C ooking oils and fats have become part of our everyday life – but do we know enough about them? Do we know which cooking oils and fats are healthier? Do we know how to use them? Let’s take a look at a few facts about this indispensable element in our cooking.

Ok, cooking oil comes from plant, animal, or synthetic products and is used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking. It is also used in salad dressings. It’s typically a liquid at room temperature. There are different varieties of oil such as palm oil, coconut oil, palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil, pumpkin seed oil and many others. Cooking fat or shortening is a refined edible vegetable fat with ingredients like palm stearine (solid palm oil) and vegetable oils. Some cooking fats also contain colouring and flavouring.

Consumption of Cooking Oils and Fats in Kenya
According to Euromonitor International “Even though the majority of Kenyans are aware of the health hazards of oils and fats, the consumption continued to rise. In 2013, oils and fats sales increased by 11% in value. This performance is explained by the growing demand but also by the recent price rises.”

Euromonitor explains further that, Bidco and Kapa oil companies are locked in a tight battle for market share for the country’s lucrative market. According to the survey, products from Bidco’s stable control about 47 per cent of the edible oil segment with products like Golden Fry, Bahari and Elianto placing strongly in terms of brand visibility.

Top in cooking oils category is, however, new entrant Fresh Fri, a product of Pwani Oil refineries. According to the survey, 29 per cent of consumers prefer Fresh Fri for their cooking needs with 22 per cent picking on Golden Fry. The same scenario plays out in the cooking fat segment where Kapa Oil dominates the market with its flagship brand Kasuku that has been enjoying intense advertisement.

Using Cooking Oil and Fats
We are so used to the cooking oils and fats on the shelves in Kenya. We all have our favourite products and brands, but do we take time to understand them and establish what is healthy and what is not? Although the packaging on practically all the products claims they are healthy, we need to take a closer look. Read the labels and investigate the ingredients.

Heating Cooking Fats and Oils
You have many options when it comes to selecting fats and oils for cooking. But it’s not just a matter of choosing oils that are healthy, but also whether they stay healthy after having been cooked with. When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or go rancid easily.

Good Oils – Coconut, Butter and Olive Oil
When it comes to high heat cooking, coconut oil is your best choice. Over 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated, which makes it very resistant to heat. This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid. Bad things have also been said about butter due to its saturated fat content. But there really is no reason to fear real butter. If you want to sue it to cook at a high heat, you need to clarify it and remove the solids – the end products is Ghee which is great for high temperature cooking.

Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Keep your olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place, to prevent it from going rancid. The older generation and the more traditional prefer cooking with animal fats. It is good to remember that the fatty acid content of animals tends to vary depending on what the animals eat. If they eat a lot of grains, the fats will contain quite a bit of polyunsaturated fats. If the animals are pastured raised or grass-fed, there will be more saturated and monounsaturated fats in them.

How to Take Care of Your Cooking Oils
To make sure that your fats and oils don’t go rancid, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
Don’t buy large batches at a time. Buy smaller ones, that way you will most likely use them before they get the chance to damage.When it comes to unsaturated fats like olive, palm, avocado oil and some others, it is important to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place and make sure to screw the lid on as soon as you’re done using them.

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