It’s hard to believe, but cooking oil is a contentious subject. On one side, you have people who claim that all cooking oil is bad and on the other side people who claim cooking oil is a super food. The truth is somewhere in between. Here are some of the most persistent claims aboutcooking oil and the facts behind them.
Myth: Olive Oil Is Good for You but You Can’t Use It for Frying
Research about olive oil proves that eating it reduces the risk of heart disease, strengthens the immune system and aids in the prevention of some types of cancer. Drizzling olive oil on salads and over garlic bread adds a flavor without harmful effects. The rap against olive oil is that its smoke point is too low for frying. The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to smoke. If an oil smokes before it reaches an optimum frying temperature of 350 to 370 degrees, it is not a good candidate for frying foods. It’s true that some olive oils fall into the not-good-for-frying category. High quality extra-virgin olive oil, however, has a smoke point of approximately 405 degrees, making it ideal for sautéing, pan frying and deep-frying foods.
Myth: Cottonseed Oil is Full of Pesticides and Bad for Your Heart
Cottonseed oil has a high smoke point and is used by chefs all over the world to create sumptuous fried food dishes and luscious pastries. One of the persistent myths about cottonseed oil is that it is full of pesticides that remain in the oil after the refinery process. Critics claim that cotton is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food; leaving the door open for all kinds of nefarious additives to slip by. In truth, the FDA has always regulated cotton as a food crop. FDA regulations stipulate the acceptable amounts and types of pesticides allowed on food crops. Cotton crops in the United States meet or exceed the standards set by the FDA. To reduce the use of pesticides further, many cotton farmers plant disease-resistant plants, use natural pest repellents and grow certified pesticide-free crops. Cottonseed oil is a trans-free oil that, when used in moderation, fits the American Heart Association’s guidelines as a heart healthy choice.
Myth: Vegetable Oil is Off-Limits
Vegetable oil was the kitchen standard for many years, but now it’s labeled as the least healthy choice because of its high polyunsaturated fat content. Some of the concerns are real. Vegetable oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids, which if consumed in large amounts, can contribute to obesity. There are better options for frying food than vegetable oil, but used in moderation, its occasional consumption poses no threat.
Myth: Coconut Oil Cures Everything
Coconut oil is the current miracle worker. Backers claim it does everything from helping people lose weight to kill lice. Is coconut oil, once spurned as one of the unhealthiest of cooking oils, really the super food people claim? The truth is the jury’s still out. Research so far has been limited to its short-term effects on cholesterol levels. There’s not enough research to refute or support the claims.