With all the information out there about the types of oils that are good for you, it's easy to get confused and frustrated. Is coconut oil good for you or not, since it is a saturated oil? How about olive oil? Olive oil is good for you, but just don't cook with it... huh? Vegetable oil, which is actually just soybean oil, and how about corn oil, safflower, avocado, sesame seed, peanut, canola....uggghh! Ok, ok, it is confusing, but I am going to lay it out for you straight, based on science and research about the best oils for cooking, baking, frying and overall health.
The first things I ask my friends and clients is what type of oil/fat they use. The oil companies have done wonders with their marketing strategies and convinced a whole lot of people with misinformation that 'vegetable' oils are good for you. While in general, unsaturated (liquid) fats are better for you than saturated ones, one really does have to scrutinize these types of oils as well. Many of them are from GMO sources, hydrogenated, and contain high levels of transfats and Omega-6 fatty acids.
There is a lot of debate about the benefits of the different types of unsaturated fats and oils, whether seed oils are better, or something like avocado oil. However, one of the few fats most people agree as being healthy is extra virgin olive oil.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
The link between the benefits of olive oil and health dates back to a study in from the1950s and 1960s by nutrition pioneer Ancel Keys and his colleagues. They studied the eating patterns of 16 different populations in 7 countries. What they noticed was that people observing what is now dubbed the "mediterranean" diet had lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. They attributed these lower risk to the regional diet, but they couldn't prove it.1 No worries. There has been extensive research since about the numerous benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
Benefits of Extra Virgin olive oil are too great to ignore. Everyone should incorporate it in their diet. These studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in it have some powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease. Extra Virgin olive oil is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main reason why real olive oil is so beneficial.
Olive oil contains oleic acid and oleocanthal, nutrients that can fight inflammation. This may be the main reason for olive oil’s health benefits. It is believed that chronic inflammation is among the leading drivers of many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. It has been speculated that one of the mechanisms behind olive oil’s benefits, is its ability to fight inflammation. Another benefit of olive is its role in the reduction of heart disease.
Extra virgin olive oil protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms:
1. Reduced Inflammation: As mentioned above, olive oil protects against inflammation, a key driver of heart disease
2. LDL Cholesterol: Olive oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage – a key step in the heart disease process.
3. Improves Endothelial Function: Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels.
4. Blood Clotting: Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, key features of heart attacks and strokes
5. Lower Blood Pressure: One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and cut the need for blood pressure meds by 48% (2).
Bottom Line: Extra Virgin Olive is the best oil to use whenever you can.
Olive oil has a low smoke point, so it is not recommended for cooking on high heat. If the oil heats to where you see smoke, it changes the chemical makeup of the oil and can actually make it toxic. Use for salads and lightly sauteing.
I never got on the coconut oil bandwagon, because no matter what anyone says, it is still solid at room temperature and a saturated fat. My own research and gut has always told me to avoid saturated fats and go with unsaturated (liquid at room temp) oil. After digging deeper and looking a various research and studies this is what I found.
All oils are a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Each oil is though is usually called by the name of the fatty acid that is most abundant. The most damaging, artery-clogging fatty acid is saturated fat. The fat in coconut oil is 92% saturated fat! 3
Where it gets tricky is that there are different kinds of saturated fats. Long Chain fats have 12 or more carbon atom, and some are medium-chain (fewer than 12 carbon atoms). These various saturated fats do not have the same impact on LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. One long-chain saturated fat, stearic acid, has little impact on LDL cholesterol. Stearic acid is the most common saturated fat in chocolate, which is why chocolate or cocoa butter raises LDL only about one-quarter as much as butter, even though both are about 60% saturated fat.3
Coconut Oil Should be used sparingly in food preparation and more for Topical Use.
1. Coconut Oil is bad for LDL(bad) cholesterol. The long-chain saturated fatty acids, like the ones that make up most of the saturated fat in coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils (known as tropical oils), do in fact raise LDL cholesterol considerably. These saturated fats are called palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids. They also make up most of the saturated fatty acids in meat, poultry, and dairy fats like milk, butter, and cheese.3
2. Coconut Oil is bad for the heart. For the health of your heart, lowering your LDL cholesterol is the single most important thing to do. Federal guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program state that a desirable LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL.. For individuals who already have atherosclerosis (they have suffered a heart attack, they require heart surgery or angioplasty, they have diabetes, or testing has identified plaque formation), LDL levels below 70 mg/dL are advised. “It would probably be very difficult to get your LDL into these healthy ranges if you were eating a lot of coconut oil,” cautions Dr. Jay Kenney, nutritional research specialist and educator at Pritikin Longevity Center.3
The coconut oil industry likes to point out that the traditional Polynesian diet, which is high in tropical oils like coconut, is linked with relatively low rates of heart disease. “Yes, studies of people on traditional Polynesian diets have found that they have relatively low rates from heart disease despite high LDL cholesterol levels, but other aspects of their native lifestyle are very healthful, and probably help counteract the cholesterol-raising effect of the coconut fat. Their traditional diet, for example, is very high in dietary fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids from fish, and very low in sodium. Historically, native Polynesians also tended to be nonsmokers, and were physically very active. All these factors would certainly promote heart health,” says Dr. Kenny
Bottom Line: There are several studies that promote the benefits of coconut oil, which there are many benefits cited, from helping in reduction of visceral fat around the belly, to curbing hunger and losing weight. I will wait and see until more long term research is done. Until then, since I do not follow a traditional polynesian lifestyle, I will use coconut oil sparingly, perhaps just in desserts, and keep the rest for using in my DIY scrubs and lip balms.
Canola oil is heavily marketed to the "health food" industry instead of the junk foodies. However, it is certainly not what it's cut out to be, and perhaps is worse for your health than you think. From my research, you should probably avoid it at all costs, as the risks severely outweigh any benefits. "Supporters believe that canola oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet because it’s rich in omega-3s, low in saturated fats and is a good source of oleic acid. Granted, these properties are true on a surface level, but there is much more to the canola story,"5 according to Dr. Axe and many other researchers.
Canola oil is a Canadian invention that dates back to the 1970s. It was backed by the Canadian government and was cheaper to produce and thus used in many packed goods. It used to be a natural oil, but in 1995 Monsato created a genetically modified version. As of 2005 87% or the Canola oil in the US was genetically modified, meanwhile by 2009, 90% of the Canadian crop was genetically modified.5
So what is Canola oil? Canola oil is actually rapeseed oil, made from the seeds of the rapeseed plant. Like I said, it was developed in Canada in the 1970s. Wild rapeseed actually has a high level of Erucic acid, which is harmful when ingested, so they modified (genetically engineered) a version where the erucic acid was lower. They started using it in candle and soap making, lipsticks and insecticides.5 However, once "the powers that be" figured our how to further genetically modify rapeseed, it began being marketed as an edible oil. Since then, it began being marketed with the claim that it’s a "wonder oil, low in saturated fats and a source of omega-3 fatty acids."5 That may be true in its more pure and natural form, but in its current hybridized and modified state, it can cause a large number of health issues.5
Here are the reasons that Canola Oil is bad for you:
1. 90% + of it is genetically modified
2. It is a refined oil, which means it is often partially hydrogenated
3. Side effects of GMO products include severe kidney and liver problems5
4. Increases Heart Disease: "As a monounsaturated oil, rapeseed oil has high levels of erucic acid. Erucic acid is a fatty acid that’s associated with heart damage, specifically Keshan disease, a disease that manifests itself with fibrotic lesions of the heart. Studies have shown that in areas where people are prone to Keshan, not only are selenium levels lower, but eurucic acid levels are higher. (7)"5
5. Increased Risk for Stroke and hypertension patients. Studies show that canola oil and other vegetable oils shorten the lifespan of ones that are prone to stroke or have hypertension
6. Canola oil may retard normal growth. Canola oil was never allowed to be used in infant formula, but as of a few years ago, the FDA approved the use of canolia oil in infant formula. For one, it is really deeply concerning to me that the FDA would approva feeding GMO oil to developing babies, but it’s also not a good idea by any means to give them unhealthy fats.
7. Increased intake of transfats. Canola and soybean oil undergo some level of hydrogenation, when that happens, some of the fat turns into transfats. And, as i have mentioned in my blog "the skinny on fat", transfats are the worst for LDL cholesterol.
8. Many GMO related side effects, including: toxicity, allergic reactions, cancer, immune-suppression, and loss of actual nutrition.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't use Canola oil. Good substitutes are olive oil, ghee, avocado and algae oil
For many of the same reasons as canola oil, plain old vegetable oil is not a good choice. It is not even made out of "vegetables". Most vegetable oils are actually 100% soybean oil. Vegetable oil is unnatural and contains high levels of transfats, which as we know is an "avoid at all costs" type of fat. For one, the soybeans used in vegetable oil have again been tampered with and genetically modified by our friends at Monsato. In addition, there has been extensive research done on the effects of soy and hormonal imbalances, especially in women. Here are 6 reasons why you should avoid vegetable oils. These include, soybean oil, sunflower, corn, canola, cottonseed and safflower oil. These are not really "vegetables," but these oils are often referred to as vegetable oil.
1. Vegetable oils are very unnatural in large amounts. They are highly refined oils that used very harmful chemicals in the refining process. Until recently, we as humans were never exposed to this type of oil because we did not have the technology to make it. These oils contain very large amounts of Omega-6 PUFAs (polyunsaturated Fatty Acids), which are harmful to the body in excess. We, in the American diet already get too much of the Omega-6 fatty acids and do not need any more, especially from an unnatural source.
2. Vegetable oils mess up the fatty-acid composition of the body's cell. Mainly, the ratio of the Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. It should be close to 4:1, but ours is as high as 16:1. These fatty acids have vital roles, such as in the immune system. And if these ratios are out of whack, your body can become out of whack too.
3. Vegetable oils contribute to inflammation2
4. Vegetable oils are loaded with trans-fats.
5. They can severely increase your risk of heart disease.
6. Vegetable oil consumption is associated with various other diseases, mainly due to the high Omega-6 levels, such as increased risk of cancer, increased risk of severe depression, and when found in breast milk, increased chances of asthma and eczema in children.
BOTTOM LINE: Avoid vegetable oils at all costs. The risks are too great, there are lots of alternatives out there.
One of my friends told me about algae oil and how she had begun to use it. While I have not tried it myself yet, it seems promising. With a neutral flavor and a high smoke point it can be used in cooking and baking. Algae oil, also called Algal oil, is just what it sounds like, oil derived from Algae. According to research and science, it is loaded with DHA, which makes up about 97% of the Omega-3 fatty acids in our brains.5 The best, and only natural, source of DHA Omega-3 was thought to be from cold water fish like wild salmon and tuna. However, scientists were being scientists when they realized that fish ate this algae which contained both DHA and EPA sources of Omega-3s, and then it would get stored in their tissues (and that is how we were getting our Omega-3s).
Us Americans have a difficult time getting the required amounts of Omega-3s through our diets. We have typically turned to fish oil supplements, but this is a great vegetarian alternative. Algae oil can and is being added to drinks and food that will help with our Omega-3 intake. In addition, these algae micro-organisms can be sustainably farm-raised, now providing a DHA option that is vegetarian, kosher, halal and organic.
There are many health benefits of DHA and thus consuming Algal oil. Here are just a few of them:
1. Sustains a healthy pregnancy. DHA Omega- fatty acid is essential for brain development in a fetus.
2. Supports cardiovascular health. 'Algal oil helps regulate heartbeat, reduce blood pressure, decrease blood clot formation and reduce overall inflammation; this decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Algal oil also helps reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.'
3. Aides cognitive development and function.
4. Improves memory
5. Reduces inflammation
6. Improves eye health
Bottom Line: If you haven't already, give Algal oil a try. It is a great vegetarian source of DHA Omega-3s and with an infinite number of benefits for everyone from children, to adults, to seniors.
5. dr. axe