There are so many oils available in the market, that it can become difficult to choose a a healthy oil from the shelves. Peanut oil is one of the most commonly used oils when it comes to Indian cooking. It provides health benefits by protecting the cells in the body and lowering the cholesterol. Although, peanut oil has benefits, there are some limitations to it and should be used in moderation.
Peanut oil is derived from seeds of the peanut plant. Peanut oil has different flavours according to the amount of processing it undergoes. The taste can be mild or strong, sweet or nutty. There are different types of peanut oil and are categorised according to the refining process they undergo. It is commonly used in frying foods as its smoking point is very high, i.e. 225 degrees Celsius.
Peanut oil is a good source of vitamin E and provides around 11% of RDA. It helps protect the body from free radicals which can cause damage to cells, helps in strengthening the immune system, helps preventing blood clots and helps in the formation of red blood cells.
Studies show that consumption of mono and poly unsaturated fats can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, as it reduces the LDL and triglyceride levels. Peanut oil is a mixture of both and thus it helps in reducing the risk for heart disease.
When fats are combined with carbohydrates, it helps in slow rise in blood sugars after the meal is consumed. Studies have proved that mono and polyunsaturated fats help in managing the blood sugar in diabetics.
MUFAs and PUFAs (mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids) improve cholesterol levels in the body. Peanut oil is a very good source of these fatty acids. It constitutes about 85% of both MUFAs and PUFAs. Peanut oil can help in improving the cholesterol levels.
Peanut oil has some drawbacks which needs to be considered before being liberally used in cooking. Omega 6 fatty acids are a type of essential fat which is needed in a combination with omega 3 fats for proper growth and development. High amounts of omega 6 fatty acids are inflammatory and can worsen the risk of inflammatory diseases like heart diseases, obesity, cancer. Peanut oil is high in omega 6 and studies prove that high amounts of omega 6 fatty acids is linked to breast cancer.
Peanut oil is very susceptible to oxidation as it contains unsaturated fatty acids. This is because the bonds in unsaturated fats are not stable. Heating and exposure to sunlight, air or moisture can cause oxidation. Oxidation of such substances can form free radicals in the body, causing damage and promoting premature skin aging, heart diseases and cancer.
Even though, peanut oil has health benefits, it should always be used in moderation as it has other health risks. It may have high smoking point, but there are oils which are much more stable to oxidation than peanut oil. It is wise to choose other oils which have lesser health risks with other benefits.
Other oils best suited for Indian cooking can be sunflower oil which can be used for all purposes including frying as well. Canola oil is also safe for deep frying and can be used in other forms of cooking. They are very low in saturated fats and are good sources of mono-unsaturated fats and omega 3.