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"The Story of Oil"
Written by Syaidatun Yahya, Dietitian, National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia

As a dietician, people often consult me about oils – the types of oils, oil intake, oils for various dishes and such. Hence, it is a very interesting subject for us to explore and discuss; after all, you find “oil” in almost all your daily food intake!

Today, there is a wide range of cooking oils available in the market. For this reason, we should further seek proper information because it is essential for us to know what we are purchasing and whether or not it is harmful to our health. With this in mind, here are a few simple guidelines when it comes to using “Oils”:-

  1. Do not depend on only one type of oil for all your needs.

All Purpose Cooking

  • Oils with a high smoke point are ideal for frying, sautéing and other high heat cooking

High heat oils, up to 270°C

  • Palm oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Almond oil
  • Sunflower oil

Baking and Sautéing

  • Oils with a medium-high smoke point are best for sautéing at medium-high heat, or due to their neutral flavor, for baking

Medium-high heat oils, up to 220°C

  • Canola oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Soybean oil

Light Sautéing and Sauces

  • Medium heat oils normally have fuller flavors, making them ideal for sauces

Medium heat oils

  • Sesame oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Olive oil
Each type of oil has a different “smoke point”. The oil’s smoke point refers to the highest temperature the oil can be heated until smoke is produced. It is crucial to note that when the oil started to produce smoke, it will release free radicals (cancer-causing agents which you would have come across quite often). As such, the oil will go rancid or become spoilt. At this point, the nutrients in the oil are destroyed.

Information extracted from Spectrum TM, USA.

  1. Store your oils properly.

Some oils may be sensitive to heat or light. For example, olive oil is very sensitive to heat and light. Yet, many like to store it right next to their stove for easy access. The heat will spoil the oil and make it rancid. This may eliminate many of its important health benefits. Olive oil should be kept in a cool and dry storage. As we are living in Malaysia which has a warm and humid weather, we can even store olive oil in a refrigerator. Similarly, we should also keep all fish oil supplements in the fridge to keep the nutrients intact.

  1. MYTH! “Oils will make me fat.” This is NOT TRUE! Oils taken in moderation will not make you fat. Every food group, be it oil, carbohydrate, protein or sugar will make you fat if you consume them excessively. We have to remember that there are nutrients in oil that is beneficial for human health. Healthy oils contain dietary fats which fulfill a wide range of structural, storage and metabolic functions. This includes energy source for cells, carrier for fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants, providing a protective layer around essential organs, forming cell membrane and many other important functions.

By reading this, I hope that you gain some information about the different types of oil available in the market. So, go on and try a few new oils this month. Remember that, oils taken in moderation will help to keep you and your family healthy!

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