study on the safety of cooking oils for human consumption, the researchers heated all common cooking oils to a standard temperature used in every-day kitchens (240 celsius) and, the oils remained exposed to a temperature of 180 celsius for a further 6 hours. Oils were tested for smoking point, release of free fatty acids, oxidative stability, polar compounds and UV coefficients and degradation of nutritional content.

Overall the researchers found that extra virgin olive oil yielded the lowest levels of all by-products in comparison to canola oils which yielded the highest levels. The researchers stated that extra virgin olive oils mono-unsaturated fatty acid profile and antioxidant content (that also provide the amazing nutritional benefits of the oil) provided stability to the oil when heated. Other oils with high polyunsaturated fatty acids (grapeseed, sunflower, rice bran, and, canola oils) degraded much faster and produced more unhealthy by-products.

The second-best performing oil was coconut oil, and although it did have a much higher smoking point than extra virgin olive oil, the smoking points for both were so high that they were very unlikely to be reached in a normal kitchen environment. Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil were followed closely by other virgin oils such as avocado and high oleic seed oils for their health and safety properties.
The results of the study support evidence of the nutritional benefits of these three oil types already known in the scientific literature:

  • Extra virgin olive oil – High in antioxidants, antibacterial properties and healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. These properties are known to increase bone, heart and brain health, eliminate oxidative stress from the brain and body and reduce the risk of heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and, inflammation.
  • Coconut oil – Raises good cholesterol and contain medium-chain triglycerides which are shorter than other fats and more easily used in the body. These triglycerides are suggested to help increase blood flow to the brain and reduce neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease. Unlike extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil is a saturated fat and should be used more sparingly than a monounsaturated fat like extra virgin olive oil.
  • Avocado oil – Like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil has a high ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids and antioxidants, which provides many health benefits such as, decreasing arthritic symptoms, preventing gum disease, improving skin and wound healing, and eliminating oxidative waste in the body and brain.

So when it comes to choosing the healthiest oil for you and your family when you are next at Santos Organics, you can’t go past the good old extra virgin olive oil. The bonus to this is that it is also the most readily available and often cheaper than other alternatives such as coconut, avocado and macadamia nut oils.

Written by Megan Lee

Email: megan.lee@scu.edu.au

Instagram @meganlovingmeagain

Twitter @MeganLeePhD