The Healthiest Oils for Indian Cooking and Their Benefits
Oil is an integral part of our diet, although dieticians claim that two tablespoons of oil a day is sufficient for us. Oils are essential for the normal functioning of our bodies. Essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are required for many important metabolic processes. 

Depending on the region, people use different types of oil, for example people from Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan use sesame oil; Bengalis and North-easterners prefer mustard oil. Each oil has its nutritional value and distinctive taste.

Oils are generally composed of:

1. Saturated fatty acids

2. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

3. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)

4. Vitamin E

Polyunsaturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Another essential aspect to take into account is not to heat the oil beyond its smoke point. Smoke point is the temperature at which oil is degraded, producing harmful byproducts. 

With many types of oils available in the market, it becomes difficult to choose between them. Here we look into the 5 healthiest oils in the Indian market, and their benefits:

1. Sesame oil

Sesame oil is the most popular cooking oil obtained from seeds of the sesame plant (Sesamum indicum). This oil has a nutty flavour. The smoke point of semi-refined sesame oil is 232 degrees celsius.

  • It is rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats and is anti-inflammatory. 
  • It has antimicrobial activity. 
  • It is also comedogenic (ability to unclog arteries), thereby helping us have a healthy heart.

2. Sunflower oil

This oil is obtained by pressing sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds. It is a non-volatile oil. It has a smoke point of 232 degrees celsius.

  •   The oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (beneficial to hearts). 
  •   It contains essential fatty acids like linoleic acids (Omega 3) and oleic acids.
  • Sunflower oil does not contain cholesterol, sodium or carbohydrates.

3. Peanut oil

Also known as Arachis oil or groundnut oil, it is one of the most commonly used oils. It has a high smoke point of 225 degrees. Since it has a high smoke point, it is considered to be a good oil for frying. Peanut oil acquires a range of flavours based on the nature of its processing. It ranges from mild, sweet, nutty to strong. The different types of peanut oil-based processing include refined peanut oil, gourmet oil, cold-pressed peanut oil and peanut blend oil. 

    • It is high in saturated fatty acids. The monounsaturated fat in groundnut oil is Oleic acid, also known as omega-9.
    • It has a high content of linoleic acid (omega-6).
    • It also has small amounts of saturated fatty acid and palmitic acid.
    • The Vitamin E present in it acts as an antioxidant and protects the body from free radical damage.
    • It has a long shelf life and is one of the more stable oils.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is obtained from the endosperm of the coconut plant (Cocos nucifera). People of coastal areas widely use it. It is sold both in its virgin and refined form. Virgin oil refers to pure cold-pressed oil. It imparts a unique taste and flavour to the food when cooked in it.

  • It contains saturated fats, which help burn body fats and are an energy booster to the brain. They raise high-density lipids, which are considered good fats. 
  • Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acid (characteristic of coconut oil). This oil, when consumed, is converted to ketone. Research has shown that these ketones are the potential cure for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Good for skin and hair too.

    5. Mustard oil

    Mustard oil is a pale yellow, viscous oil which has a typical pungent taste Cooking in this oil enhances the food’s taste. It is also referred to as Eastern India’s olive oil. It is extracted from mustard seeds (Brassica nigra). It has a high smoke point (248.89C) and is ideal for frying.

    • It has antimicrobial properties.
    • Mustard oil contains allyl isothiocyanate, which is a pain-reducing compound and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
    • It is rich in linoleic acid and oleic acid. 

      Each oil has a combination of essential fatty acids. Therefore dieticians recommend using a combination of oils. This blend of oils supplies all the essential fatty acids required by the body.


      In addition, oils obtained from seeds of organically grown plants are ideal as they will not contain any pesticide residue. Cold-pressed oils are better as all the nutritional components are preserved and no harmful chemicals are used for processing.

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