Vegetable oil is essential for frying chicken, sautéing, baking quick breads, and so many other dishes. Many recipes call for vegetable oil, but is it a healthy option?
First, let’s define what vegetable oil is. It’s a general term that refers to a blend of plant-based oils such as canola, corn, soybean, peanut, safflower, and sunflower. Because many plant oils are combined to make it, the cost of vegetable oil is generally very low, compared to other oils made from a single source, such as walnut oil, or olive oil.
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The specific ratio of oils in vegetable oil will vary depending on who makes it. This also affects the flavor, even though it is considered a neutral cooking oil. Because it is relatively tasteless and has a high smoke point (around 400˚F), vegetable oil is great for high heat cooking like stir-frying or deep frying, as well for baked goods such as muffins and dense, moist cakes like carrot cake.
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While olive oil may contain the most health benefits, according to our sister brand EatingWell, vegetable oil can be part of a heart-healthy diet too. Plant-based oils contain good-for-you polyunsaturated fat, one of the healthy fats. At one time, there was concern that omega-6 fatty acids (known as linoleic acid) found in vegetable oil could cause inflammation. But new studies suggest that they aren’t solely to blame and this research could have been overblown.
But don’t confuse polyunsaturated fats with partially hydrogenated oils. The latter contain trans-fats, which are the worst type of dietary fat and should be avoided. They are most commonly found in processed foods, fast food, and ingredients such as margarine. Instead, choose liquid vegetable oils and, like with all fats, use them in moderation.
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