Oils contain fats which are a very important part of our diet. However, the type of fat they contain would determine if they are the most healthy for us. There are so many brands, advertisement and advice out there, it can get a little confusing which to buy. In this article I'm going to simplify what makes one bottle of oil healthier than the other, so you can make your decisions based on actual fact and not false information or pressure from adverts.
Firstly, the issue with oils isn't the cholesterol. ALL oils from plant origin, be it palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, soya oil and so on, DO NOT contain cholesterol. It is therefore not an important factor in picking which oil is healthy, since there's no difference in that respect. (By the way cholesterol found in foods, do not pose a threat to the cholesterol levels in your blood, so yes, even egg yolk is fine, in moderation)
So how can we differentiate?
The type of fats they contain and how much of it they contain. There are two types of fat:
- Saturated fat: this is the "unhealthy fat" that actually increases your blood levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Unsaturated fats: these are the healthy fats, that help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood, while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL). They are further divided into:
- Mono-unsaturated fats (MUFs) – can be found in olive, groundnut, safflower, canola, safflower oils, avocados, nuts (peanut, cashew, almonds and so on)
- Poly-unsaturated fats (PUFs) – soybean, sun and corn oils, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
So when picking oils, you want to look at the nutrition labels and pick oils that have much less saturated fat than unsaturated fats. Check out this example below. Note that, some labels only state the amount of "saturates", calculate the amount of unsaturated fat, by subtracting the amount of saturates from the total amount of fat.
Using this analysis, oil A is healthier than B, because oil A, has just 2g of saturates out of its total of 13g, while oil B has 7g out of its total of 14g as saturated fat. So I hope you get the gist, and you can now decipher if a cooking oil is good for you even though you've never heard of it.
Enjoy your shopping!
For more insightful information on all you need to know concerning eating healthy or for a practical step-by-step dietary guide, you can get our book What Should I be Eating?