What is the best choice of cooking oil?
The WHO recommends it in its practical advice for a healthy diet: to reduce fat intake, we can “replace butter, lard […] by oils rich in polyunsaturated fats such as soybean, corn, safflower or sunflower oil”.
Contrary to many preconceived ideas, fats are not to be avoided. In particular, certain food oils that provide essential elements for the proper functioning of our body such as fatty acids and antioxidants.
“Our diet suffers from a deficit in omega-3, a family of fatty acids that have a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels as well as on brain development,” explains Philippe Legrand, director of the human nutrition laboratory at INRA in Rennes. In France, the consumption of omega-3 would not exceed 1 g per day, while it is recommended to consume double. And this is where edible oils come in!
Rapeseed oil for omega-3/omega-6 balance
“After fatty fish, food oils are a good source of omega-3. But some are also rich in omega-6, another essential fatty acid that we tend to consume in excess. However, when it is present in excess, it impairs the effectiveness of omega-3. The ideal for our health is therefore to turn to oils rich in omega-3 and with little omega-6.
The oil that best meets this criterion is rapeseed oil because it has 10% omega-3 and 20% omega-6. Conversely, sunflower oil, the most widely used oil in France, is composed of 0.2% omega-3 for 60% omega-6… This oil will, however, be interesting when it comes to cooking.
Several oils are rich in these polyunsaturated fatty acids: flaxseed oil is the best provided (approximately 50% omega-3). Hemp oil contains 16%, walnut oil between 12 and 16%, but it is also rich in omega-6. It is one of the most balanced, along with rapeseed oil.
Olive oil for antioxidants
Another element to take into account when choosing a food oil: the presence of antioxidants! The latter also have a protective effect on health. In this case, olive oil is without a doubt in first place. Regular consumption of olive oil, the basis of the Cretan diet, reduces the risk of high blood pressure(1) and diabetes. Conversely, walnut oil, rich in omega-3, is unfortunately low in antioxidants, so it does not age very well and quickly loses its antioxidant potential.
It’s all a question of balance. One and the same oil will not cover all the needs of our body. “It is best to combine and/or alternate these different oils. Note that it is useless to invest in anecdotal oils like grape seed oil. This one is not interesting from a nutritional point of view and therefore much too expensive for what it really brings”, concludes Philippe Legrand.
Choosing the right olive oil
Virgin olive oil is an oil extracted exclusively by mechanical means. Nothing is added or removed, everything is natural. It is called extra virgin when its acidity level is very low. These are oils with a very pronounced taste that delights gourmets.
Cold pressed olive oil, also called first cold pressed oil, is not really a guarantee of quality, it is just a particular production process that does not influence the taste. It is believed, however, that this technique allows one to keep a maximum of antioxidants.
Refined olive oil is obtained by hot pressing. The result is a crude oil, which must undergo a long series of treatments to eliminate undesirable tastes and colors.
Oils to season salads
The ideal is to mix a little rapeseed oil with a little olive oil or walnut oil. The first one will bring omega-3 while the two others will bring antioxidants and… taste!
Oils for cooking
Choose a stable oil like peanut or sunflower oil. Rapeseed oil is stable but gives off a very unpleasant smell when heated. Prefer it for seasonings.
Be careful not to exceed the smoke point of the oil. This is the point at which it gives off toxic molecules. It is easy to spot because when it is reached, the oil gives off smoke.
How much oil should I use?
It is recommended not to exceed 30 to 40 grams of added fat per day. This corresponds more or less to one tablespoon of oil per meal.
of sunflower oil purchased per French person per year. It is the most used oil.
Allies to age well
The Anses, has highlighted the effect of omega-3 on the reduction of blood pressure in people with hypertension. Data also show that two specific omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, play a role in brain function during aging and suggest a positive influence on mental health. They are also involved in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
1 Source: journal Circulation, March 2009.
2 2017 figure. Source: Agreste, GraphAgri.
3 National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety.