By Connie Jeske Crane
This may be the best news you’ve heard in a long time. “Fat-free” is overrated. Truth is, our bodies need a certain amount fat—in fact, some fats have spectacular health benefits. If that’s not enough, stepping out on your bottle of canola oil is delicious fun.
Here is our list of five healthy oils you should introduce into your diet. Each offers many yummy meal possibilities. Go forth, and experiment.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Benefits – As respected health and wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil tells fans on his website, “Olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil. Quality olive oil also contains abundant antioxidants, substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.”
Among many more benefits, research indicates olive oil protects the liver from oxidative stress and has anti-inflammatory properties. That makes canola oil a “distant runner-up”, according to Dr. Weil, who far prefers good quality olive oil as a primary dietary fat.
Buying tips – To avoid buying diluted or fraudulent products, look for organic and/or certified oils. In general, “cold-pressed” oils preserve health benefits, while refined oils, created by using chemicals, do not.
Uses – In marinades, sautéing and frying, salad dressings, and on pasta.
Benefits – This oil has a similar fat composition to olive oil and similar benefits. Mexican researcher Christian Cortes-Rojo recently said avocado oil “could eventually be referred to as the olive oil of the Americas.” Even better though, this oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it’s great for cooking.
Uses – Try it in salad dressings, and to fry fish, chicken, sweet potatoes or plantains.
Benefits – Linked to lower triglycerides which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Walnuts and walnut oil are also believed to counter high blood pressure.
Uses – Cooking destroys essential fatty acids in walnut oil, warns dietician Leslie Beck in the Globe & Mail. Instead, use it in salad dressings, or to finish a chicken or fish dish.
Benefits – This oil is low in saturated fats, and high in flavor. It also helps cut cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, according to Dr. Weil.
Buying tips – Rather than light oil, Dr. Weil advises buying the darker Asian-style toasted-sesame oil.
Uses – High heat causes sesame oil to oxidize, so use it primarily at the end of cooking to liven up stir fries, noodle dishes, or soups.
Benefits – Fish oil is a rich source of two essential omega-3 fatty acids called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). It’s the one oil on this list you don’t cook with. Rather, it’s found in the fatty tissues of cold water, oily fish. If you don’t eat fish, you can also get fish oil in supplement form.
On his website, Dr. Weil lists some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. They support heart health and are “thought to play an important role in normal brain development and function.” Research also indicates omega-3s reduce inflammation and related disorders such as “heart attack, stroke, several forms of cancer and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.” Finally, omega-3s may also benefit people with high cholesterol, diabetes, PMS symptoms, memory loss, and ADHD.
Buying tips – Choose wild-caught cold water fish such as Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and black cod. If using a supplement, choose a reputable, independently tested brand.
About the Author: Connie Jeske Crane is based in Toronto and frequently writes about health and wellness, green living, and parenting.