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Which Cooking Oils Are Best For Heart Health?

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Coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids (mostly medium chain) that increase HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. Olive oil mainly contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that lower risk of heart disease. Sunflower oil does not contain any saturated fats and helps reduce overall cholesterol levels. Peanut oil is high in unsaturated fats, especially MUFAs.

There are many options when it comes to selecting fats and oils for cooking. Types of cooking fats and oils include, plant-based oils – such as olive oil, palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil (rapeseed oil), corn oil, peanut oil and other vegetable oils, as well as animal-based oils like butter and lard. Choosing the right cooking oil can save you from heart disease, cholesterol blockages, obesity and digestion problems.1

4 Heart-Healthy Cooking Oils

Here is a list of 4 heart-healthy cooking oils to fix your favorite recipes:

1. Coconut Oil

Physical Properties

Coconut oil is predominantly composed of saturated fatty acids (about 94%), with a good percentage (above 62%) of medium chain fatty acids.

Smoke Point

Unrefined coconut oil melts at 24-25°C (76°F) and smokes at 177°C (350°F), while refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point of 232°C (450°F). Coconut oil is slow to oxidize and thus it is resistant to rancidity, lasting upto two years due to it’s high saturated fat content.

Coconut Oil And Heart Health

Although coconut oil is predominately loaded with saturated fats, still it does not have a negative effect on cholesterol levels. Natural, non hydrogenated coconut oil tends to increase HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol and thus improve the cholesterol profile. HDL is the ‘good cholesterol’ that helps protect against heart disease.2

In a study conducted in 40 women, coconut oil reduced total and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol while increasing HDL.3

Best Way Of Using Coconut Oil For Cooking

If you prefer a stronger coconut flavor, try virgin or extra-virgin, but since, it can burn more quickly, it should be used for medium to low-heat cooking such as – sauteing, stir-frying and baking. Refined coconut oil has a high smoke point and can be used for deep frying and pan frying.

2. Olive Oil

Physical Properties

Olive oil is composed mainly of triacylglycerols (triglycerides or fats) and contains small quantities of free fatty acids (FFA), glycerol, phosphatides, pigments, flavor compounds and sterols.

Smoke Point

The temperature at which olive oil begins to break down is about 160°C or 320°F.

Olive Oil And Heart Health

The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, MUFAs have been found to lower your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.4

Studies on the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ have shown that olive oil can help prevent heart disease. In one major study, it reduced heart attacks, strokes and death by 30%.5

Best Way Of Using Olive Oil For Cooking

Olive oil can be used for grilling, sautéing and roasting. It can also be used as spreads for breads and base for Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes. Use extra virgin olive oil in salads or to add to cooked foods, but not for high temperature cooking.

3. Sunflower Oil

Physical Properties

One tablespoon serving of sunflower oil has 8.9 grams of linoleic acid, which is an omega-six polyunsaturated fatty acid that is an essential part of a healthy diet. It provides 5.6 milligrams of alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant in your body.

Smoke Point

The temperature at which unrefined sunflower oil begins to break down is about 107°C or 225°F and semi-refined sunflower oil breaks down at 232°C or 450°F.

Sunflower Oil And Heart Health

The balance of fatty acids found in sunflower oil, including a good amount of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) is very good. Sunflower oil does not contain any saturated fats; which means that it can actually help reduce the overall cholesterol levels in your body.

Low cholesterol levels reduces your risk of developing atherosclerosis – which clogs arteries, raises blood pressure, and increases your chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Sunflower oil is also rich in certain phytochemicals like choline and phenolic acid that are beneficial for your heart-health.6

Best Way Of Using Sunflower Oil For Cooking

Refined sunflower oil is used for low-to-extremely-high-temperature cooking. Unrefined sunflower oil is a traditional salad dressing. Some common snack foods usually contain sunflower oil, such as potato chips.

Note – Seek out high-oleic versions of sunflower oil, which are higher in monounsaturated fat.7

4. Peanut Oil

Physical Properties

The major fatty acids of peanut oil are palmitic, oleic and linoleic acids. Peanut oil is high in unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fat, like olive oil.8

Smoke Point

The temperature at which refined peanut oil begins to break down is about 232°C or 450°F.

Peanut Oil And Heart Health

Peanut oil is one of the healthiest oils that can be used for cooking. It lowers your cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease. Peanut oil is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin E and phytosterols, which benefit heart-health.9

Best Way Of Using Peanut Oil For Cooking

It is one of the cooking oils with a high smoke point. The property can be employed in setting oil temperatures while deep-frying food items. It is also widely used for cooking purposes for it’s aromatic flavor. It has a great taste suitable, especially for addition in dressing, frying, and sauteing.

No matter which type of oil you use, you should remember that oil is a fat, and are rich in calories. So, it is advisable to use the least amount of fat possible to prepare your foods while still getting the greatest amount of taste and health benefits.

References   [ + ]

1.http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf
2.http://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/news-blogs-stories/press-releases/coconut-oil-and-the-heart
3.Coconut oil – Learn more about this superfood that contains healthful saturated fats, Aglaée Jacob, MS, RD, CDE,
 Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 15 No. 10 P. 56, October 2013 Issue, accessed 11 September 2014
4.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8517637
5.http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
6.Skorić D, Jocić S, Sakac Z, Lecić N (2008). “Genetic possibilities for altering sunflower oil quality to obtain novel oils”. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 86 (4): 215–21.http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/Y08-008?journalCode=cjpp#.Vtc-otBcPIU
7.http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/10/heart-healthy-cooking-oils-101/
8.http://www.academia.edu/7121662/Physicochemical_characteristics_functional_properties_and_nutritional_benefits_of_peanut_oil_a_review
9.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24580558
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.