Choose and use healthy fats and oils

| July 14, 2011

Early we looked at good fats and bad fats and identified what some of those fats are and the health impacts — both beneficial and damaging— of each type of fat. We also suggested some general ways you can reduce the amount of bad fat and include more healthy fats in your diet.

Now it’s time to discuss more specific tips you can use when you go to the supermarket and in your kitchen.

  • When choosing oils for cooking and as a condiment, look for cold-pressed oils. These oils are healthier than conventionally produced oils, which are heated, treated with solvents, and bleached. These processes introduce toxins into the oil and also remove much of its nutritional value. Cold-pressed oils are not heated or treated, and so retain their nutritional value. They also contain a higher level of the important antioxidant vitamin E.
  • Oils and fat can turn rancid very quickly if they are not stored properly. Rancid fats not only taste terrible, they are carcinogenic as well and have been linked with atherosclerosis and heart disease. The higher the percentage of polyunsaturated fat in an oil, the faster it will go rancid (see chart). To help prevent your oil from going rancid, you should: (1) Refrigerate oil once you open it. Unopened cooking oils have a shelf life of about one year. Unopened oils can be kept unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place. (2) Keep oil in a glass or metal container. If you buy it in a plastic bottle, transfer it to a more suitable container. (3) Buy only as much oil as you think you’ll use within a few months’ time. (4) Refrigerated oil may turn cloudy, but it will return to normal, unharmed, once it reaches room temperature.
  • Avoid use of solid hydrogenated shortening (e.g., Crisco, among others).
  • Not all oils are best for every use. Those best as a condiment are olive, hazelnut, sweet almond, sesame, canola, and soy. The first four are also suitable for baking and stir-fry.
  • Margarine and vegetable oil spreads. By law, margarine must contains at least 80% fat. Vegetable oil spreads may be reduced-fat, reduced-calorie, or diet (these contain no more than 60% oil); light or lower-fat (contain no more than 40% oil); or fat-free (contain less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving). Both margarines and spreads are made from vegetable oils, with the healthiest ones (those highest in monounsaturated fat and lowest in saturated fat) being olive oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, and canola oil.
Oil Mono. Poly. Sat.
Olive 77% 9% 14%
Avocado 74% 14% 12%
Almond 73% 18% 9%
Apricot 63% 31% 6%
Canola 62% 31% 7%
Peanut 48% 34% 18%
Sesame 42% 43% 15%
Corn 25% 62% 20%
Soybean 24% 61% 15%
Sunflower 20% 69% 11%
Cottonseed 19% 54% 27%
Safflower 13% 78% 9%

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Category: Anti-aging diet