Nearly every cook cooks with oil—yes, even most of us health geeks at Life and Health Network, although in limited portions. As it turns out, fats (oil is a type of fat) are an essential nutrient in the human diet. For most individuals, it’s appropriate to get about 25% of your daily food energy from healthy fats and oils. (To keep the percentage under 25%, it would be necessary to rarely, if ever, to fry or cook with oil.) That said, it’s important to understand that not all oils are created equal.
Quick health summary
As we mentioned above, it is appropriate for most individuals to get 25% of their daily food energy from fat. However, we must make the distinction between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ fats. We want the fats we eat to be healthy (high in mono- and polyunsaturated) fats, while we want to avoid unhealthy (saturated and trans) fats. Try to limit your saturated fat intake under 10% of your daily calories.
Saturated fats: Saturated fats typically derive from animal sources like lard and butter, contribute to higher levels of cholesterol in the blood, and are a risk factor for athesrosclerosis and heart disease. It’s usually wise to cook with oils low in this fat.
Trans fats: Found mostly in foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and may increase your risk of heart disease and many other diseases. Avoid consuming trans fats whenever possible.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs): Also known as omega-9 fatty acids, n-9, and oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. These fats are abundant in healthier oils like olive oil, canola oil, “high-oleic” sunflower oil, hazelnut oil, and almond oil.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): Consist of omega-3 acids, also known as n-3, and omega-6 acids, also known as n-6. They are important for maintaining cell membranes and for making prostaglandins, which regulate many body processes. PUFAs are also necessary to enable the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K to be absorbed from food and for regulating body cholesterol metabolism.
Dr. Randy Bivens says: “I’m reticent to recommend the intake of additional oil, whether it’s advertised as ‘healthy’ or not. A balanced, plant-based diet, which includes nuts, grains, and cereals, has more than a sufficient amount of fats to remain healthy.”
*Life and Health recommendation: Limit or eliminate. That is all.
Clarified butter, ghee
*Life and Health recommendation: Limit or eliminate, even more so than butter.
* Life and Health note: Even though the numbers would suggest that this is a very unhealthy oil, recent preliminary research implies that, because coconut oil is a natural oil, the saturated fats in it may in fact be healthier. Virgin coconut oil, because it hasn’t been chemically treated, lacks the trans fat-creating partial hydrogenation that caused such an uproar to health scientists.
Grape seed oil
*Life and Health recommendation: For all of our sakes (including the pig), please avoid this at all costs.
Olive oil, extra virgin
Olive oil, virgin
Olive oil, refined
Olive oil, extra light
Peanut oil / Groundnut oil
Rice bran oil
Sunflower oil, linoleic
Sunflower oil, high oleic
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