Good fat vs Bad fat

It’s no secret that a diet high in fat has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and numerous other ailments. However, our bodies need fat (a recommended 3 tablespoons per day) as an energy source, so picking the right kind of fats is crucial.

Another fairly well known fact these days is that good fats include monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, while bad fats are saturated fats and hydrogenated oils. In The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murry, N. D., Joseph Pizzorno, N. D., and Lara Pizzorno, M. A., L. M. T. pose the question, “What makes saturated fats and most margarines ‘bad’ and monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids ‘good?'” They take the time to answer this question at the molecular level, but what it comes down to is that our cellular membranes are composed mostly of fatty acids. Just about every disease can be traced to abnormal cell membrane structure (from ‘bad’ fats), while eating the proper amount of the ‘good’ fats can actually prevent disease. Yes, a diet low in fat is important, but the type of fat we consume is just as important and should be closely monitored.

Recently I’ve been noticing how many different types of cooking oils have been accumulating in my cabinets and refrigerator. It’s a little bit overwhelming, and I never know which one to choose. For a while now I’ve been curious as to the benefits and detriments of each greasy bottle. Why use olive oil over canola oil? Is peanut oil a good choice? Here are my findings.

Oils that I own

Canola Oil

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  • Extracted from rapeseeds that originally contain a toxic oil which is removed
  • High in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low in saturated fats
  • High in monounsaturated fats
  • Medium range smoking point makes it safe for exposure to heat, but is most commonly used in baking. As in most oils, the smoking point changes with refined/unrefined varieties
  • Neutral flavor

Olive Oil

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  • Low in saturated fat
  • High in a certain monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid
  • High in antioxidants
  • Reduces LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein)*
  • Increases HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein)*
  • Choose the least processed form with the most flavor–extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil is fairly stable, and can be used when exposing foods to heat, but due to a medium range smoking point, should not be used in very high heat situations.
  • Olive oil is fantastic as is for salads, bread, etc.
  • The stronger flavor isn’t always appropriate for baked goods.

*High LDL cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis causing heart attack and stroke. High HDL cholesterol returns fats to the liver “for use as energy and for excretion.”The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

Grapeseed Oil

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  • Low in saturated fat
  • High in antioxidants
  • Neutral flavor
  • High smoking point allows for cooking at higher temperatures
  • Higher in polyunsaturated fats than monounsaturated fats

Peanut Oil

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  • Low in saturated fat
  • High in monounsaturated fat
  • High smoking point
  • Although derived from peanuts, I find the flavor to be neutral

Sesame Oil

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  • Low in saturated fat
  • Higher in polyunsaturated fat than monounsaturated fat
  • Best for for medium-heat situations unless you have light sesame oil
  • Strong flavor makes it great for dressings

Earth Balance–a vegan, non-hydrogenated butter spread

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  • Non hydrogenated
  • No trans fats
  • Higher amounts of saturated fat than the previous oils
  • Equal amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
  • Great for baking
  • Butter-like flavor
  • Use sparingly

Oils that I should own

Coconut Oil

  • Appears high in saturated fat
  • Actually short- to medium-chain saturated fat which our bodies process in a better way (animal products generally contain long-chain saturated fat)
  • This form of saturated fat is much more immediately burned as energy and has been shown to enhance weight loss through the increased burning of calories
  • Lower levels of polyunsaturated fats
  • Remains stable at high temperatures
  • Reduces LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol
  • Mild coconut flavor
  • Be sure to avoid hydrogenated forms and purchase virgin coconut oil

Macadamia Oil

  • Natural antioxidants
  • Stable at high temperatures
  • Higher in monounsaturated fats than olive oil
  • Low in saturated fats
  • Subtle flavor
  • Reduces LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol

Flaxseed Oil

  • Very high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats
  • Because of a low smoking point, it is recommended to avoid cooking with flaxseed oil. Use it in salads!
  • Low in saturated fats
  • Subtle flavor
  • Too many health benefits to list here!

Oils to stay away from

Cottonseed Oil

  • Cotton is heavily sprayed with pesticides resulting in toxic residues entering the oil
  • Contains gossypol which inhibits sperm function
  • High in omega-6 fatty acids

Hydrogenated Oils

  • In simplified terms, unsaturated fat is made more saturated
  • Result is a solid or semi solid product like margarine and shortening
  • High in saturated fats and contains trans fats

Sunflower, Soybean, Safflower, and Corn Oils

  • While these are all relatively low in saturated fats, Canola oil contains lower amounts
  • These oils are way too high in omega-6 oils which Americans generally consume too much of
  • An oil simply labeled Vegetable Oil is often a combination of these oils and others

When choosing cooking oils, there are many healthy options out there. After reviewing some of the most common oils, I think that I’ll mostly stick to canola and olive oil and add coconut oil, macadamia oil, and flaxseed oil to my pantry.

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One response to “Good fat vs Bad fat

  1. You did not mention truffle oil or other flavored oils yummy

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