All About Oils: The Slick of It
Cooking oil is a staple in many of our cupboards, and different oils can provide unique flavors, smells and textures to our favorite recipes. If you’re looking to mix things up and try a new oil, grocery store shelves are filled with oils of various kinds. From nut-based to tropical and classics such as olive and canola, there are many great options for regular cooking and experimenting with something new.
So, how do different oils factor into a healthy diet? It all comes down to the types of fat found in different kinds of oil. We asked our own registered dietitian Sarah Downs to give us an overview on the different types of fats and their impacts on health.
Sarah Downs: “Fat is essential to health and helps to support many bodily functions. Fat helps to absorb certain important nutrients, builds nerve tissue and hormones, serves as an energy source and can add to the satisfaction and pleasure of eating. Oils are made up of fatty acids, which have specific components that affect how they perform in cooking and affect health. The most common of these fatty acids are unsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats.
- Unsaturated Fats – These are liquid at room temperature and come in two main forms, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats may help reduce heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.
- Saturated Fats – These fats are typically solid at room temperature. Many studies have linked diets high in saturated fat with elevated cholesterol levels and increased risk for heart disease, so it’s best to consume these in moderation.
- Trans Fats – Some occur naturally, but most are manufactured through hydrogenation, which helps increase shelf life. Trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, a combination that increases the risk of heart disease. Experts suggest consuming trans fats in limited quantities.
Keep in mind all fats have 9 calories per gram, so even the healthier choices can contribute a significant amount of calories to the diet if consumed in excess.”
What oils would you suggest?
Sarah Downs: “Often times it comes down to what you are cooking/baking and taste preference. My favorites are olive oil and canola oil. Canola oil has a neutral flavor and medium-high smoke point, which makes it extremely versatile. Olive oil is a source of not only monounsaturated fats but antioxidants called polyphenols, making it a great choice for heart health.”
Need a visual? This infographic highlights the six most commonly consumed oils, the types of fat they contain and common uses.
“Chile Olive Oil” by catalina woken is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.