17 May 2022

Frying in oil – healthy or unhealthy?

smażenie na oleju

Frying in oil – healthy or unhealthy? We will try to answer this question in this post.

More and more often we try to focus our attention on what we eat and how we prepare the meals we eat. Our goal is to improve the quality of life and maintain the overall health of the body at a high level. We get rid of old, often unhealthy habits, and learn to eat better and healthier. One of the most discussed topics is frying. There are many different opinions about this cooking technique. How is it actually? Is Fried Food Always Unhealthy?

Find out more about frying in oil. The article has been prepared for people who are both starting their adventure with cooking and those who already have experience in this field. We will try to answer the question of how much frying in oil affects our health. In addition, we’ll learn what makes frying harmful, learn about the differences between refined and unrefined oils, and answer a few other questions. 

Frying in oil and your health

Frying is one of the thermal processing methods associated with the preparation of meals. There are many such techniques and each of them is associated with the risk of losing the quality of food and reducing the health-promoting value of the prepared meals. In frying, the most important process is bringing the products to very high temperatures using fat. This process changes the chemical properties of both the processed food products and the fats themselves.

During these changes, a large amount of toxic substances can be released. This is the reason for many doubts about the effect of frying in oil on human health. It is worth finding out when frying is definitely harmful, but also getting to know the fats, the use of which will not have so many negative effects.

Why do we like frying?

Frying is a process during which numerous changes take place in dishes, which have a positive effect on their appearance, smell and taste. This has a decisive impact on increasing and strengthening our appetite. Contrary to other cooking methods, when frying, the smell of the dish is noticeable from the very first moments of its preparation. The basis is, of course, the use of appropriate and, above all, fresh fat. Find out more about which fat to choose for frying in oil 

Using the wrong one can definitely spoil our appetite. The key to frying food is to give the dishes a unique color. A browned cutlet is much more attractive than a piece of steamed meat. Dishes in pale uniform colors are associated with a restrictive diet and do not encourage their consumption. Unfortunately, the number of advantages of frying is much less than that of its disadvantages.

Elements that determine the harmfulness of the frying process

If we decide to prepare another meal using a pan and fat, several elements will affect the harmfulness of this process. The equipment used, the type of coating on the pan, the amount of fat used, but most of all, the right choice of fat type is important.

There are two important factors in determining whether a given fat is suitable for frying. The first is the smoke point. It indicates the point at which the oil starts to burn. This is important because burning fat produces carcinogenic substances that are dangerous to the body. The second element to pay attention to is the stability of the oil, i.e. the range in which the oil can catch fire. The narrower it is, the more stable the oil is, and therefore better for frying.

The choice of fat for frying

The resistance of a fat to heat treatment largely depends on its saturated fat content. The higher the saturated fat content, the greater the temperature resistance of the fat. Saturated fatty acids are substances of animal origin. This means that once used only lard turns out to be a good choice. However, we think that vegetable oils will be healthier much more often.

The most commonly used fat for frying in Poland is sunflower oil. Unfortunately, it is mostly composed of monounsaturated oleic acid, which means that its smoke point is low, only 100 ° C. Coconut oil will be a much better choice among vegetable oils. The smoke point of coconut oil ranges from 185 to 220 degrees Celsius. This means that it can be heated up to two times higher temperatures than sunflower oil. This significantly reduces the production of carcinogenic substances. Rapeseed oil or clarified butter also exhibit high smoke point.

frying oil

What frying oil – refined or unrefined?

Refining of vegetable oils is a process aimed at purifying them and giving them appropriate properties such as, for example, depriving them of color or smell, or increasing their durability. It would seem that this is a beneficial procedure and removing the product from impurities will enhance the positive effects of the oil. In fact, refining is the process of exposing a given fat to high temperatures and chemicals.

In this way, most of the vitamins and valuable micronutrients are killed. Unrefined oils are cold pressed and retain all their most valuable properties. The refining process may or may not be beneficial for us, depending on the use of the oil. If we want to use it cold, for example in a salad – unrefined will be better. When choosing which oil to use for frying, it is worth reaching for refined oils. The smoke point of such a product is higher, which makes it better adapted to heating to high temperatures.

How to fry healthily?

If we do not want to give up fried dishes while maintaining good general health, our goal should be to minimize the harmfulness of the frying process. What steps should we take and how to fry healthily?

Choosing the right fat should always come first. We should always use those with the highest possible smoke point. It’s also important to limit the amount of fat you use – the less fat, the healthier you are. Frying in smaller amounts is much less harmful, and if we pay more attention to the dish and turn over or stir the ingredients more often, they will not stick despite the smaller amount of fat.

It is also worth limiting the time of thermal treatment with fat. More and more often we meet dishes partially steamed or in an oven, and additionally only browned in a pan. This combination provides both appetizing color and great taste.

The myth of healthy fat is healthy frying

Many people think that if fat is generally considered healthy, it will be an excellent choice for frying. Unfortunately, in practice, it is important to know and have all the information you need. Fats such as olive oil or linseed oil are rich sources of unsaturated fatty acids, which positively affect the maintenance of an adequate level of cholesterol in the blood. The right amount of fats in the diet also allows for the proper dissolution of vitamins and minerals.

However, it is important to remember to use such fats only when cold, e.g. as an addition to salads or ready-made meals. Fats containing large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids have low smoke points and can be particularly harmful when heated to high temperatures. Therefore, designating fat as healthy does not mean that it will be the right choice for frying.

Repeated use of the same oil – the biggest mistake of consumers

The tendency to save or sometimes simply laziness can lead to serious health problems and often even tragedy. One of the most common frying mistakes is using the same fat over and over again. Why is this a bug? First of all, with each use, more and more impurities and residues appear in the fat, which, when used again, burn and produce carcinogenic substances. The quality and temperature of the fat itself is also reduced.

Fatty acids oxidize and lipids undergo irreversible changes – the frying process can become unpredictable in this situation. There have been cases where frying over burned and used fat has led to its ignition or even explosion. In addition to the dangerous health effects, repeated use of the oil also affects such basic elements as the taste of dishes.

deep frying

Summary

As you have noticed, choosing the right frying oil is important not only for taste but also for health reasons. We should think twice before choosing the next frying oil, especially if its smoke point is low.

While frying in oil is not the healthiest method of heat-treating food, it does not mean that we should give up on it right away. There are many oils that are perfect for frying. However, remember to follow the basic rules, such as not frying in the same oil many times.

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