In an article published recently, The UK Daily Telegraph journalist Robert Mendick wrote about how vegetable oils become toxic when heated, because they release “toxic cancer-causing chemicals”. In this article, five different fats are compared: two saturated fats (coconut oil and butter) and three vegetable, highly-unsaturated oils (extra virgin olive oil, corn and sunflower oil).
It is indeed true that not all fats are equal. It is also true that no fat is perfect. What is important to understand is that some fats, whether animal fat or vegetable oil, are good when used cold, in salad dressings or marinades for instance; while others are better suited for cooking, sautéing or frying. Heat can be harsh on some fats, especially vegetable oils, as was stated on The Telegraph article.
Vegetable oil doesn’t mean unsaturated fat
The journalist compared vegetable oils often considered healthy (corn, sunflower) to other fats rich in saturated fatty acids, such as coconut oil or butter. Saturated oils and fats are more stable when heat is applied. Therefore, as shown by the study quoted in the article, they are a healthier alternative when it comes to cooking. So coconut oil is ideal, as it contains roughly 85% of saturated fatty acids, so is butter with 65% saturated fatty acids.
What is odd, though, is that palm oil is not mentioned. With a balanced composition (50% saturated and 50% unsaturated), palm oil is perfect for cooking, even frying, as it is very heat-resistant. It doesn’t break down or mutate when used for frying. It is also naturally trans-fat free and cholesterol free.
Healthy, balanced alternative
A truly accurate article would have established palm oil as one of the best alternatives to corn or sunflower oil for cooking. Palm oil’s excellent heat resistance and balanced composition make it one of the healthier options available.
Education about food and cooking is essential if Europeans are to improve their diets and overall health outcomes. Using palm oil as a cooking oil, in place of the potentially-hazardous unsaturated oils (sunflower, corn) is a prime example of this.