Healthy vs. Unhealthy Oils
The Good Oils:
Flax Oil: A great source of the essential alpha linoleic fatty acid and omega-3’s in which most people are deficient. (1) Flax also contains lignans, which help the body metabolize estrogens. It may promote digestive health by lubricating the inner lining of the intestines. DO NOT heat this oil – it is temperature sensitive and meant to be kept in the fridge in a dark bottle. (2)
Fish Oil: This superstar oil is high in the much sought after omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil has been shown to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease, promote arterial health, improve mood, and reduce inflammation. Good stuff! (3)
Grapeseed Oil: Warning -this oil can be bad if not purchased properly! Grape seed oil is derived from grapes, but can be extracted chemically in non organic versions. Make sure your oil is cold pressed and organic. It has a very high smoking point so can be great for high heat cooking and is rich in Vitamin E, polyphenols, and flavonoids. (4)
Olive Oil: Who doesn’t love a little olive oil? This commonly found fat is monounsaturated which has been shown to help lower total cholesterol and aid in blood sugar control. It can tolerate lower cooking temps, but is best kept to dressings or applied after cooking to prevent oxidation. (5)
Palm Oil: This is a tricky one. Palm oil, like coconut oil, is highly saturated and heat stable. It contains tocotrienols, a form of Vitamin E that could help prevent strokes according to research in the last two decades. The reason it is tricky is it’s negative environmental impact. In Indonesia, the demand for palm oil has led to the clearing of tropical forest, greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction leading to harm of critically endangered species, and water pollution. Buy sustainable palm oil whenever possible. (6)
Coconut Oil: My very favorite oil of all! Coconut oil is a shelf stable saturated fat and can tolerate heat from cooking without mutating and becoming carcinogenic. Saturated fats have a bad rap, but naturally occurring saturated fats are actually necessary and beneficial to the body. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids which are easy for the body to break down and burn for energy versus being stored as a fat. This means it acts more like a carbohydrate in the body without the blood sugar spike and can help boost metabolism. It is also an abundant source of lauric acid which has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. (7)
Avocado Oil: This buttery, nutty flavored oil is nutritionally very similar to olive oil in its monounsaturated fat content and heart, cholesterol, and blood sugar benefits. Avocado oil also contains antioxidant vitamin E and has a very high smoke point, making it a great oil for cooking at higher heat. (8)
Walnut Oil: This nutrient rich oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and niacin. It is also rich in phytonutrients and provides selenium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. This yummy nut oil has been shown to benefit cholesterol and reduce triglyceride levels. It is rich in ellagic acid which is an antioxidant that helps counter the effects of free radicals and the FDA has deemed it a heart healthy fat for regular consumption. Do not heat this oil and consume within 3-6 months of purchase as it is easily prone to oxidation and spoilage. Savor its deep nutty flavor on salads or drizzled on veggies after cooking. (9)
Macadamia Nut Oil: This is another favorite of mine! It has a rich macadamia flavor and is very high in monounsaturated fats (higher than olive oil!). It is very shelf-stable and does not oxidize easily. Of all nuts, macadamia nut oil is lowest in omega-6 fatty acids in relation to omega-3s which helps prevent a fatty acid imbalance. It also contains antioxidants, like squalene, that protect us from free radicals. (10)
The Bad Oils:
Canola oil: This oil is often recommended as health and rich in omega-3’s. Do not be fooled. Canola oil is derived from rapeseed which is processed with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil and 90% of the time it is genetically modified. It is also partially hydrogenated and usually processed above 500 degrees. This means the omega-3s are totally rancid by the time you pick it up on the shelf. (11)
Corn Oil: Does it seem odd to you that farmers somehow derive oil from corn? Corn is a highly industrialized crop and corn oil is one derivative you want to leave out of your kitchen. This inflammatory high omega-6, low omega-3 oil is often genetically modified and usually hydrogenated which adds unhealthy trans fats. (12)
Peanut Oil: Peanuts are a legume that contain anti-nutrients called lectins. They are very difficult for the body to break down and lead to inflammation. Additionally, peanut oil is very high in omega-6 fatty acids which, when consumed in greater quantities than omega-3’s as is common with most Americans, omega-6 fats can cause issues like heart disease and inflammation. Peanuts are also a top allergen and can illicit an immune response in many individuals. Since peanuts are highly susceptible to mold, they are often heavily treated making peanut oil pesticide laden. (13)
Sunflower Oil: Very susceptible to rancidity because it is often highly oxidized in processing. It is richer than most vegetable oils in omega-6 fats and very low in omega-3’s making it pro-inflammatory. (12) Safflower Oil: VERY high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats with zero Omega-3. Nutrient devoid and highly industrialized. Has been linked with vascular disease and is very susceptible to oxidation which equals rancidity. (12)
Cottonseed Oil: This is one of the worst. Cottonseed oil comes from cotton and requires hydrogenation. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t eat cotton so why would we eat oil from it? It is usually very high in pesticide residue and contains natural toxins. Enough said. (14)
Soybean Oil: A very unstable oil that is often hydrogenated to increase shelf life and make it suitable for use in food manufacturing. Soybean oil has been shown to limit thyroid function and is high in phytoestrogens which is particularly harmful for men. (12)
1. “Omega- 3 Fatty Acids.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation,, 6 July 2015. Web. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84.
2. “Natural Product Benefits.” Natural Product Benefits. Joy By Joy Nature INC, 12 June 2015. Web. http://www.joybynature.com/blogs/natural-product-benefits.
3. Mercola, Dr. “Ultimate Guide to Omega-3 Benefits, Sources and Supplements.” Mercola.com. The George Mateljan Foundation, 1 May 2015. Web. http://articles.mercola.com/omega-3.aspx.
4. “The Truth About Grapeseed Oil: Is It Really Healthy?” The Truth About Grapeseed Oil: Is It Really Healthy? Butter Believer INC, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. http://butterbeliever.com/is-grapeseed-oil-healthy/.
5. “Diabetes and Cholesterol.” – McKinley Health Center. American Diabetes Association., 1 May 2006. Web. http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/diabetes/diabetes_cholesterol.htm.
6. Fife, Bruce. “RED PALM OIL.” Red Palm Oil A Daily Dose of Vitamins from a Cooking Oil. Coconut Research Inc, 3 Mar. 2015. Web. http://coconutresearchcenter.org/articles-and-videos/palm-oil-information/red-palm-oil/default.htm.
7. Mercola, Dr. “Are Vegetable Oils More Dangerous Than Trans Fats?” Mercola.com. Joseph Mercola Inc, 31 Aug. 2014. Web. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/08/31/trans-fat-saturated-fat.aspx.
8. Kamo, Mike. “27 Awesome Uses for Avocado Oil.” Nutrition Secrets. NutritionSecrets.com, 9 June 2015. Web. http://www.nutritionsecrets.com/27-uses-avocado-oil/.
9. Stradley, Linda. “Health Benefits of Walnut Oil, Walnut Oil in Cooking.” Health Benefits of Walnut Oil, Walnut Oil in Cooking. What’s Cooking America Inc., 1 June 2004. Web. http://whatscookingamerica.net/LindaPosch/WalnutOil_HealthBenefits.htm
10. Pescatore, Fred. “Mac Nut Oil :: Cooking Oil :: Macadamia Nut Oil :: Monounsaturated Fats.” Mac Nut Oil :: Cooking Oil :: Macadamia Nut Oil :: Monounsaturated Fats. Mac Nut Oil Inc, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. http://www.macnutoil.com/why_recommends.htm.
11. Mercola, Dr. “Herbal Oil: Canola Oil Benefits and Uses.” Mercola.com. Mercola Inc., 2015. Web. http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/canola-oil.aspx.
12. The Truth about Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the In-between – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. Harvard Medical Association, 15 Feb. 2015. Web. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good.
13. Cordain, Loren. “Beans and Legumes: Do They Adhere to Paleo | Dr. Loren Cordain.” The Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet LLC, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. http://thepaleodiet.com/beans-and-legumes-are-they-paleo/.
14. Saunders., Raine. “What’s The Truth About Cottonseed Oil?” Agriculture Society. 24 Feb. 2014. Web. http://agriculturesociety.com/politics-and-food/whats-the-truth-about-cottonseed-oil/.