Cooking Oils and Health

Vegetable oils became the choice of oil when cooking; however, some evidence proves otherwise. More people seem to be opting for butter rather than using cooking oils. Oil has gained somewhat of a negative connotation in cooking and in health. If you are trying to decide which is healthiest, read on to find more about some options out there.

Vegetable Oil

According to Maria Cross MSc, vegetable oils have become associated with chronic diseases like heart disease, irritable bowel disorder, arthritis, and cancer. However, the reason for this may not lie in the sources of the oils, but in how they are made. The processing of these oils can make them harmful, particularly heating them up. Heat can kill antioxidants and break chemical bonds.

Another theorized reason as to why vegetable might be harmful is an “out-of-kilter” balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Omega-6 eicosanoids promote inflammation. Inflammation raises the risk of developing diseases including cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, digestive conditions, macular degeneration, arthritis, asthma, cancer, and more. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can block these eicosanoids. That’s why balance matters.

Nevertheless, there are good vegetable oil options. Just some are better than others.

Canola Oil

Dr. Guy Crosby claims most canola oil is chemically extracted using a solvent and heat. This can destroy certain beneficial nutrients and even create trans fats. It is one of the four vegetable oils that are refined, bleached, and deodorized. However, it is low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats.

Canola oil contains polyunsaturated omega-3 fats and phytosterols. If you are going to use canola oil, be sure to get a kind with the words “cold-pressed,” “unrefined,” or “virgin” on the label.

Olive Oil

Let me tell you now, extra virgin olive oil is the best olive oil you can get. It’s even better if it’s cold-pressed. Avisha NessAiver explains that, by comparing cooking oils, one study found that extra virgin olive oil contained the fewest toxins after being heated.

Extra virgin olive oil isn’t as filtered so it contains more of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidant phytochemicals. Nutritionix provides that one tablespoon (tbsp) of extra virgin olive oil is 119 calories and 14 grams (g) of total fat. The majority of these fats are monounsaturated, with a little saturated and polyunsaturated fat.

Kris Gunnars, BSc, says it also contains some vitamin E and vitamin K. Best of all, olive oil contains antioxidant compounds! Oleocanthal fights inflammation and oleuropein protects cholesterol from oxidation. Polyphenols in olive oil, like hydroxytyrosol, also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Furthermore, countries around the Mediterranean Sea are known to use olive oil. Those following the Mediterranean diet have lower rates of heart disease. Olive oil is one contributor to this due to its positive effects on blood vessel health and blood pressure.

Other olive oils can be made by crushing the fruits or by using chemical solvents. Virgin olive oils are not processed chemically.

Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is also better than its non-virgin counterparts. This became all the rage a few years back, and there was reason for that.

Coconut oil can boost heart health, promote fat burning, fight pathogens, reduce hunger, reduce seizures, raise HDL “the good” cholesterol, and more!

Time Writer Alexandria Sifferlin says that although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it won’t harm your health if it is consumed in moderation. Plus, our bodies do need some saturated fat.

Yvette Brazier of Medical News Today provides that one tbsp of coconut oil contains 121 calories, 13.5 g of total fats, and vitamin E. And again, the less processed the oil, the better.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil may be more expensive than other oils but contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also contains vitamin E. According to Hrefna Palsdottir, MS, avocado oil is high in oleic acid like olive oil, which provides various health benefits. It also contains saturated and polyunsaturated fat.

In animals, avocado oil improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It also contains antioxidants such as lutein. This phytochemical benefits eye health. In addition, some nutrients are better absorbed with the help of fat. Avocado oil can increase absorption due to its healthy fat content. Find a cold-pressed avocado oil if you can!

Corn Oil

Corn or maize oil is one of the cheaper vegetable oils out there, and very versatile. It is used not only for cooking but in soaps, paint, and other products.

The majority of corn oil is highly processed. It’s usually expeller-pressed and uses a solvent for extraction. The corn oil is then refined, treated, and then refined even more to neutralize fatty acids and bleach the product. However, there are corn oils that are unrefined out there — it’s just more expensive.

FoodData Central provides that one tablespoon of corn oil contains 122 calories, 13.6 g of total fat, some choline, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Oleic acid and linoleic acid are also contained in corn oil. It also contains phytosterols that may be anti-inflammatory and lower cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol in particular can inhibit cancer. All these compounds can help lower the risk of heart disease.

Although, corn oil is high in omega-6 fats. As mentioned, excessive amounts of these can harm health. There are healthier alternatives.

The Bottom Line

There are many options out there to choose from when picking a cooking oil. Vegetable oils gained popularity, but some concerns arose. Nevertheless, there still remains good vegetable oil options such as extra virgin olive oil.

Oils that are minimally processed and relatively low in omega-6 fats are the better kinds. I didn’t nearly cover them all either. There’s peanut oil, sunflower(seed) oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, and more!



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