Lately it is very difficult to choose between the lard and oil for cooking, because we have many more choices. However, is animal fat the healthiest for making food?
It has been a subject of debate for years, and the majority of consumers say that it is at least confusing. It’s no wonder, because we are bombarded with a bunch of conflicting information about whether and which fats are good for our health.
For example, olive oil, which is in the form of practically cold medicine, has a very low smoke point and it changes its composition, while other oil are less sensitive to high temperatures.
Scientists have long considered that the sunflower oil is far safer as it begins to “smoke” only when it reaches more than 225 degrees Celsius, while in the case of olive oil that heat limit is between 160 and 190 degrees of Celsius.
A group of researchers from BBC Television in cooperation with the De Monfort University conducted a research of which oils are healthiest for cooking. The sample consisted of sunflower oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, olive oil (extra virgin and refined), butter, goose fat and lard.
After preparing food with each of these fats, samples were sent to the university laboratory where bioanalytical chemistry professor Martin Grutveld analyzed their composition.
The findings surprised researchers. For instance, it turns out that cooking with sunflower oil, despite previous knowledge, is the worst option and that “criticized” lard is far better.
Namely, when the fat and oil are heated to high temperatures, they start the process of oxidation: they react with oxygen from the air and form substances including aldehydes and lipid peroxides. The situation is similar at room temperature, but is far more slowly.
The problem lies in the mentioned aldehydes. Even inhaling these substances in small amounts increases the risk of cancer and heart disease.
“We found that polyunsaturated oils, such as corn and sunflower oils, produce most of the aldehyde,” explains Professor Grutveld.
“There’s nothing wrong with these oils, until you start to heat them up.”
Grutveld even found two previously unknown aldehydes in food samples fried in these kinds of oil, which means that there are even more of toxic constituents than previously thought.
Unlike them, olive oil and cold-pressed rapeseed oil contain far less aldehydes, as well as butter and goose fat. The reason is that these fats contain more monounsaturated and saturated fat, which makes them more stable at high temperatures.
However, animal fats are far better for the thermal treatment of food in relation to the oil.
“If I had to choose between fat and sunflower oil, still would have chosen fat,” says Grutveld.