Dietary fats are rich in fatty acids that promote our absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Oils are primary sources of dietary fats, but not all fats and oils are good for us – some are linked to increased risk of certain health problems. And then there are healthful oils that can help reduce inflammation, promote cardiovascular function, improve good cholesterol levels as well as lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Dietary fats are an important element of a healthy and balanced diet. They are rich in fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own, as well as promote our absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, and K and protect vital organs.
Oils are primary sources of dietary fats but, not all fats and oils are good for us—some are linked to increased risk of certain health problems.
Trans fats increase levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL)—also known as bad cholesterol—in our bodies, which increases risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
To avoid trans fats, limit your intake of the following popular foods:
- Microwave popcorn
- Frozen pizza
- French fries
- Fried chicken
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, saturated fats are less harmful compared to trans fats. These are found in dairy products, animal fat, and tropical oils and should still be consumed in moderation.
These are the healthiest oils and are good for your heart. They can help reduce inflammation, promote cardiovascular function, and improve good cholesterol levels, as well as lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Monounsaturated fats are beneficial to health as long as they are consumed in moderation. Examples include the following:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sesame oil
- Peanut oil
- Avocado oil
Examples of polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Consider the following polyunsaturated fat-rich foods below:
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
How do I choose what oils are good for me?
A cooking oil has its own smoke point, the temperature at which it breaks down due to heat exposure. When this occurs, the oil oxidizes and releases unstable atoms called free radicals, which may contribute to cell damage, aging, and chronic disease.
Below, we list down four healthful oils that can be used in cooking, enumerate their health benefits, and share some of their other characteristics to bear in mind.
High smoke point
Safflower oil boasts a neutral flavor, high levels of unsaturated fats, and low levels of saturated fats. With a smoke point of 265°C, it can be used to pan fry or deep fry dishes.
Research published in Clinical Nutrition studied a number of post-menopausal women with type 2 diabetes and obesity found that daily safflower oil intake showed potential in fighting inflammation and managing blood sugar levels.
Avocado oil, whose nutritional profile consists of high levels of oleic acid, Vitamin E, and lutein, also has a neutral flavor. With a smoke point of 271°C, it is versatile enough for use across various cooking methods, such as stir-frying, grilling, and roasting.
Medium smoke point
Olive oil is one of the most versatile and healthful oils out there. An oil with a mild grassy flavor and a smoke point of 176°C, it has been used in both cooking and non-cooking methods such as sautéing, dish drizzles, and salad dressings.
Olive oil’s nutritional profile consists of antioxidants that target harmful free radicals and neutralize them. Studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent strokes and heart disease, reduce type 2 diabetes and cancer risk, and fight rheumatoid arthritis and certain bacteria.
Derived from pressed coconut meat, coconut oil has a smoke point of 176°C and a neutral flavor. Akin to olive oil, it has gained popularity for skin condition management, immunity, and even weight loss.
IMPORTANT: Consume coconut oil in moderation, because it contains considerable levels of saturated fat and trace amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
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