When it comes to cooking and preparing almost all of our favorite Indian delicacies there’s one ingredient that’s even more ubiquitous than table sugar – vegetable oil. Yes, fruits and vegetables are healthy, but that doesn’t mean that every food derivative made from them is also healthy. There is plenty of conflicting information on cooking oils, with many recommending vegetable and seed based oils as healthy. While this may be true in some cases, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to health risks from certain popular cooking oils.
What Makes Some Vegetable Oils So Unhealthy?
“A recent study found that seed based cooking oils like canola, sunflower, and corn may significantly raise the risk of cancer, as they release neurotoxic, DNA mutating chemicals when exposed to heat”
While several studies have shown that certain plant based oils like olive oil and coconut oil may be healthy, not all vegetable oils are equally healthy and some can be downright dangerous, depending on the nature of use. A recent study that appeared in the journal Procedia Engineering found that seed based cooking oils like canola, sunflower, and corn may significantly raise the risk of cancer when exposed to heat, as is the case when heating or cooking. Loaded with healthy fats like polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fats, these oils are often inexpensive, making them a popular choice with the masses. However, when exposed to heat, they were found to release neurotoxic, DNA mutating chemicals that are carcinogenic – cancer causing.
“Inhaling cooking oil fumes also increases exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, which may explain the high incidence of lung cancer in non-smoking Asian women”
According to researchers this may also explain the high incidence of lung cancer in Asian women, even in non-smokers; another study actually demonstrated that inhaling cooking oil fumes increased exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, which may be carcinogenic. While living in metros like Delhi and Mumbai may already predispose you to cancer because of disturbingly high air pollution levels, there is no denying the findings of studies like these.
What Are The Alternatives
“Of all the oils investigated, olive oil was found to be the safest, while sunflower oil was found to be most hazardous.”
Of all the oils investigated, olive oil was found to be the safest, while sunflower oil was found to be most hazardous. So, does this mean that you need to toss out all of these cooking oils that we once thought were healthy?
No, it simply means that we need to change the way in which we use such oils in our cuisine. As almost all cooking oils undergo chemical changes when heated, it’s hard to recommend any specific oil that you can safely use for deep frying or pan frying. So, instead of cooking at high temperatures with these vegetable oils, it would be wiser to simply use them as salad dressings. This will allow you to reap the health benefits of the oils without having to assume any of the risks posed by toxins that are released when cooking with them.
As modifying your entire diet may not be practical or sustainable, considering our love for deep fried and oily foods, it would make more sense to stick to the healthiest oils like olive oil and coconut oil, while simply cutting down on dishes that require cooking with oil.
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