Both vegetable oils and animal fats are staple cooking ingredients in most households. But the nutritional pros and cons of both are always debated upon. Read on to learn what they are made up of and their nutritional analysis.
The debate between animal and vegetable sources of food has been going on for time immemorial. Holistic and alternative lifestyle pundits advise against animal products and urge the adoption of a completely natural nutritional diet with only plant products. Others maintain that animal foods are not all bad and do have a lot of good nutritional points in their favor, if taken in moderation. Two important foods or materials, which are at the center of such differences in opinion, are vegetable oil and animal fat. Both are commonly used ingredients in cooking and other household spheres. The virtues and vices of either are always heavily debated upon. In this article, we look at both ingredients and compare them for nutrition value in a “vegetable oil vs animal fat” comparison.
What Is Vegetable Oil?
Oils or fats which are obtained solely from plant or vegetable sources are vegetable oils. In the solid form, they are called fats, while in the liquid form, they are called oils. Their molecular structure is composed of large molecules called triglycerides, monoglycerides and diglycerides and lipids. You can extract oil by crushing the seeds or fruit of the plant. Certain oils like herb oils are extracted from the leaves or the plant itself.
There are many diverse uses of vegetable oil. Some oils are edible and can be used as cooking oils. Examples would be corn oil, safflower oil or soybean oils. These oils give off a mild scent or aroma and do not influence the flavor of the food being cooked, making them ideal cooking oils. Such oils are also capable of withstanding high temperatures. Vegetables oils are also used in various stages of product manufacturing. Linseed and soy oils are used in varnishes and oil-paints as binding agents. They also used in the production of cosmetics and soaps. A recent use of vegetable oil as a fuel instead of traditional mineral fuels, is quickly gaining popularity and intensive research is being conducted in this sphere.
What Is Animal Fat?
Fat or grease which is obtained from animal sources and materials like tissues and bones. Some examples are:
- Lard – pig fat obtained from various parts of the pig’s body
- Poultry fat – fat obtained from chicken, duck or goose
- Tallow – beef or lamb fat
- Fish oil
Animal fat is primarily made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats and glycerol.
Vegetable Oil Vs. Animal Fat
Due to their different chemical fats, vegetable oil has a much lower saturated fat content as compared to animal fat. Saturated fats are good for you, in moderation. Too much intake however, increases the risk of cholesterol and heart disease. So here one cannot penalize animal fats for being high in saturated fats, rather over-consumption is the issue at hand. Vegetable oils have Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are very beneficial for human health. They also contain oleic acid and monounsaturated fatty acids. Such a blend of fatty acids increase HDL or necessary cholesterol levels in the body.
The real villain here is a product derived from vegetable oils called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Their chemical make up is altered by the hydrogenation procedure, so they have trans-fats instead of saturated or unsaturated fats. Trans fats are present in animal fats at a very small content level. But processed and fast food makers predominantly use partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their products. Since these are the most popular foods consumed, the average man can end up consuming a very large amount of trans fat. And herein lies the danger. Trans fats do extra damage, they increase LDL cholesterol levels, which are bad for health, at the same time they reduce necessary cholesterol (HDL) levels in the body. How they result in such a drastic change is still being determined. But irrespective of the cause, it’s difficult to argue with the results. A study of the effect of trans fat on the human body showed that even at a low level of consumption, trans fats can severely increase the risk of heart disease. The risk of contracting other health risks like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even cancer are also increased.
Below is a nutritional comparison of the various nutrients present in vegetable oil, animal fat and partially hydrogenated oil.
|Type of Oil||Total Fat (g)||Saturated Fats (g)||Monounsaturated Fats (g)||Cholesterol (mg)||Sodium (mg)|
|Bacon Grease (100g)||100||40||45||95||150|
|Vegetable Oil (100 g)||100||7||72||0||0|
|Partially Hydrogenated Soy Oil (100g)||100||18||42||0||0|
So what should it be, vegetable oil or animal fats? The verdict is: it is good to consume a balanced amount of both, do not completely replace one with another. Vegetable oils like olive oil and coconut oil are very healthy cooking ingredients. Cut down on your partially hydrogenated oils, which basically means reducing intake of processed foods. There is no lower limit or acceptable range for intake of trans fats, they are bad for you at any level of consumption. So to stay healthy, you need to eat smart and right. Start by checking how much oil you consume daily