Meet the Heart Healthier Trio of Oils

Have you ever heard the myth that all fats are unhealthy and bad for you? Fats actually play an essential role in our bodies; they are a source of energy that transports fat-soluble vitamins to protect our vital organs. Hence, they are an essential component in our diet. Overconsumption of fats, however, could contribute to high blood cholesterol and obesity, and consequently threatens heart health.

Oils are pure fat, but there are heart-healthier options thanks to the wide variety of cooking oils available at the supermarket. Healthier cooking oils are made predominantly from good fats. Good fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, help improve heart health by lowering total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels in our bodies; this only happens when good fats are eaten in moderation.

Conversely, bad fats, also known as saturated and trans-fat, raise LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and lower HDL (‘good’) cholesterol; thus increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke. Foods rich in good fats include vegetable oils (e.g., sunflower oils, canola oils, olive oils), nuts and seeds, avocados, and fatty fish such as salmon, Spanish mackerel, sardine, etc.

Sunflower, canola and olive oils are healthier cooking oils that are not only rich in good fats, but also boast heart-healthy properties.

 

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil contains vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects the cells from free-radical damage. Its high smoke point and neutral flavour make it versatile for different cooking methods and ideal for regular cooking and frying.

It is important to note the smoke point of the different oils as it refers to the temperature at which the oil starts to break down and burn; this produces smoke and an unpleasant taste. Heating oils beyond their smoke point and reusing oils may produce free radicals that are harmful to the body.

 

Canola Oil

Canola oil is rich in heart-healthy fats and Omega-3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid that cannot be produced by the human body. Omega-3 fatty acid, which has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular events, is also found in flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds.

Canola oil is an ideal choice for general cooking because of its neutral taste, light texture and high smoke point; this oil is perfect for baking and even stir-frying.

 

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is processed without the use of chemicals or heat. Consequently, it protects a plant-based compound called phenols. Phenols have anti-inflammatory and antioxidants, which are known to reduce disease progression, including heart diseases.

One of the most flavourful oils, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent salad dressing, base for marinades and a flavour enhancer. Opt for pure or extra light olive oil that has a higher smoke point and a lighter flavour, both of which are suitable for most cooking methods, including frying.

Healthier cooking oils should still be used sparingly and in moderation, as fats are a concentrated source of calories; overconsumption of oils could result in weight gain and leave a negative impact on blood cholesterol levels. Be conscious of the type and amount of fats you consume, and where possible, replace bad fats with good fats in moderation to manage blood cholesterol levels for a healthier and stronger heart!

 

This article was first published on Singapore Heart Foundation’s website here.