Cooking Oil :Should we use different types for different nutrients?

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Cooking oil is a plant, animal, or synthetic-based fat used for cooking (frying) and it is an important part of any meal preparation.

Fats and oil are critical for human nutrition and these are useful in absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K[1]. These are also essential for meeting certain essential nutritional needs such as fatty acids (linoleic n-6 and alpha-linolenic n-3) and serve as dense energy sources (approx. 9 kcal/gm).

There are various types of oils available in the market and each has its own characteristics. Majorly, the fats are divided into two categories depending on the composition (fatty acid type):

  1. Saturated fat

  2. Unsaturated fat

Saturated fats are tightly packed fatty acids and are mostly solid at room temperature. Some sources of saturated fat are pieces of meat such as beef, lamb, pork, and dairy products including milk, butter, cheese, coconut oil, and palm oils[1,2].

A highly saturated fat-based diet raises the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which is a risk marker for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Unsaturated fats are loosely packed fatty acids and are mostly liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are generally obtained from plants and these are further divided into two types:

a) Monounsaturated fats

b) Polyunsaturated fats

When unsaturated fats are used in place of saturated fats, these may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering LDL, blood pressure, and inflammation[3]. Plant oils also provide essential nutrients such as vitamin E for building and maintaining cells in the body.

There are certain polyunsaturated fats that cannot be made by our body (including omega-3 fatty acid, omega-6 fatty acid) but are essential for good health[4].  These fatty acids shall be taken from the diet.

In general, all fats contain both varying amounts of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids but are sometimes categorized as ‘saturated’ or ‘unsaturated’ according to the proportions of fatty acids present (refer to fig-1)[4].

Fig-1: Percentage of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats in Common Oil

The intake of Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) should be 8-10% of energy intake and the remaining fat calories shall be derived from mono-unsaturated fatty acids[5].

Further, to get a good ratio of all the different types of fatty acids, it is recommended to consume more than one type of vegetable oil.

In the following section, the composition & nutritional content of various oils is briefed[6]:

Soyabean Oil:

Soyabean oil is obtained from the seed of the soybean plant and it is composed of approximately 61% polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 & omega-6), 25% monounsaturated fatty acid, and 15% saturated fatty acid[7].

Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil is obtained from dried coconut and is classified as fat because it is solid at room temperature. It becomes liquid oil above 25.6 oC.

It contains mostly (around 50%) lauric acid – saturated fat (long-chain triglyceride) and doesn’t have any useful health benefits and is thus is not recommended in large quantities[1].

However, coconut oil contains mostly lauric acid, which acts like a long-chain triglyceride and does not have the same healthful benefits as medium-chain triglycerides.

Groundnut Oil:

Groundnut oil is obtained from the seed of peanut/groundnut. Groundnut oil has high percentage of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (refer fig-1) along with Vitamin-E[3].

Corn Oil:

Corn oil (maize oil) is obtained from the seeds of maize. Corn oil has low levels (less than 15%) of saturated fatty acids, a considerable amount of monounsaturated fats (around 30%), and high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (55%) – refer fig-1.

Flaxseed Oil:

Flaxseed oil is obtained from the linseed plant. It is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid (approx. 70%) and has very less amount of saturated fatty acid (less than 15%).

Olive Oil:

Olive oil is obtained from olive trees and it contains approximately 71 to 75 % oleic acid, which is an unsaturated oil. It contains a small amount of saturated fatty acid (approx. 15%) and around 10% of polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Sesame Seed Oil:

Sesame seed oil is obtained from sesame seed and it is highly resistant to oxidation. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (approx. 80%) comprising almost equal percentages of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Mustard Oil:

Mustard oil is obtained from the seeds of the mustard plant and it contains a high amount of selenium and magnesium. lt is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (approx. %) out of which 42% is erucic acid (Omega-9). It is considered one of the healthiest oils due to its low amount of saturated fatty acids (approx. 8%).

Canola/Rapeseed Oil:

Canola oil is obtained from a rapeseed plant and it has a low level of saturated fatty acids (about 6%). Making it the second most important source of vegetable oil. It has a significant amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (approx. 62%), omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (approx. 20%), and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (approx. 12%).

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In order to consume oils consisting of various proportions of unsaturated fatty acid, omega-3 acids, and omega-6 fatty acids, various combinations of edible oils must be included in the diet.

Some combinations may be made as:

a) Groundnut Oil + Flaxseed Oil

b) Corn Oil + Soyabean Oil

c) Rapeseed/Canola Oil + Olive Oil

Any other combination which includes less quantity of saturated fatty acids and proportionate amount of unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) may be taken to complete the nutrient intake,


[1]P.D. Jessica Caporuscio, What are the most healthful oils?, (2019).

[2]A. Pietrangelo, What’s the Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fat?, (2019).

[3]M. Moore, All about Oils, (2013).

[4]T.B.N. Foundation, Oils, and Fats in the Diet, 2019. and fats in the diet.pdf.

[5]Nutrition of edible oils and animal foods, (n.d.).

[6]Ogori AF, Source, Extraction and Constituents of Fats and Oils, J. Food Sci. Nutr. (2020).

[7] Frank D. Gunstone, Vegetable Oils in Food Technology, Taylor & Francis, 2002.



Rimjhim Tiwari

About the author:

INFS Certified Nutrition Consultant and Exercise Science Specialist


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