You’ve probably heard the term “good fats” used to describe foods like avocado, nuts, seeds and certain oils. These good fats have been connected to improved heart health and other benefits. With so many different oils available, how do you know which ones are the right ones for you?
Role of oils
Oils play a key role in some of the healthiest diets in the world. The Mediterranean Diet, for example, features olive oil prominently. Olive oil provides beneficial nutrients on its own and also helps make important nutrients in other foods more available. Lightly sautéing your vegetables in olive oil, for example, might actually be better for you than boiling or steaming them – and they will probably taste better.
Choosing oils for health
While oils, like other fats, are high in calories, they also offer some health benefits. To promote good health, focus on oils that offer more unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oil. Reduce your use of oils that are high in saturated fats such as tropical oils. Avoid oils that are partially hydrogenated or foods that are prepared with partially hydrogenated oils. As of June 2018, the FDA no longer allows the use of partially hydrogenated oils due to health reasons, but some products received an extension so you may still see it around for a few more years. For now, avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
Choosing oils for cooking
Different oils will work better for different situations when cooking and preparing food. When sautéing, look for oils with higher smoke points like canola or peanut oil. Olive oil, with its lower smoke point, is good for finishing a dish or in cold preparations like dressings and sauces because of the flavor and texture it adds. When baking, choose oils with neutral flavors. Regardless of which oil you use, remember to store it properly to prevent loss of quality. Keep oils away from heat and only buy as much as you will use in a couple of months to reduce waste.
1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114:136-153.
2. Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing Trans Fat). Available at: https://bit.ly/2qxmpri