PUFAs, HNE, and oils
Ask the Diva: Is Rice Bran Oil a Good Choice for Cooking?
Q. What are your thoughts on rice bran oil? We use it for sautéing and like its high flash point.
As I discussed in a podcast, there are a couple of different issues to take into consideration when cooking with oils. One is the smoke (or flash) point. But there's also the issue of HNE formation. Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) can form harmful compounds (HNE) when heated.
Rice bran oil is about 33% PUFAs--not as high as corn or soybean oil but not as low as olive or coconut oil. If you do a lot of high heat cooking, switching to an oil that's lower in PUFAs is an easy way to decrease your exposure to HNE formation. But I don't want to blow this out of proportion. HNE formation is cause for concern but not for panic. I have used canola oil for high heat cooking for years (it has about the same amount of PUFAs as rice bran oil) and lived to tell the tale!
My research into HNE formation led me to shift to refined olive oil--which is low in PUFAs and has a high smoke point--for high heat cooking, but only after using up the last of my canola.
Related content: Some people claim that canola oil--at any temperature!--is unnatural or even toxic. I take a closer look at the "Canola Controversy" on page 72 of my new book, Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet.