Whether you’re sauteing onions or dressing a salad, there are lots of cooking oil options out there. But, it’s important to note that not all oils are made the same. Some oils, such as certain vegetable oils, are highly processed and may actually wreak havoc on your health. Read below to learn why certain vegetable oils are terrible for your health and which alternatives you can use instead.
Vegetable Oils: Not All The Same
Vegetable oil refers to any oil that is derived from a vegetable. Canola and olive oil are both technically vegetable oils. The difference, however, lies in how these two oils are made.
Healthy Oil Options For Your Diet
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted through the natural process of cold-pressing. It’s as simple as it sounds. Olives are pressed under high pressure without the use of heat to extract their oil. That’s it. End of process.1,2
Cold-pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil don’t receive any sort of chemical treatment that may modify the vitamins and nutrients in the oil. This natural process keeps all the healthy fats and nutrients intact for your body and benefit.3,4
Unhealthy Oil Options
Vegetable oils like canola oil are made through a complicated refining process. The vegetables and ingredients undergo chemical procedures such as bleaching, deodorizing, and degumming. Through these chemical processes, many of the nutrients are stripped away. The basic rule is this: the more processing an oil has undergone, the fewer nutrients it has.5
For many years, canola oil was used as an industrial lubricant. Scientists and plant breeders had to modify the rapeseed used to make the oil to reduce the erucic acid, a non-essential fatty acid, to a point below 5% before it became a common food oil.6 Additionally, almost 90% of the crops used for canola oil are now genetically modified.7 This speaks to how much chemistry and science play a role in making these oils.
Why Is Vegetable Oil Bad For You?
Refining vegetable oil actually changes the molecular make-up of the natural fats in the oil. A process known as hydroginization transforms normal saturated fats into trans fatty acids. Your body doesn’t even recognize these kinds of saturated fats and can’t absorb them correctly. The FDA determined that these types of saturated fats are not a safe food. That’s largely because trans fats from hydrogenated oil may increase bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.8
What To Look For In An Oil: Good Fats Vs Bad Fats
Not all fat is bad for you. Recent studies suggest what matters more is the type of fats you eat, rather than how high or low the fat content is. Unsaturated fats, like polyunsaturated fats, are actually good for you and may support heart health.9
On the other hand, the trans fats found in canola can be quite unhealthy. Trans fat forms in vegetable oils only after the hydrogenation process. This scientific process actually turns unsaturated fats into trans fats. These fats occur rarely in nature and are supposedly responsible for increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) which can damage arteries and lead to heart-related issues.10
That’s why you want an oil that contains polyunsaturated fats or monounsaturated fats, instead of trans fats. These fats contain healthy linoleic and oleic acid which can support healthy cholesterol levels and heart health. Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.11,12
Note: Lots of processed foods have canola oil and other hydrogenated vegetable oils in them. The oils and shortenings present in processed foods like cookies, crackers, and cakes contribute a large percentage of trans fats in many diets.13
Alternative Oil Options
The good news for your diet is that there are lots of great oil options out there. Check out these oils and all their great health benefits below.
Rice Bran Oil
This oil is made from the outside layer of rice. One study dubbed rice bran oil a “heart oil” because of its many cardiovascular benefits. The primary compounds in rice bran offer many potential health benefits, including a nice dose of antioxidants.14
Coconut oil contains lots of healthy saturated fat. Your body absorbs these fatty acids in a way that may help support energy levels as well as healthy cholesterol levels.15 Research suggests that the consumption of coconut oil has even been shown to encourage weight loss.16
The avocado produces much more than delicious guacamole. It also makes a delightful and healthy oil. The lipids present in avocado oil help enhance the body’s ability to absorb carotenoids.17 These antioxidants work to destabilize free radicals.18
This oil boasts a high smoking point, which makes it a good cooking substitute. Plus, it’s loaded with vitamin E. The antioxidants in this compound may help fight off free radicals and support the immune system. It also contains lots of healthy fatty acids, like linoleic acid.19,20
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is the queen of the cold-pressed oils and a wonderful substitute for canola. Olive oil is comprised almost entirely of healthy fatty acids, like oleic acid, which do everything from promote heart health to provide beneficial antioxidants.21
Processed vegetable oils may actually create bad cholesterol. Olive oil, on the other hand, may actually support healthy cholesterol levels.22
If weight loss is your goal, then adding MCT oil into your diet might be a good idea. The name stands for “medium-chain triacylglycerols”, which means that the chains of fatty acids in this oil are shorter than the long-chains found in most oils. As such, the body absorbs and burns these fats differently.23
It’s believed that these shorter chain fatty acids can help reduce appetite which may keep weight gain under control.24 And, MCT oils are shown to provide more fat-burning energy than other oils.25
Lots Of Delicious Options
Removing canola oil and other processed vegetable oils from your diet is easy and well worth it. There are all sorts of great oil choices available that offer health benefits instead of health risks.
Take the time to find the ones that are right for your kitchen and your health. A good oil can do more than make your food taste great. It can also help support a healthy immune system, cholesterol levels, and heart health. And, that’s something both your body and your palate will like.
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