Cooking oil has several purposes. It serves as a medium for heat transfer when you are frying, and it may impart a flavor to the finished dish. But not all cooking oils are healthy, and the temperature at which you cook can change the fatty acid composition, making the once healthy cooking oil an unhealthy one. Yes, you heard it right!
But don't worry. After extensive research, we have prepared a buying guide to help you choose the best cooking oils for your heart and overall health. You can also shop from our top 10 recommendations for the best cooking oils for the heart in India from major brands like Saffola, DiSano, Fortune, and more. What oil to use, what's the smoke point? If you want to know more about these things, keep on reading this article as it is reviewed by a professional nutritionist, Ruchi Wadhwa.
Ruchi Wadhwa is a certified Nutritionist with a keen interest in Ayurvedic science. She has a wholesome, holistic, and sustainable approach to nutrition.
mybest editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in India in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
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Table of Contents
Read the buying guide below to learn how to choose a heart-healthy cooking oil depending on the level of various fatty acids, the type of cooking, the smoke point of oils, storage, and more.
There are two types of unsaturated fatty acids—monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The basic difference between the two is monounsaturated fats have only one double bond, while polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. Both fats help in reducing the levels of bad cholesterol called Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL).
Oils rich in monounsaturated fats include olive, mustard, avocado, canola, almond, peanut, and rice bran. You can find high levels of polyunsaturated fats in grapeseed, safflower, sesame, sunflower, flaxseed, and wheat germ oils. You must have heard about omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
Omega-3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and omega-9 is monounsaturated. Adequate consumption of unsaturated fats reduces LDL and increases HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), reduce inflammation, thus improving your heart health. These fats are also known to promote weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity in people with high blood sugar. Now you know, not all fats are bad!
Fat is an essential nutrient that plays a role in energy provision, absorption of vitamins, and formation of the cell membrane. Over the years, fat has acquired a bad name because of its alleged role in developing cardiovascular disease, but not all fats are bad.
Fats are mainly of four types: saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), polyunsaturated (PUFA), and trans fats. Out of which, only SFA and trans-fats are known to negatively affect the established biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk, i.e., Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), Total Cholesterol (TC), Triglycerides (TG), High-density lipoprotein (HDL-C), and other factors like inflammation, blood clotting time, etc.
On the other hand, PUFA and MUFA are actually the 'Good' or 'Healthy' fats that are known to decrease bad LDL and Cholesterol levels, simultaneously increasing good HDL, which helps lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Saturated fats don't have double bonds, unlike unsaturated fats. So regular usage can cause cholesterol to build up in your blood, hardening the arteries over time and making it difficult for the blood to flow through them. This causes a condition called angina or chest pain. If the artery gets blocked completely, it can cause a heart attack.
High cholesterol can also cause arteries to your brain to get blocked and cause a stroke. Try to minimize the usage of oils rich in saturated fats or replace them completely. Coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils are some examples of oils rich in saturated fats. Trans fat has the same adverse effects as saturated fat, but it is only present in tiny amounts in cooking oils.
Still, it poses a health risk. The Food and Safety Standards of India (FSSAI) regulates trans fat content in oils to 3 percent. All cooking oils could have some amount of trans fat in them. Check the nutrition information on the pack and confirm that the trans fat content is below the regulated level. Cooking in high heat creates only negligible amounts of trans fat.
Trans-fat is the worst kind of dietary fat. It is mostly formed as a by-product of hydrogenation (a process used to convert liquid vegetable oils to solid or semi-solid fats to protect them from getting rancid). They are found in foods like solid margarine, vegetable shortening, etc.
They are very harmful to health and are known to increase bad cholesterol (LDL), inflammation, and insulin resistance in the body that increases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Even in small amounts, as low as 2% of total calories, Trans-fat can increase the risk of heart disease by 23%.
Therefore, one should not consume trans-fat at all. Contrarily, the role of saturated fat in the development of heart disease is still not clear, but there is enough evidence to suggest that replacing 5% of SFA with PUFA can reduce the risk of Coronary Heart Disease by 10%. As per AHA guidelines, SFA should not provide > 10% of total calories.
Refining oils can increase its smoke point. For example, unrefined canola oil has a smoke point of 107 degrees celsius, and that of the refined variety is 230 degrees celsius. Only the latter is suitable for high heat cooking. Some examples of low smoke point (below 170 degrees celsius) are extra virgin oils, unrefined oils, and cold-pressed oils.
Some high smoke point (above 190 degrees celsius) cooking oils include refined oils of nuts, seeds, and grains. Cooking temperatures vary depending on the dish you are preparing and from one household to another. Use a kitchen thermometer and check the temperature of the dishes that you cook daily. You can choose a cooking oil accordingly.
'Smoke point' or 'flash point' is a temperature at which oil starts breaking and oxidizing in free fatty acids. When oil begins to smoke, it releases a substance called acrolein which imparts burnt flavor to your food. In this process, some harmful byproducts called polar compounds are released to cause chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Saturated fats have a much higher smoking point as compared to unsaturated fats. Therefore, unsaturated fats for high-temperature cooking are not advisable as all the beneficial fats get oxidized, leaving behind a toxic substance that is carcinogenic in nature.
Here are some cooking tips and recommendations for using heart-healthy cooking oils in your daily diet. You may choose one or more of these oils for cooking various dishes.
The smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is 160 degrees celsius, and that of flaxseed oil is 107 degrees celsius. So, use unrefined, extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils for drizzling and making salad dressings. It's not just the smoke point that matters.
Both olive and flaxseed oils have a bitter, nutty flavor, making them a superb choice for drizzling over vegetable salads, meat salads, and more. You can also make vinaigrettes, noodles, and baking cakes (as a substitute for butter and vegetable oils).
Olive oil and flaxseed oil are rich in healthy fats like MUFAs, Essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6. Also, the presence of polyphenols makes them excellent antioxidants. However, despite all the said benefits, their low to moderate smoking point renders them unfit for purposes of frying, especially deep-frying.
Olive oil, to some extent, can be used for sauteing purposes, but flaxseed oil is not meant for cooking at all. So, to get the said benefits from both the oils, it is advised that they are used in unheated or raw form by drizzling them on your soups, salads, and morning coffee.
With the lowest amount of saturated fats (7 grams per 100 grams) among all cooking oils and high levels of monounsaturated fats (63 grams), canola oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils available. Its high MUFA and low PUFA content ensure very less free radicals and aldehyde formation. It also has a high smoke point of 230 degrees celsius.
Sunflower oil is usually used for high heat cooking like stir-frying and deep-frying for making fried fish, chips, and vegetables. But the high levels of PUFA can form toxic compounds that can affect your heart's health. If you use sunflower oil for high heat cooking, we advise you to reduce the cooking time as much as possible and refrain from using used oil.
Both sunflower and canola oils are neutral oils, meaning they don't impart any flavor to the dish you are cooking. So you can use these oils for grilling and stir-frying meat and vegetable. But if you want to impart flavor to your high heat cooking, go for mustard oil. It has a pungent aroma and flavor, making it suitable for pickles, cooking vegetables, etc.
Like flaxseed and olive oils, these oils mainly contain healthy fats like Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). Still, they have fairly better flashpoints and can be used for basic high-heat cooking.
They can be used for deep-frying as well, but reusing them is not advisable. Instead, the leftover oil should be either discarded or used for low-heat cooking activities like sauteing.
Although grapeseed oil has a high smoke point, its high levels of PUFA make it unsuitable for high heat cooking. And cold-pressed sesame oil has a low smoke point. Since both are neutral oils, you can use them for sauteing and stir-frying seafood, chicken, and vegetables.
You can even substitute these oils for olive if you want to drizzle over salads. Low to moderate heat cooking using grapeseed and sesame oils won't cause the release of harmful substances. If you want to add a nutty, toasty flavor to any of your dishes, finish it with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
Grape seed and sesame oils have moderate smoke points. So, they can be used to saute or stir fry your food. However, it is best to use them in combination with the high-heat oils mentioned above.
Although Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are good fats, they have beneficial effects only when they are present in the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega-6 is 1:4.
Research suggests that any disturbance in this ratio can do more harm than good. Since none of the oils have this ratio maintained at an individual level. Therefore, it is advisable to combine different types of oil.
There is a common misconception that using refined oils is harmful to our health. As long as the trans fat content is below the regulated level of 3 percent, there is no harm in using refined oils. But the refining process can indeed remove some micronutrients such as phytosterols and tocopherols, phenolic compounds, and beta carotene.
These antioxidants and nutrients are known for promoting heart health by reducing free radicals and blood cholesterol levels. But find out the smoke point of the cooking oil you are buying as most unrefined, cold-pressed and extra virgin oils have a very low smoke point, making it suitable only for low heat cooking. For example, drizzling over salads, cooking vegetables and noodles, etc.
Unrefined, cold refined, and extra virgin oils are minimally processed, which helps them retain valuable nutrients like vitamin E. Moreover, the little processing which they undergo during the oil extraction process is both chemical and heat-free.
Moreover, their antioxidants remain intact, which is responsible for their cancer-preventing properties. But, the presence of unsaturated fatty acids makes them really sensitive to heat. Therefore, these oils are beneficial when eaten raw.
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Best For Drizzling and Making Salad Dressings
Sunlite Refined Sunflower Oil
Refined Cooking Oil Suitable For Deep Frying and Grilling
Cold Pressed Sesame Oil
Suitable For Moderate Heat Cooking, Sauteing, and Seasoning
Cold Pressed Mustard Oil
Pungent Taste Ideal for Indian Cooking
Comes With a Shelf Life of 36 Months
Blend Of Refined Rice Bran Oil and Refined Sunflower Oil
Most Versatile Oil for Cooking
Black & Green
Extra Virgin Avocado Oil
For All Types of Cooking
Wood Pressed Groundnut Oil
Neutral Oil Suitable For Low Heat Cooking
Refined Corn Oil
Fortified With Vitamin A and D
Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest, as it is the least refined or processed. Borges extra virgin olive oil comes with 75 grams of monounsaturated fats and only 10 grams of polyunsaturated fats, making it a healthy option for deep frying and grilling as it oxidizes very slowly.
Its nutty flavor makes it suitable for making salad dressings and drizzling over tomatoes or fried fish. It is cold-pressed (retains most of the naturally present nutrients) and has a smoke point of 320 degrees celsius. We advise you to store it away from direct sunlight to prevent it from oxidizing quickly as it comes in a transparent bottle.
Fortune Sunlite refined sunflower oil has a smoke point of 232 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for deep frying and grilling. Sunflower oil is suitable for replacing coconut oil while frying chips and olive oil as a salad dressing. It has added Vitamin A and D at 2500 IU and 450 IU per 100 grams, respectively.
If you are planning to replace daily use oils like coconut and olive with sunflower oil, we recommend going for this 5-liter pack, as it would last you longer. It has a shelf life of nine months. Try to store it away from heat and sunlight to prevent it from going rancid before its expiry.
Sesame oil imparts a nutty flavor to the food. With a smoke point of 177 degrees celsius, you can use it for low to moderate heat cooking of vegetables and pancakes and for making vinaigrettes used as a salad dressing or as a marinade).
It has a naturally occurring trans fat content of less than 5 grams (per 100 grams), which adheres to the FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) regulations. It doesn't go through any refining processes and provides a shelf life of 9 months.
Mustard oil is one of the most common cooking oils that can be found in an Indian kitchen. Dabur Cold Pressed mustard oil comes in a one-liter pack with 12 months of shelf life. Its high smoke point of 250 degrees celsius makes it suitable for high heat cooking, but mustard oil has a pungent aroma and flavor.
Due to this reason, mustard oil is not a substitute for neutral oils like sunflower and canola, even though it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (59 grams per 100 grams). It is suitable for making pickles, cooking vegetables and meat too, but choose your spices keeping the mustard oil's flavor in mind.
Tin can and dark bottles prevent oxidation to a large extent. Well's almond oil comes in a tin can and has a shelf life of 36 months. It is refined to increase its smoke point, making it suitable for frying, grilling, and roasting food like meat and vegetables.
Since it is refined, we don't recommend using it for baking as its nutty flavor is lost in the refining process. Almond oil contains vitamins like A and E and Omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E has the potential to reduce coronary heart disease, and Omega-3 fatty acids can protect you from a stroke. Its significantly low saturated fat content (7.85g per 100 grams) is an added benefit.
Saffola Gold is recommended for deep frying and stir-frying for short periods since it contains high amounts of saturated (20 grams) and polyunsaturated fats (41.3 grams). We advise people with high cholesterol to stay away from it, but those leading a healthy lifestyle can use it occasionally (for cooking that involves high heat).
The specialty of this cooking oil is the presence of Oryzanol, a substance extracted from rice bran oil proven to improve high cholesterol levels. You will also benefit from the added Vitamin A and D present at 2500 IU and 450 IU, respectively. Saffola Gold has a shelf life of 9 months.
Canola oil has the least percentage of saturated fats of all cooking oils. It is called a neutral oil since it doesn't impart any flavor to the dish, making it a favorite for many. It has a high percentage of monounsaturated fats (63 grams), so you don't have to worry about too much aldehyde formation (known for causing heart issues like coronary artery injury).
DiSano Canola Oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, with approximately 11 grams per 100 grams of oil. We recommend storing the container in a dark cabinet or the refrigerator as the high amounts of MUFA and PUFA can oxidize quickly if exposed to sunlight or heat.
Switching to canola oil is recommended for heart patients and those who are trying to lose weight since canola oil has proven to be beneficial for both.
Avocado oil can be used for making homemade mayo, drizzling over salads, baking, and many more. Black & Green Extra Virgin Avocado Oil comes in a dark bottle to prevent oxidation. It has a high smoke point of 270 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for stir-frying and deep-frying.
The high amounts of monounsaturated fats (71 grams) stay stable, and with just 13 grams of polyunsaturated fats, you don't have to worry about too much aldehyde formation. It contains a substance called beta-sitosterol, known for reducing cholesterol levels, and lutein known for improving cardiometabolic health. You may substitute avocado oil for any oil in cooking.
Wood Pressed Groundnut Oil by Anveshan has almost equal levels of MUFA and PUFA. Groundnut oil, also called peanut oil, is a neutral oil, meaning you don't have to worry about it altering the flavor of the dish. Since it is cold-pressed, it has a smoke point of just 160 degrees celsius. Use it for low heat cooking for recipes like noodles, sauces, etc.
The oil comes in a glass bottle, but it is transparent. Keep it away from sunlight. You get 38.34 grams of oleic acid, also called monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It is known for improving heart health by reducing cholesterol and inflammation. Anveshan Wood Pressed Groundnut Oil is free from any chemicals and has a shelf life of 6 months.
Refined corn oil is a popular choice for high heat frying, as it is a neutral oil and inexpensive. Along with the presence of phytosterols, linoleic acid, and vitamin E, known for reducing the risk of heart disease, it also contains added Vitamin A and D (2500 IU and 450 IU, respectively).
Still, we recommend using Gulab Prime Refined Corn Oil in moderation, as high amounts of Omega-6s present in corn oil can cause inflammation. Customer reviews show that the oil is light and has hardly any aroma, which makes the spices used in masalas for frying stand out.
As you already know, oxidation can cause cooking oils to go rancid and develop harmful substances. Sunlight can cause that too. Storing your cooking oil where it's exposed to sunlight and heat can cause the fatty acids in it to oxidize slowly, especially those oils with high PUFA content.
Even MUFA oxidize but not as quickly as PUFA. If you are stocking up your oil reserves for long-term use, all fatty acids can degrade. We recommend choosing a product that comes in dark bottles and tin cans. If they are not available, transfer the contents to an opaque container or store them in a dark cabinet.
You can try refrigerating oils too. Those with high MUFA and PUFA like sunflower, safflower, canola, and olive can benefit from refrigeration if you buy them in bulk, say, a year's supply.
If cooking oils are stored properly, i.e., away from sunlight, we can protect them from getting spoiled or rancid in a cool and dry place. On the other hand, appropriate storage of unrefined or 'Kacchi Ghani' oil is important as they are usually high in unstable MUFAs and PUFAs, due to which they get spoiled easily.
Garam masala—a spice blend that adds flavor, and salt—a flavor enhancer. Two of the most important ingredients in an Indian kitchen shelf. We would like to introduce the several varieties of these ingredients available in India, along with the most important ingredient for a lip-smacking biryani—Basmati rice. Click on the links below to read the buying guides and shop from our top 10 list.
Hope we have made it easy for you to choose a heart-healthy cooking oil for your everyday cooking. Here is everything in a nutshell. For high heat cooking, go for cooking oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids as they are more stable. If polyunsaturated fatty acids are high, we recommend using them only for low heat cooking and drizzling.
Make a note of the smoke point of various oils and use a kitchen thermometer to find out the temperature at which you cook daily. This will make it easy for you to choose the right oil for your needs. Remember that refined variants of cooking oils have a high smoke point. Store your cooking oils in a dark cabinet to prevent oxidation from exposure to sunlight and heat.
Author - Arun F Xaviour
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