Avoid reheating oil; use combination of oils and read food labels to ensure that transfats do not creep into your diet

While plans maybe afoot to welcome the New Year with health conscious resolutions, one vital culinary component that is linked to non-communicable diseases is often neglected – cooking oils. While the debate on the healthiest oil continues through various studies and reports, most of them clearly frown upon sticking to one type of oil for cooking. The reiterated thumb rule is to use a combination of cooking oils to derive the maximum benefits from fatty acids contained in these oils. “Use a combination of two or three types of oil regularly or rotate types of oil for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says M.V.Alli, assistant professor, department of nutrition and dietetics, Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College.

Risk of heart disease

The choice of cooking oil is important as the risk of heart disease is linked to the usage of oil, says N.Senthilkumar, interventional cardiologist, Kauvery Hospitals. Cooking oils containing saturated fats can elevate bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol levels which block arteries and increases risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, and obesity.

Cooking oils are of various types: saturated like ghee and coconut oil, and unsaturated oils are further classified into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oil apart from transfats.

Transfats are found in hydrogenated oils or vanaspati or vegetable shortening which are present in pastry products, pizzas, burgers. In his book, ‘how to protect your heart’ Dr. Senthilkumar recommends avoiding transfats, minimal use of saturated fats, and striking a balance between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are present in mustard oil, groundnut oil, olive, gingelly, sunflower, safflower and canola, to name a few. “We do not recommend the use of saturated oils like coconut oil or ghee, particularly for persons with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or obese people,” says Dr. Alli.

Reheating oil

At a health meet in the city this year, cancer specialist, V.Shanta, chairperson, Adyar Cancer Institute, said reusing of oil was a cause for worry as reheating oil has been linked with cancer. The practice is prevalent due to rise in prices of essential commodities like oil and cap on subsidised gas cylinders. Reheating oil multiple times is the primary reason why doctors and dieticians frown upon eating out in restaurants and buying deep-fried snacks at roadside eateries.

Apart from refraining from reheating oil used for deep frying, baking, boiling, using non-stick pans are options recommended to achieve optimum oil usage. Read food labels to ensure that transfats do not creep into your diet, Dr. Senthilkumar suggests.