Anita Mostert | The Dietician

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Cooking with oil

Oil is part of a healthy diet. Using certain oils, such as olive oil, when cooking can be beneficial, but too much oil can add extra calories to your diet.

Examples are olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil and walnut oil. A common misconception is that you are not supposed to cook with olive oil as it has a low smoking point and thus will oxidise and lose all its health properties.

Two factors determine the degree of resistance to oxidation of oil and the presence of antioxidant compounds.

  • The more fluid the oil is at room temperature, the more susceptible it is to oxidation.
  • The antioxidants, on the other hand, protect the oil and the food against oxidation.

The oxidation resistance is provided by the natural antioxidants found in olive oil.

These antioxidants are found only in extra virgin olive oil.

A good quality olive oil has a smoke point of over 200 °C.

Quick tips for cooking with oil:

  • Fried foods are high in fat, so enjoy them in smaller amounts and less often.

  • When frying goods, heat the oil first, then add your food. The food will absorb less fat when the oil is hot.

  • Avoid heating oil so high that it starts to smoke. At that point, the oil can burst into flames.

  • You can substitute oil with water, low-sodium stock or wine when sautéing food.

  • Replace one cup of butter with ¾ cup of canola oil when baking.

  • Some oils, such as sesame seed and walnut, are very flavourful, so you don’t need to drizzle a lot.

  • Instead of buttering your bread, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar into a small saucer of olive oil and dip your bread in that.

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