One of my foodie obsessions is collecting various oils and enjoying the pizzazz they add to a dish. It’s amazing how a splash of sesame oil can instantly bring a dish to life. Or (my personal favorite), the way a drizzle of basil olive oil can freshen up a bowl of lettuce, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. A lovely reminder of warmer summer months. Sigh.
When it comes to nutrition, there are some oils that are simply better choices than others, based on the type of fat they contain. While all oils have a mixture of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats, some have a higher percentage of the heart healthy fats than others. Read on to learn more about some healthy oils and how to use them.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
High in monounsaturated fats, extra-virgin olive oil is considered one of the healthiest oils in the market place, and it has long been studied for its heart healthy benefits. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats can reduce our LDL’s (e.g., “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides while raising our HDL’s (e.g., “good” cholesterol.)
How To Use: Thanks to its fruity, bold flavor, it’s perfect to use as a base for homemade salad dressings or on pasta salads. It also tastes great as a dipping oil. Olive oil is best used in cold dishes.
Low in saturated fat and high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, canola oil is one of the healthiest oil choices. Canola oil contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that helps to reduce inflammation.
How To Use: Canola oil makes a great choice in baking, cooking, stir frying, etc. Consider it your go-to oil for all your basic cooking needs. Unlike olive oil, canola oil is neutral in flavor and won’t add any distinct flavor to the foods it’s cooked with.
High in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, avocado oil has a sweet but subtle flavor. Monounsaturated fats offer the most heart healthy benefits when they replace saturated fats. Consider choosing a cold-pressed avocado oil which is less processed which helps the oil retain a higher level of antioxidants.
How To Use: Avocado oil has a very low smoke point which means that it is not suited for high-heat cooking. Try drizzling a tsp of oil over quinoa, brown rice, etc. and add a scoop of salsa for a tasty side dish. Or use as a yummy salad dressing with some balsamic vinegar.
Although not as common in most people’s homes, this oil has more monounsaturated fats than olive oil. In other words, it’s worth adding to your pantry!! Hazelnut oil also has a high smoke point which means it’s a great oil choice to use for all your high heat cooking needs.
How To Use: Hazelnut oil has a bold, nutty flavor. It tastes great in stir-fries and can also be used in grilling, roasting, baking, etc. Use in dishes where a nutty flavor will complement your dish.
A Few Final Words…
- Replacing saturated fats (e.g., butter, cream, etc.) with mono- and polyunsaturated fats is always a good choice for heart health.
- Fats are high in calories but they are also essential for our health. Some vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed when we consume fat.
- While oils are great for cooking, salad dressings, etc., many of us get fat from the foods that we eat as well (e.g., peanut butter, salmon, avocado, nuts, etc.)
- Fat adds pleasure, flavor and mouth feel to food, while also keeping us full throughout the day.