Tashwita Pruthi | July 21, 2017
Recent findings by the South China Morning Post suggest that about 40 samples of cooking oil in Hong Kong contain contaminants and a cancer-causing substance. 46 samples of the 60 that were tested claimed to have contained the toxic carcinogen glycidol. These discoveries are rather shocking in a country otherwise famous for its’ high level of food quality.
Regardless, the Little India Directory has some alternative suggestions and some healthier options to use as cooking oil.
Coconut oil has several health benefits such as skin care, hair care, weight loss, and improving digestion and overall immunity. The oil isn’t just used in tropical countries and is also becoming increasingly popular in the US and the UK. People are discovering the wonders of this oil all around the world – however, this little secret has been passed down in the Indian community since our grandparents and great-grandparents! Let us share with you some of the numerous benefits of this oil.
Coconut oil is high in natural saturated fats that not only increase the healthy cholesterol in your body, but also helps convert the “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. Saturated fats can be divided into various types depending on the number of carbon atoms in the molecule. About half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is the 12-carbon variety known as Lauric acid. This acid is converted to monolaurin by our bodies and this special agent has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. This “miracle” ingredient can actually help destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV/Herpes, Measles, influenza virus and many more!
About two-thirds of coconut oil also consists of Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) that produce a whole host of health benefits. These MCFAs are easily digested and help stimulate your body’s metabolism, therefore putting less strain on your digestive system and leading to more weight loss. MCFAs are also sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored away as fat.
As the MCFAs in coconut oil are sent directly to the liver, it makes them a powerful source of instant energy for your body – a function usually served in the diet by simple carbohydrates. However, although both simple carbohydrates and coconut oil share this ability, they differ greatly in the respect that coconut oil does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream. In fact, adding coconut oil to the diets of diabetics and pre-diabetics has actually shown to stabilize weight gain!
Although all these benefits sound great, it is important for one to understand which type of coconut oil to pick for their desired results. There can be two different types of coconut oil: refined and unrefined.
Refined coconut oil refers to coconut oil that has been bleached and deodorized. This oil is derived from dried coconut meat (known as copra) and many brands use several chemical solvents to extract as much oil as possible from the meat. Sodium hydroxide is also often added to prolong the oil’s shelf life.
Unrefined oil, on the other hand, can also be called “virgin” or “pure” coconut oil as it is extracted from fresh coconut rather than dried meat. This oil does not require bleaching or additives nor is it exposed to heat levels like its refined counterpart. It retains its distinct flavor and odor of the coconut.
Therefore, it is important to note which type of coconut oil would be most suited for which task. For example, if one desires the fullest coconut flavor and the most phytonutrients, one must pick the unrefined coconut oil. However, when cooking at higher temperatures, one may pick the refined coconut oil as it has a smoking point of 350 degrees.
However, regardless of the task, coconut oil is always a safe go-to option!
Another option that we would recommend is Ghee. A staple in in traditional Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine, ghee is made through a simple process of boiling butter and removing off the butter fat – leaving behind the proteins and milk solids. Recent research has revealed that ghee can actually lead to some interesting health benefits.
Despite all the bad press that Ghee has received over the recent years, research shows that it may actually be protective against heart diseases. Ghee is rich in conjugated linoleic acid – a fatty acid known to be protective against carcinogens, artery plaque and diabetes. Because of this, ghee is assumed to be useful protecting against heart disease.
Quick High School biology review: in fatty acid molecules, the increase in the number of double bonds between the carbon atoms requires more energy and heat to break them apart. Polysaturated oils such as sunflower oil or safflower oils have many double bonds between them, making them less stable for cooking. Ghee, however, is primarily a saturated fat and is highly stable to use for sautéing and baking.
Lastly, and most importantly, Ghee has an incredible flavor and adds that much needed finger-licking factor to your cooking!
Where to find these products:
Nowadays, you can find coconut oil in almost any organic foods store and any Indian food store. You can also find very good raw extra virgin coconut oil (and many more coconut goodies) at a small shop in Wanchai called “A Star Coconut”.
Address: 177 Hennesssy Road
Ghee, on the other hand, is still a little difficult to obtain. However, you can get it in almost all Indian stores in Hong Kong as well as a shop called “Spice Box: Organic Store and Café” in Sai Ying Pun.
Address: 72 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun
Or, if you are up to the task, you could also make pure desi ghee at home using this recipe!
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