There is a great deal of confusion surrounding oil, is it healthy? Can I cook with it? What’s the difference between oils? Today I’d like to answer some of these questions for you. Healthy oils can be a really beneficial addition to our diets, whereas unhealthy oils need to be avoided!
The Types of Fats in Oils
All naturally occurring oils contain 3 main types of fats which our bodies need. These are saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, some oils also contain transfats, which aren’t naturally produced or healthy. This is quite simply because we evolved eating the plants which produce these oils, and therefore the natural fats in our bodies mirror those of plants. Here is a quick breakdown of the fats we can find in oils:
Monounsaturated fats are usually in liquid form; they can help reduce cholesterol levels as well as being high in Vitamin E. Oils such as olive oil and avocado oil are predominantly comprised of monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats come in two forms, Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. These types of fats are believed to have a positive impact on our cardiovascular health and can be found in natural oils such as walnut and flax seed.
Saturated fats are generally found in animal products such as meat and dairy, but also in some plant sources such as coconut oil. This type of fat is often misunderstood, and many people see saturated fats as a negative. However, it is the way in which the products high in saturated fats are produced which is more important. For example, grass-fed beef is high in saturated fats, but as the beef has been grown on natural products the saturated fats are healthy. Whereas corn-fed beef is far less healthy as the saturated fats in the food have been produced on an unnatural diet.
Transfats have little health benefits and should be completely avoided. They can raise LDL cholesterol (‘bad’) levels and cause inflammation. One of the most common oils containing transfats is vegetable oil, which is mass produced, cheap and unhealthy.
Oil Production and Use
The way that oil is produced is crucial to how nutritious it will be. Take olive oil as an example, extra virgin olive oil is far healthier as it is the first press of the olives which is done using a cold-press mechanism. After this first press, the olives may be heated in order to extract as much oil as possible. In this process, the heat damages the polyphenols in olives which are full of phytonutrients and very healthy. Extra virgin olive oil is higher in nutrients, antioxidants and flavour.
On the other hand, some oils are mass produced leaving them with very little natural benefits. Oils such as sunflower and vegetable are usually refined and should be avoided as they are processed in a way which removes their natural qualities and benefits. Any oil which is mass produced will often contain transfats, avoid these wherever possible!
How to Use Different Oils
Different oils react to heat differently; some lose their natural benefits, whilst others manage to retain theirs. Oils such as walnut, sesame and peanut shouldn’t be used for cooking, instead, use these oils for salad dressings. Other oils such as avocado, coconut and olive can withstand heat and can be used in all sorts of cooking. Therefore, these oils are better to cook with as they will retain their phytonutrients and benefits. It is important to remember however, that olive oil will lose its flavour when heated too high.
Buy raw and organic oils to ensure that the fats found in them are naturally occurring and not damaging. Organic oil will provide a tastier flavour.
Be careful which oils you use to cook with, as even healthier oils can lose all of their benefits when heated.
Where possible buy oils in glass containers with tight-fitting seals, this will help preserve the oil. Store your oils in a cool dry place.
If you would like any more advice on how to get the most out of your food, then get in touch today or book your free 30 minute discovery call. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where I will be happy to answer your questions.