Quality cooking oil is important for health as well as the taste of food. Many people prefer the flavor of a certain cooking oil and use it exclusively. For a balanced diet, however, nutritionists recommend using a variety of oils from different sources, especially plants.
Some oils are better than others. The very best oils for your heart are extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil and canola oil, they help decrease the "bad" low density lipoprotein cholesterol, among many other things.
The very worst oil in significant amounts is lard from animal fat that contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood fat. It's tasty and much-used for deep-frying and some animal fat is necessary, but don't overdo it.
Different plant oils have different health benefits. According to Professor Xia Xiang, vice president of the Shanghai Dietary Therapy Research Institute animal oils have been kicked out of many health-conscious people's diet because they're loaded with saturated fats.
Olive oil and sesame oil are good choices for cooking, salad dressing and seasoning. Unfortunately, animal oil is considered irreplaceable for deep-fried foods.
All rancid oils should be thrown out. Always check the production dates and don't store any oil for a long time. Fresh oil is a must for health.
Soybean oil is the most popular cooking oil for Chinese people, and soybeans are good for you. Refined soybean oil is usually yellow with a soy smell. It is rich in vitamins E and D, as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids. And the bean phospholipids benefit the brain and nerves.
Cooking regularly with soybean oil can help improve immunity, aid in weight loss and help with high blood pressure and heart problems.
As bean oil is poor in thermal stability, it is not a good choice for deep-fried foods. The rich polyunsaturated fatty acids mean it can go bad easily. Check the production and use-by date, don't store it for long and throw it out if it smells rancid.
Peanut oil with a light yellow color and peanut flavor is very popular in northern China. It is rich in oleic acid, lecithin, vitamins A, D, E and K, and polyphenols. With regular use it can help lower cholesterol, prevent hardening of the arteries and related diseases.
Peanut oil is better in thermal stability than bean oil, yet it still isn't good for deep-frying. Peanut oil can be easily polluted by aspergillus flavus, a fungus that can cause illness. Buy only top-grade peanut oil, use it up quickly.
Unsaturated fatty acids in golden corn oil represent more than 80 percent of the corn oil fat - but remember the other 20 percent. It's a healthy choice for older people as well as those with high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. The vitamin E content and some oxidation-fighters mean it can help the skin look younger.
Corn oil is very easy to digest and absorb. It can be used for deep-frying, boiling, pan-frying, stir-frying and dressing.
Sunflower seed oil is also rich in unsaturated fat - 85 percent of the total fat. It's good for pregnant women as it contains two essential fatty acids - linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Linoleic acid can help decrease cholesterol while alpha-linolenic acid can be transformed into DHA and promote fetal brain growth.
It's rich in vitamins E and A that can help delay the signs of aging, decrease cholesterol, soften arteries and improve eyesight. Like soybean oil, it is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, so don't use it to deep-fry or store it for very long.
Olive oil is the richest in monounsaturated fatty acid among all the oils. It can be used for frying, flavoring and salad dressing.
It is famous as the predominant oil in the healthy Mediterranean diet - many people in Mediterranean countries who use a lot of olive oil have statistically lower rates of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fatty acids can help lower the LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while raising the high-density lipoprotein or "good" cholesterol. Eating it often can prevent hardening of the arteries and related diseases, as well as inflammation of the gallbladder and gallstones.
Olive oil contains vitamins A, D, E, K and carotene that can help improve digestion, promote calcium retention in the bones and delay brain shrinkage. The vitamin E in olive oil is not as rich as the vitamin in bean oil and peanut oil.
Cooking with lard is very popular in China, though cooking with butter is far less common than it is in the West.
Lard has become notorious as a very unhealthy food as it contributes to high blood pressure, high blood fat and high cholesterol since it is rich in saturated fatty acids from animal fat.
Lard is rendered fat from pork. Too much contributes to hardening of the arteries, and weight gain.