We usually refer to edible oil as fats or oils. The name is ‘oil’ if it is liquid, and ‘fat’ if it is solid. Many different edible oil products from various brands are available in the market. With so many brands and so many different oil products such as Soybean oil, Palm oil, Canola, Rapeseed oil, Mustard oil, Olive oil and so on, it can be really difficult to pick the best edible oil for your family in terms of health benefits and cost.
I will try to explain the differences between different types of edible oil, their quality, and health benefit so you can choose the best edible oil for your family’s health.
Types of edible oil
There are two types of edible oil: oil from animal sources and from vegetable sources. Examples of animal oil are butter, ghee (Clarified butter), Tallow, Lard (not used in Bangladesh), Beef Tallow and similar products. Since animal oils contain cholesterol, it is always safer to use vegetable oil.
Understanding a bit more about oils
In order to make an informed decision about which edible oil you want to take up for your family, it is better that you know a little more about edible oil. Without going into Chemistry, let me just say that Edible oil is triglyceride ester, which means it’s the product of the reaction between certain acids and certain alcohols. For the sake of understanding, we usually refer to the acid part within the oil as “Acid”. There can be various acids. The important ones are Lauric acid, Oleic acid, Palmitic acid, Linoleic acid, Linolenic acid, Arachidic acid, etc. These are only names, no need to remember them or be afraid of them.
The fatty acid component of oil: saturated vs unsaturated
There are two types of fatty acids: Saturated Fatty acids and Unsaturated Fatty Acids. Fatty acids with double bonds (you need not understand it) is unsaturated, and those with no double bonds are saturated fatty acids.
The basic point to remember is that we human beings can tolerate unsaturated fatty acids. And if it is saturated, the fats tend to be deposited inside the blood vessels or our tissues.
The crude oil from seeds/fruits of certain plants are crushed, expelled or solvent extracted. This oil contains “Free” fatty acids (not attached to anything), they may have gummy materials known as “Phosphatides”, may be dark in color and may have a pungent odor.
The crude oil is processed by “Degumming”, “Neutralizing”, “Bleaching” and “Deodorizing” and, if necessary, Hydrogenation. The hydrogenated oil is solid at room temperature. It is used in the bakery and confectionery industry. They are sometimes mixed with liquid oil, blended with butter essence and marketed as “Butter oil”.
The best edible oil for your family
We usually regard olive oil as the best. Safflower, Sunflower, Soybean, Canola (Canadian Rapeseed oil), Palm Olein (the liquid portion of Palm oil), Ground Nut, Corn, and Coconut oil are important. Contrary to popular belief, Mustard oil is not very healthy as the oil contains “Ally Isothiocyanate”, a toxic and harmful chemical. The quality of the oil is determined by its composition, FFA (Free Fatty Acid) content, Iodine Value, Peroxide Value, Melting Point, etc. The higher the Iodine Value the more unsaturated the oil is. Typically, Soybean oil has Iodine Value 120 to 140, Olive oil 75 to 94, Palm Olein 54 to 62. It should be remembered and stressed here that composition is of the paramount importance here. That is why we say that Olive oil is better than Soybean oil.
Incidentally, Extra Virgin Olive oil means oil from the first cold expressed Olive. Of all the edible oil products available in Bangladesh market, the best is Olive oil and Safflower oil. However, Olive oil is quite expensive while Safflower oil is moderately expensive. Yet, one should go for Safflower oil, marketed under various brands. Of the rest, Soybean oil is also good for health and these are more or less cheap compared to other varieties.
Corn oil is also good, so is Canola. I have not mentioned anything about Fish oil here so far. Oil from deep-sea fishes contains Omega-3 fatty acids which are good for health.
Rice Bran oil now available in Bangladesh is rather tricky. I, myself was involved in the production and processing of Rice Bran oil in Bangladesh at one of the Vegetable oil Industries. The bran must be extracted within 24 hours and processed immediately, or else the fatty acids go up exponentially and it becomes impossible to refine. I remember that the FFA in the oil we produced rose from 4% to 70% within days! Ultimately we had to sell that oil to the soap manufacturers. Therefore, I would not advocate the use of Rice Bran oil.
Before I conclude, I should mention one thing though. The Soybean oil refined locally is one of the worst possible quality. The FFA is high and the oil is rancid (high peroxide value). The crude oil is hardly refined except for bleaching (since the public likes clear oil). You should use the imported Soybean oil, if possible.