Is your #oil a #healthy one?

Two types of oil — rice bran and canola — are fast gaining popularity amongst the health conscious. Here’s what you need to know about them.

cooking-oilBooks have been written, health experts have spoken and TV shows have showcased to praise the health benefits of olive oil. And there’s not a shadow of doubt about that. But amongst all the hoopla about olive oil, two types of oil — rice bran and canola — have made it to the list of top healthy oils and hence, is getting popular among people. Read on to know why…


Different types of oils are used in various parts of the country depending on the regions. Also, availability and cost are important deciding factors. For eg. in South India – coconut oil; in Maharashtra – groundnut oil are popular choices.

“The commonly used oils were and are — groundnut oil, sunflower and safflower (kardi) oils. The latter two should not be used as the sole cooking medium. These are not the ideal choices. If you insist on using them then rotate the oils — get a different one every time you buy,” advises consultant nutritionist Niti Desai.

Preventive cardiology and rehabilitation expert Dr Ashish Contractor says, “There is no particular cooking oil that I have noticed patients with heart disease consuming. Rather, it’s an excess of cooking oil which is the culprit, as opposed to the specific composition of the oil. Oil consumed in moderation, which is about 0.5-0.75 litres per person per month is fine. In addition, several people tend to have a high ghee consumption, which may be hazardous. In a very small quantity, ghee consumption is fine for those who are habituated to it.”


Senior nutritionist Dr Rekha Sharma defines a healthy oil as one with negligible trans fats, minimum saturated fats, good amount of MUFA (MonoUnsaturated Fatty Acid) and PUFA (PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acid), and Omega-3. So where do ricebran and canola stand, speaking of healthy oils? “MUFA is very good for regulation of blood sugar and hence, beneficial for diabetics. On the MUFA scale, Olive, Canola, Ricebran and then comes Groundnut oil, respectively,” she says. Health-wise, the worst oils are vanaspati ghee, partially hydrogenated oil, and trans fats.


Rice bran oil extracted from the thin bran coating of brown rice.
Rice bran oil is rich in gamma-oryzanol, chemical compound and tocotrienol — a type of vitamin E that lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol), antioxidants like squalene, tocopherol, besides containing MUFA and PUFA, etc.
Desai personally recommends Ricebran oil for a couple of reasons. “It is a healthy oil and one of the best available in the market as it has nearly ideal PUFA:MUFA ratio and w3:w6 — it is a rich source of w3 which is lacking in our diet. Canola is generally imported and therefore there would be transport /storage and price point concerns. Also, the availability and awareness is lesser.”


Canola oil comes from the seeds of the canola plant. After harvesting, the seeds are crushed and the oil contained within the seed is extracted.

Besides being very low in saturated fats, Canola oil contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, rich in MUFA like oleic acid, valuable amounts of anti-oxidant vitamin E, particularly gamma-tocopherol, etc.

Dr Contractor says, “I personally recommend Canola Oil. It is especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid which constitutes about 61% of total fats that help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood. Also, it has a high smoking point and is an ideal choice for occasional frying of food, because it can be heated to a higher temperature and results in lower oil retention in the fried foods.”

Dr Sharma too, recommends Canola oil due to its higher amount of MUFA content. “As for the cost factor, Ricebran oil is cheaper than Canola. Personally, I use Canola oil but those who can’t afford Canola can opt for ricebran which much healthier than other traditionally used oils.”


Just because one uses a particular type of healthy oil, doesn’t mean one can eat foods prepared in it to his/her heart’s content, as suggested by some oil brand commercials on TV. “Oil contains calories and 1 gram of oil provides 9 kcal of energy. It’s a misnomer that people can eat more fried food because they are using a healthier oil. Therefore, irrespective of quality one must use oil in moderation,” warns Dr Sharma.

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