How to cook with oils and fats correctly

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There are many oils to choose from – our overview shows which oils are suited to heating and which are better stored in the fridge.

Fats and oils in our diet

Fats and oils are important components of a healthy diet. For example: we can only metabolise the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K if – as the name suggests – they are dissolved in fat. This means that the valuable β-carotene in a carrot (β-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A) can only be absorbed if the carrot has been eaten in combination with fats or oils.

Which oils are healthy?

In order to decide which fats and oils are healthy, the fatty acid pattern must be examined. Traditionally, a distinction is made between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. In the case of unsaturated fatty acids, there’s a difference between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

  1. Saturated fatty acids are found, for example, in butter, lard and coconut oil. They are partly responsible for elevated levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol). For better heart health they should therefore be replaced by polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  2. Many monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive oil and almond oil, for example. However, it is the polyunsaturated fatty acids that contain vital fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself. These include n-6 fatty acids (omega-6 fatty acids) and n-3 fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids).

Avoid saturated fats

Sources of saturated fatty acids such as butter or coconut oil should only be consumed in very small quantities (approx. 1 tablespoon = 10g per day). The same intake recommendation applies to margarine, since the industrial hardening of oils can produce trans fatty acids, which are detrimental to the health of the cardiovascular system.

  • Fats and oils: Butter, coconut oil, margarine, lard, palm oil
  • Consumption: Only consume in small amounts ( 1 tablespoon = 10g per day)

Prioritise polyunsaturated fatty acids

For a healthy cardiovascular system, the Federal Commission for Nutrition recommends replacing saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fatty acids. In particular, n-3 fatty acids appear to have an anti-inflammatory effect and a beneficial influence on the cardiovascular system. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as n-3 fatty acids include, for example, rapeseed and flaxseed oil.

Monounsaturated fatty acids

  • Fats and oils: Olive oil, peanut oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil
  • Consumption: 2 - 3 tablespoons = 20-30g per day, of which at least half are polyunsaturated fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

  • Fats and oils: Rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, soybean oil, walnut oil, wheat germ oil 
  • Consumption: 2 - 3 tablespoons = 20-30g per day, of which at least half are polyunsaturated fatty acids

Oils in cold dishes

High-quality oils with a large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids are not heat-stable, i.e. they break down at high temperatures and therefore shouldn’t be used for cooking. This makes it all the more important to use them for cold dishes, for example in a salad dressing. A cold-pressed oil – such as cold-pressed rapeseed oil – is generally recommended for this. This is because the oils contain the substances that give them their typical taste and smell, are rich in vitamin E and contain valuable secondary plant substances.

Olive oil

Virgin olive oil can also be used in cold dishes to ring the changes. It contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids, but is rich in polyphenols. Virgin olive oil is a cold-pressed olive oil available in two grades. «Extra» stands for the first grade and the oils can be recognised by the «extra virgin» designation. Cold-pressed olive oils of the second grade are only marked with «virgin», but without the addition of «extra». If it simply says «olive oil», it is a mixture of virgin and refined olive oil.

Cold pressing or refining?

People who don’t like the intense flavour of cold-pressed oils often go for a refined oil.

Advantages of refined oils:
  • they can be stored for longer.
  • refining eliminates possible contamination with pesticides or heavy metals.
  • the yield is almost 100%, while producers of cold-pressed oils can often use only a part of the harvest for oil extraction.
Disadvantages of refined oils:
  • the typical smell and taste are lost (can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on preference).
  • vitamin E, antioxidants, polyphenols and other valuable secondary plant substances are lost.

Heating oils

For cooking, we distinguish between low temperatures (sautéing, braising) and hot temperatures (roasting, deep-frying). Refined rapeseed and olive oils are suitable for stir-frying vegetables. A HOLL rapeseed oil or high oleic sunflower oil can also be used. HOLL rapeseed oil and high oleic sunflower oil are specially bred rapeseed and sunflower varieties that are heat stable. While all conventional oils and fats begin to smoke at high temperatures, these two oils are suitable for frying or deep-frying and are therefore the only two useful options in high-heat cooking.

Tip: choose high quality oils

A total of 2-3 tablespoons (20-30g) of oils of vegetable origin should be consumed daily, at least half of which should be in the form of high-quality oils such as rapeseed oil in cold dishes. It is better to buy and use a few, specially selected oils; keeping a stock of oil or a collection of many different oils makes no sense.

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