Did You Know...changing the type of oil you cook with can help your health?

Editor June 14th, 2011

Changing the type of oil you use is an easy way to reduce calories and fat from your diet.

Changing oils may sound like a simple switch, but choosing the right oil to use in cooking can be a challenge. There are lots of options and it's hard to know which oils are healthy and which may be high in unhealthy fats.

Oils to Avoid

Saturated fat found in some oils raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol increases risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends that fewer than 7 percent of our total calories come from saturated fat. These fats are found in butter, lard, palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil.

Also, watch out for trans fats, which are mainly found in some types of vegetable oil. This type of oil is usually found in baked goods and processed foods. Some types of margarine may also have trans fats , so be sure to check the nutrition label.

Try to Avoid Using these Oils

  • Palm oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Lard
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fats)

Healthy Oil?

Healthy oil may sound like a contradiction, but some oils do have health benefits. Oils with monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce "bad" cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. Also, polyunsaturated fats have been shown to have health benefits. These oils include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and may reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammatory diseases. Researchers continue to look into the additional health benefits of these fatty acids.

Use these When things Get Hot

Some oils perform better under higher temperatures and are better to use when sautéing or frying foods. The oils listed below are a better alternative to lard, coconut oil, and oils with saturated fats. They have a high smoke point, which is the temperature oil can be heated to without starting to smoke.

  • Safflower
  • Sunflower
  • Peanut oil
  • Soy oil
  • Canola oil
  • Grapeseed oil

Flavorful Oils

The health benefits of oils like olive oil can be enjoyed in salad dressing or by dipping bread in the oil, but many of these oils have a low smoke point and are not a great option for cooking.

Oils to enjoy for dipping or in dressings include:

  • Olive oil
  • Almond oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Sesame oil

No matter what oil you choose, remember that fats are only meant to be a small part of the healthy diet, so make sure you're aware of the amount of fat you consume each day. Most people should consume less than 5 teaspoons of oil each day. Oils are found in many prepared foods, so be sure to check the label.

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