Flax seed oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil and even avocado oil – there are dozens of edible vegetable oils which can form a part of a healthy balanced diet.
Cold pressed olive oil is one of the healthiest oils which is widely available. High in monounsaturated fats, which are linked to good heart health, it is also jam packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. These are the compounds which help ward off cancer and premature ageing.
The first pressing ‘virgin olive oil’ is definitely the best when it comes to health. Every time olive oil is processed, it contains less of the important active ingredients although it also becomes more affordable. Avocado oil has recently become more popular and is also high in monounsaturated ‘healthy fats.’ However, it is expensive and not widely available.
Flax seed oil is high in omega-3 long chain fatty acids, which are normally found in fish oils. Vegetarians or people on restricted diets can obtain these essential fatty acids, which are important for maintaining the brain, from this source. However, the form of omega-3s in flaxseed oil is not so easily converted to usable EPA and DHA, so someone may still need to take supplements.
The best vegetable oil for all-purpose cooking is rapeseed oil which is monounsaturated like olive oil. This oil has a high smoking point, so it is stable at high temperatures and does not easily create damaging compounds in the process of oxidisation. Sunflower oil, which is a polyunsaturated oil, has a lower smoking point so is not ideal when something needs to be cooked at high temperatures for a long period of time.
Nut oils, like peanut and sesame oil, are the tastiest oils which are often used to add flavour to dishes from a wide variety of different geographical regions. They have great health benefits when eaten raw but tend to become rancid very quickly and burn easily during cooking. They should be stored in the fridge and used quickly.