It’s confusing isn’t it? Olive oil, extra virgin, vegetable, peanut etc… What are the differences and which is good for your health? I am taking a look at oils you can cook with. I’m not daring to tackle the multitude of oils out there. I just wanted to know about the basics and I am sure that I am not alone in my bewilderment.
Vegetable Oil – This is the worst type of oil and is an ingredient in packaged foods such as some margarines, baked goods, chips, crackers and candy. These are partially hydrogenated oils—or trans fats. Partially hydrogenated oil is vegetable oil that has been chemically altered so it’s less likely to spoil. Food manufacturers often add it to their products because it can help foods stay fresh longer. Partially hydrogenated oil can wreak havoc on your heart health. It lowers levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and it even increases your risk for diabetes. Peanut oil is a vegetable oil.
Olive Oil – is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. Olive oil is made by crushing olives to make a paste that’s then put under a press. If the oil that comes out has a low acidity and a good taste and smell, it’s labeled extra-virgin or virgin. (Virgin is slightly lower quality than extra-virgin.) The deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. If the oil is highly acidic or not great quality, it’s refined and mixed with virgin or extra-virgin oil to make “regular” olive oil; this all-purpose oil is good for cooking. . “Light” olive oil is lighter in flavor and color but has the same amount of calories as extra-virgin. The heart-health benefits of all types of olive oil are pretty much the same, although the virgin and extra-virgin ones have extra antioxidants.
Canola Oil – This oil is mostly used in cooking and is very versatile. It’s made from seeds of the canola plant. Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains both omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids. It also reduces overall cholesterol levels, and as a significant source of the omega-3 fatty acid is associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
Avocado Oil – has 3 major health benefits: it is a potential fighter of free radicals; it is heart healthy as it is rich in healthy in monounsaturated fat, which can help lower the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood and decrease risk for cardiovascular disease; finally, it is great for your skin. Avocado oil is also high in dietary vitamin E, which can help boost immunity and promote healthy skin.
Coconut Oil – Using this oil has shown some tremendous benefits including the following:
People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease reports of people improving or even reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Positive results from people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes
It helps boost metabolism and raise body temperatures to promote thyroid health.
It helps those suffering from various skin diseases (by applying directly on the skin)
It fights off bacterial infections and viruses
Gives athletes an advantage in sustaining energy levels longer without drugs or stimulants.
One other thing I was curious about: how to store oils? As it turns out, heat, light and oxygen degrade oils, which makes them turn rancid more quickly and actually promotes the formation of cancer-causing compounds called free radicals. The more polyunsaturated fats an oil contains, the more susceptible to rancidity it becomes.
Oils rich in PUFAs, such as walnut and flaxseed, are best stored in the fridge in tightly capped containers. MUFAs, such as those found in olive oil, are a bit more hardy, but you should still protect oils that contain them by keeping the lid on tightly and storing them in a dark place far from the stove or other heat source. If you store oils correctly, most will last about six months to one year.
Hopefully this short oil education sheds some light for you on the list of options available to you at the grocery store. Remember to make informed healthy choices more often for your health and the health of your family.