Oils: Which one is best for me?

By Brittany Buchanan
Sept. 11, 2017 at 9:06 p.m.
Updated Sept. 11, 2017 at 9:14 p.m.

Brittany Buchanan

Brittany Buchanan   CONTRIBUTED PHOTO for The Victoria Advocate

By Brittany Buchanan

Have you ever wondered why there are so many oils in the grocery store? Do you walk down the aisles and wonder whether the new claims stating coconut oil is good for you are true? Or that canola oil is really unhealthy?

Let's break it down.

To start, it's good to know fat is a fat. The caloric breakdown is about 9 calories per gram no matter whether you're eating the worst of the worst or this week's best.

It is always good to look for oils that are organic because these are grown without pesticides or other harmful materials.

Cold-pressed and expeller-pressed are becoming more popular as well, and these terms mean the oils aren't chemically forced or shocked at a high temperature to come out of the product.

For many people, the smoke point is critical too. If you are frying chicken, you're not going to want to use an oil such as walnut oil that can't go above 200 degrees Fahrenheit because it won't cook the chicken thoroughly and will start to burn. You're going to want to use an oil that can get higher, like avocado oil, which can get to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Extra virgin olive oil, 77 percent monounsaturated-400 degrees Fahrenheit, is considered the healthiest because it has a high amounts of antioxidants and is considered an anti-inflammatory. Use extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressings, and use the virgin or pure olive oil for roasting, baking and frying.

Flaxseed oil, 73 percent polyunsaturated-225 degrees Fahrenheit, has a high amount of omega-3s. However, this oil can go bad pretty fast. It is recommended to be stored in the fridge and to use for homemade mayonnaise or salad dressings.

Canola oil, 61 percent monounsaturated-400 degrees Fahrenheit, also has a high amount of omega-3s. It is also resistant to breakdown from high temperatures. However, it is typically genetically modified.

Avocado oil, 71 percent monounsaturated-500 degrees Fahrenheit, is loaded with vitamin E. Avocado oil can be a good alternative for peanut oil or other high smoke point oils used for frying. It can get costly but is high in good fats.

Walnut oil, 63 percent polyunsaturated-200 degrees Fahrenheit, has a good ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s. Because of its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, it is more prone to rancidity - similar to flaxseed oil.

Sesame oil, 39.7 percent monounsaturated and 42 percent polyunsaturated-400 degrees Fahrenheit, has a poor ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. There is also not much nutritional value coming from this fat.

Peanut oil, 48 percent monounsaturated and 34 percent polyunsaturated-450 degrees Fahrenheit, is a good oil for deep frying. It is usually chemically extracted from the peanut, so pick a peanut oil that says "roasted," "toasted" or "expeller pressed."

Sunflower oil, 72 percent polyunsaturated-400 degrees Fahrenheit - you may think that this oil should have a low smoke point like the other high polyunsaturated fats, but you'd be mistaken. It has a neutral flavor that some people like but has mostly omega-6s.

Palm fruit, 39 percent monounsaturated and 50 percent saturated-450 degrees Fahrenheit, has a lot of vitamin E and is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene. However, look for red palm fruit oil because it has a longer shelf life. It does have a higher content of saturated fat, which is currently on the radar as being unhealthy.

Grape seed oil, 70 percent polyunsaturated-390 degrees Fahrenheit, is made from grapes after wine production. It has a high amount of omega-6s and not many omega-3s. Because it is used for wine, there is a chance of PAHs, which is expressed in charred foods. Look for grape seed oil that says "organic" on the label.

Coconut oil, 92 percent saturated-350 degrees Fahrenheit, is the current bandwagon to jump on. It is an excellent source of medium-chain-fatty acids that are burned by the liver for energy instead of being stored as fat. Based on current research, it is obvious that not all saturated fats are the same. Coconut oil is natural but can still be harmful to one's health in an unhealthy diet. From a heart perspective, it can't compete with unsaturated fats, such as extra virgin olive oil.

Soybean and vegetable oils, 61 percent polyunsaturated-450 degrees Fahrenheit, is dirt cheap and are considered the worst oils to use. These oils are always refined and are in processed foods to extend shelf life and are mostly genetically modified.

Corn oil, 62 percent polyunsaturated-450 degrees Fahrenheit, has a 49:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3. The goal is a 4:1 ratio. Corn oil is usually genetically modified as well.

When picking your oils, first know what you'll be using it for. Whether you're using it for salad dressing, making cookies or frying chicken you can use this list to figure out what is best for you nutritionally and for your meal.

Brittany Buchanan is a dietetic intern with the Victoria Women, Infants and Children Program.


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