Which oils are healthier?

I have been receiving many questions about which oils are the healthiest. In honor of American Heart Month, I thought it would be a great time to share my answer. We often hear of oils being heart healthy, especially when compared to solid or saturated fats like butter or lard. What separates these groups from being heart healthy or not is the amount of saturated fat they contain. Saturated fat is high in fats that tend to be solid at room temperature (a reason they are called solid fats), like butter or the fat marbling seen in meat. High amounts of saturated fat in the diet can contribute to high total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Oils are lower in saturated fats and higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats. When oils are used to replace solid/saturated fats in your diet, they can help lower your cholesterol levels. Since oils still have some saturated fat in them, it’s important to select oils that have lower amounts of saturated fats. This makes some oils better options than others. Varieties like coconut oil, that have high amounts of saturated fat are actually solid at room temperature and are less heart healthy. Besides being lower in saturated fat, another factor that determines the healthfulness of oils is their mono- and polyunsaturated ratios. While both are heart healthy, it is desirable to have a ratio with larger amounts of monounsaturated fats than polyunsaturated fats.
Courtesy of CanolaInfo

So which oil should I use?

Olive Oil
Olive oil is typically the top choice. This is because it contains a lot of monounsaturated fats. It also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which may be protective against heart attacks and strokes. An added bonus to choosing virgin and extra virgin olive oils is that they have antioxidants that provide further protection by combating free radicals (molecules that can cause damage in the body). Since olive oil is so flavorful (mainly the virgin and extra-virgin varieties), it is best used in foods that require less cooking. For example, on a salad, or drizzled over a finished dish. When olive oil is heated, it can lose its rich flavors. This is why it’s best used at the end of cooking to preserve and display its flavor.

Canola Oil
My next choice when it comes to oils is canola oil, a common household cooking oil. Canola oil is the oil with the lowest amount of saturated fats. Like olive oil, it also has a high amount of monounsaturated fats. This makes it one of the more heart-healthy oils and a great choice when replacing solid/saturated fats in your diet.

Vegetable Oil
Unlike canola oil, vegetable oil is often higher in saturated fat and lower in monounsaturated fats. This makes it a less desirable choice than canola or olive oil, but still a better choice than butter or animal fat.

Corn Oil
Corn oil has a higher amount of saturated fats and has a smaller amount of monounsaturated fats, which makes it less heart healthy. If you are able, try to choose one of the other three oils listed above.

Remember: Oils are still a fat in the diet. Even though there are heart-healthy varieties, they can still add a lot of calories into your diet. Other foods also add heart-healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and fish. It is important to include healthier fats in your diet but still in moderation.

Disclaimer: This post provides general nutrition information and should not be used in place of medical advice.

One Response to “Which oils are healthier?”
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  1. […] Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. Full-fat dairy products contain higher amounts of saturated fat which may contribute to increased cholesterol levels. Low- and no-fat dairy have less saturated fats and still provide great nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. For more discussion about the different types of fats, click here. […]

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