Fats and oils are usually looked down upon when a person wants to lose weight. This food group is always blamed for fat gain in humans and it is the first food group that is cut down from the diet when a person starts their weight loss journey. Various sources of fats and oils can be included in our diet and the market is flooded with different types of oils extracted from various sources, each claiming to be healthy for the body in some way or the other.
But will it help if we cook our food in a certain specific oil? Which oil should we use to cook our food? Are the so-called healthy oils really healthy or are we fooled into buying expensive oils under the name of health? Let us find out.
What are Fats and Oils?
Fats are the best-known members of a chemical group called, lipids. They constitute an important part of our Indian dietary and supply 10–30% of the total energy needs. Food fats include solid fats and liquid oils.
The main building blocks of fats are fatty acids. There are two types of fatty acids based on the chemical structure namely saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. These unsaturated fatty acids may further be of two types which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Our body cannot produce some of the fatty acids and so these are supposed to be taken from outside these are called essential fatty acids. The omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. Chemically these are polyunsaturated fatty acids. (1)
This background regarding fats and oils is essential to understand that you should try including the oils that provide your body with essential i.e., omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Different Sources of Dietary Oils
Dietary fats are derived from two sources viz. the invisible fat present in plants and animal foods like milk, egg, meat, and liver; and the visible or added fats and oils (cooking oil). Vegetable oils, used in food preparation, are extracts of oilseeds and nuts. The important sources of vegetable oils are olive, soy, palm, coconut, sunflower, cotton, groundnut, etc. (1)
Vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fatty acids and are a fairly good source of essential fatty acids. Hence it is anytime better to include them in the diet. They also give an added benefit that, it is easier to control these visible fats in the diet. For example, one can monitor the use of butter, ghee and oil used directly.
Invisible fats which include the cream in the milk and curds, nuts used in different preparations, egg yolk, fat in meat and liver, oils used in seasoning vegetables, dal, and salads cannot be easily accounted for. Invisible fat contributes about 10 or more percent of total energy in the diet.
In India, the amount of oil in the diet varies with the region. As these are expensive foods, the amount and the kind of oil used in the dietary preparations, varies with the socio-economic status of the family. Now that we have understood that using vegetable oils is beneficial due to certain factors, let us understand how much energy do we get from oils obtained from different sources.
Let us take a look at the calories of different oils (at their smoke point – temperature at which the oil stops shimmering and starts smoking on heating. it is also called the burning point of the oil.)
|Type of oil||Calories at smoke point|
|Mustard Oil||124 cal|
|Coconut Oil||127 cal|
|Olive Oil||120 cal|
Noticed that they nearly have the same caloric value, the only thing different is the cases in which they are used. So, concluding the above data means using any specific oil is not going to help you in weight loss.
Then what will help in weight loss?
During a fat loss phase, to stay in a calorie deficit you need to use oil strategically rather than focusing on the type of oil used. Let us see what you can do
Use of non-stick pans – Non-stick pans are coated with Teflon. These are convenient to use and easy to clean. They need very little oil making them a healthy way to cook and fry the food. But there are certain health hazards of using non-stick cookware. Studies have shown that showing that when the Teflon coating is heated, particles of the coating can combine with food.
Regular ingestion of these particles can produce carcinogenic effects, amongst other known complications. It is also labelled as an environmental pollutant. You have to take care of this while cleaning this cookware and not scrub off the Teflon coating. Also using rubber spatulas on the Teflon coating would help reduce the damage to the coating. Although wrapped in controversies this cookware remains popular among consumers. (2,3)
Use of oil sprays – Instead of pouring oil using spoons you can use spray pumps to spray oils on the food items. This can help in diffusing the oil equally and will also reduce the amount of oil used. There are various spray bottles available in the market to choose from.
Make sure to use a glass bottle as plastics may not be inert and may react with the oil. While using these sprays you should take care that the oil does not coagulate on the nozzle and that the nozzle should be kept closed and clean all the time. Using small bottles and refilling them from time to time will be beneficial from that effect.
It becomes important here to understand that one must be alert regarding the prepacked oil sprays. Many companies mention 0 cals per serving and you may end up spraying more oil then required. The calories per spray may be less compared what you may get if you use a spoon measure but it will never be zero.
Use of air fryers – An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that works by using high-speed hot air circulation. When the fryer is working, it begins to produce hot air and a mechanical fan begins to circulate it very fast around the food, which fries the food and produces a crispy layer. (4) You need to add only a few tablespoons of oil to coat the food before cooking, or in many cases, does not require adding oil at all.
These appliances and techniques can come in handy when trying to make your favorite dishes within a specific limit for the fats. The underlying message is that the amount of oil used for cooking matters more than the type of oil. Do you have any specific ways in which you limit the use of oil while cooking? Let us know about ut in the comments section below.
Shobhan Ojha (INFS Faculty)
Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content writer and editor)
- Mudambi, S. and Rajagopal, M., 2015. Fundamentals of foods, nutrition and diet therapy. New Dehli: New Age International.
- Patel, B., 2021. Building A Greener Kitchen.
- Ruengcharungpong, S., Somjai, S. and Aeknarajindawat, N., 2019, December. Customer satisfaction and behavior of using non-stick cookware products of bangkok metropolitan region. In International Academic Multidisciplinary Research Conference in Los Angeles 2019 (pp. 70-72).
- Tewari, A., Israni, K. and Tolani, M., 2015. Air Fryer using Fuzzy Logic. International Journal of Computer Applications, 975, p.8887.