Oil has gotten a bad rap over the past few decades but with the tide turning away from low-fat to good-fat we should all make sure we know which oils are best to cook with while keeping us healthy.
In general we should be getting around 33% of our total calories from fats. We need fat because it contains essential fatty acids which the body cannot make itself. Fats also help us absorb certain vitamins. There are two groups of fats: saturated and unsaturated. We should be aiming to avoid eating foods which are high in bad saturated and trans fats and replace them with unsaturated fats which can help lower cholesterol and maintain heart health.
There are two subclasses of unsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help protect our hearts by maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL cholesterol.
I've picked three of my favourite healthy cooking oils which are low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats:
Harvested here in the UK, Rapeseed oil is one of the best healthy oils because it is a great source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It has the lowest saturated fat of any oil (about 50% less than olive oil) plus it can be heated to high temperatures without degrading making it the perfect cooking oil. As a bonus is also a rich, natural source of vitamin E. It has become the oil of choice with chefs and top restaurants.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil and populations from that region have longer life expectancies and a lower risk of heart disease compared with Northern Europeans and North Americans. The health benefits of Olive oil have been widely documented. As with rapeseed oil, olive oil contains Omegas 3, 6 and 9, essential fatty acids known to reduce cholesterol and maintain heart health, joint mobility and brain function. But to get the best heath benefits you need to opt for high quality extra virgin cold pressed varieties and there is some debate as to whether these oils are stable at high temperatures so keep your EVOO for drizzling and dipping and use rapeseed oil when heating.
Hailed by the beauty industry as a skin saviour, avocado oil is produced in New Zealand and has impressive healthy benefits. Avocado oil is nearly 70% oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid and has high levels of antioxidants like vitamin E and lutein. It also has a higher smoke point compared to olive oil so it is a better choice for use when frying. But the best feature is the taste; a rich, buttery avocado flavour which beats olive oil.
All health content is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider.
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.