The function of vegetable oils for seasoning is to enhance, thanks to the fat matrix, the flavors of the foods we are going to prepare and to lubricate them.
Despite of the vegetable origin, an excess of fat will still be deposited in the adipose tissue and therefore, after the growth phase in which the oils are useful to reach the caloric requirement, it should be used sparingly. Together with Dr. Silvia Goggi, Food Science Specialist at Humanitas, we discover everything there is to know about this subject.
How do you choose the perfect vegetable oil?
“Since oils are a mixture of various fatty acids, the ideal vegetable oil should have the following characteristics – specified Goggi: first of all it should have the lowest possible content of saturated fats (the bad ones that increase cholesterol) and as much as possible of those mono and polyunsaturated, so-called “good” fats. Favorably incline the omega-6/omega-3 ratio towards the latter (i.e. the vegetable oil should contain more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6) or at least avoid consuming too much omega-6, which is already rich in the Western diet”.
“The best oil – continued the specialist – must have a high boiling point, in order to avoid forming compounds that are harmful to health once the oil is exposed to high temperatures”.
Moreover, a good vegetable condiment must be cheap and easy to find, as well as having a pleasant taste.
Which oils meet these characteristics?
Olive oil is neutral with respect to the omega-6/omega-3 ratio, has a high boiling point (ideal for “fried” food), is cheap and easy to find.
Linseed oil provides high quantities of omega-3, which are however denatured at high temperatures, and can therefore be used to season raw dishes.
The other oils of seeds (sunflower, peanut, maize…), besides having a low boiling point, are rich of omega-6 fatty acids, and should therefore be utilized sparingly.
A good compromise for cakes and fries, where seed oils are often used, is high oleic sunflower oil, which has been selected to contain high amounts of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. It is therefore more suitable than the original for frying and baking (for which the olive oil is always the most suitable).
Coconut oil: a fashion not to be followed
“A few words about coconut oil, which is very fashionable – concluded Goggi: The high amount of saturated fatty acids it contains have an indirect adverse effect on the omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as well as increasing cardiovascular risk. Thus, it is a fashion that is better not followed!