Not All Oils Are Created Equally

When it comes to cooking oil, not all oils are the same due to the various fat compositions. When comparing various oils, the best method is to determine which oils have the highest amounts of “good” fats (monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids) versus the oils with the highest amounts of “bad” fats (saturated fatty acids). The oils with a higher percentage of good fats may help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, while the bad fats have the opposite effect.

Extra virgin olive oil tops the charts as one of the healthiest oils to consume. In addition to being comprised of 88% good fats, it is one of the few unrefined oils. This means that the oil is extracted from the fruit via a machine without the use of chemical agents. Therefore, the antioxidants from the fresh olives are transferred to the oil. Olive oil is best used with Italian breads, salad dressings, marinades and sautéing (if you do not mind a slight olive taste).

The neutral-flavored canola oil is second on my list, since it is the vegetable oil with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which is linked to heart health. Canola oil assumes the taste of the foods it is cooked with, making it a good choice for baking, grilling, frying and sautéing.

When storing oils, remember that light, temperature and air result in the rancidity of the flavor and color of the oil. Once opened, olive oil typically is good for up to a year, while canola lasts for six to eight months. However, the best judge is your nose—if it has an “off” smell, then it is time to discard. When discarding, pouring oil down your skin can clog your pipes, so pour it into a spill-proof container, and discard with the rest of your garbage.

Even though olive oil and canola oil contain good fats, portion control is essential in maintaining your waistline, as oil is high in calories. Try to limit your oil consumption to one to two tablespoons of oil each day. Remember, moderation is key, so measure out your oil, and know you are doing your body a favor!

By Laura Oliver, MS, RD 

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