In todays world we are bombarded with literature on which cooking oils to use and which ones are healthy vs not healthy. Are saturated fats good for you? Is too much polyunsaturated fat bad for you? Is this oil safe in high heat? These are just a few of the many questions we as consumers ask ourselves. In this blog I decipher which oils are your best bet for optimal health.
Lets start with the unhealthy oils first and what makes them a bad choice.
- Trans fat- I picked this as #1, not just due to the fact that in 2015 the FDA decided that in 2018 this controversial fat would be banned in the U.S food supply, but also due to it being by far the unhealthiest on the list! Trans fat is an unsaturated fat that increases LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol, increases risk for diabetes, liver dysfunction, arthritis, stroke and possibly alzheimer’s. How is trans fat even made? Without getting into a chemistry lesson, basically hydrogen is added to a liquid vegetable oil to make it partially hydrogenated. This chemical process leads to trans fat, which melts at a lower temperature, increases the shelf life, requires less temperature regulation (cold), and less cost requirements but all at the price of good health (land of convenience maybe 🙂 Foods commonly associated with trans fat are margarine, baked goods, cookies, pie crusts, cakes, fast food, dough products, and frosting.
- Vegetable oil- This oil can be a confusing one simply because there are numerous oils that fit under this umbrella. Canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, and safflower are the many that we think of when we hear vegetable oil. All of these oils are extracted from a seed and are liquid at room temperature. The advantages of using a vegetable oil are higher cooking flashpoint, texture, and less stickiness cooked with foods. There is much debate on whether too much polyunsaturated fat in someones diet is harmful or not? My take has always been one of “moderation” and in small doses it isn’t as harmful, but on the other hand there are better choices available which should lead you to making a better choice with the healthy oils on the list. Most of the vegetable oils I listed are extremely high in omega-6 which is a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and alzheimer’s. Now you’re probably thinking “but I heard polyunsaturated fats are good for me?” Polyunsaturated fats do have some health benefits (confusing right:), but when you consume too many omega-6 foods in comparison to omega-3 foods your risk increases with the diseases mentioned so the issue could also be from not consuming enough omega-3 foods to have a better ratio.
- Olive oil- This oil is #1 on my list simply for the fact that most studies on which oil is healthiest to consume always tend to come back to olive oil as the best choice. Extra virgin olive oil is a better choice than regular olive oil due to a higher smoke point, less processed, and tastes better! The benefits of olive oil have been known for some time now- high in monounsaturated fats which can contribute to a reduction in body fat, decrease risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer risk, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation. Olive oil consists of oleic acid (80%) and linoleic acic (20%) and originated along countries in the Mediterranean (several studies correlate longevity with this region.)
- Avocado oil- This is another oil that is high in monounsaturated fat and has one of the highest smoke points of any cooking oil. Hence the name, avocado oil is made from extracting the pulp that surrounds the pit. Nutritionally avocado oil is similar to olive oil and is high in monounsaturated fat. The health benefits include reduced triglycerides, decreased LDL cholesterol, high in lutein (vision), good for your skin, helps arthritic pain, and has also shown to neutralize free radicals.
- Coconut oil- This oil has gotten a lot of media attention the last 5 years. Although last year the American Heart Association came out and said not so fast (or is it a case of the better bad choice?) My stance has been on the positive side of things and the benefits will outweigh anyone more susceptible to any negative consequences it might add to your diet. Most of its health benefits come from the medium chain triglyceride it contains called lauric acid and some of its benefits are- improved brain function in alzheimer’s patients,decrease body fat, decrease risk for heart disease, decrease blood pressure, decrease symptoms of arthritis, improve memory, improve immune system, improve skin issues, and improve insulin in type II diabetics. Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat and has a low smoke point so it shouldn’t be used for high temperature cooking.