Does the oil you use really matter?
Walk into any supermarket and you will get lost in the sea of cooking oils. Everything can be turned into an old now and it all comes with a reason why it's far superior than the rest…But is it? Does it really matter which oil you use to cook with? Growing up, Olive oil was the only thing I knew. My family is not the most culturally Italian, but we loved the way olive oil tasted on our food. So by force of habit that is all I knew. Now, thanks to marketing and modern technology you can get oil from Avocados, peanuts, corn, soybeans, your car…? Just kidding about the last one, but the point is that you have some options. In this post, we will discuss the differences between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated oils. We will we take a look at some studies and see the different effects they can have on your body. Most importantly, we will see which ones, if any, actually do anything for you. Before we dive into the research I want to ask you a question. Out of the following oils, which do you think is the healthiest and why?
- -Olive oil
- -Avocado oil
Think about those options as you’re reading this. Now, let's take a deeper dive and figure out what being an oil really means.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
You have 3 basic oils to choose from. Technically four, but no one would choose to cook with trans fats so I’m going to leave that out.
Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meats and dairy products. Plant sources carry trace amounts as well, like coconut and palm oils. They are generally solid at room temperature due to their chemical make up. In the image above you’ll see that saturated fats have no double bonds or “kinks” in their structure. Because of this they can stack compactly on top of each other and remain solid at room temperature.
Contain a single double bond which creates a kink in its structure (also pictured above). The structure prevents it from stacking neatly, which is why it’s found as a liquid at room temperature. This includes things like avocado, olive, canola, and peanut. The results are that they can help improve your blood lipid profile, which helps with cholesterol levels.
Having two double bonds this thing is just crooked. Vegetable oils like soybean are usually high in this fat as well as sunflower and grapeseed oils. They also include your Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, are not produced naturally in body, need to be eaten through diet and aid in fighting inflammation.
At the end of the day most oils have a combination of all three of these types. So you can’t completely get away from any one of these. There is also no calorie difference between these. A gram of fat will always be nine calories. So don’t let that affect which one you buy. Where does the difference lie, then? Well that is the debate we are about to enter. Some oils have different smoking points for cooking. Some have a different taste. Some have a different antioxidants. Let's take a look at the ones listed above and see how they stack up against each other.
- -High in monounsaturated fat: 77% unsaturated fat, 14% saturated fat, 9% polyunsaturated.
- -A tad bit pricey
- -Contains antioxidants called “polyphenols” which have some evidence suggesting they may improve heart health. (Study)
- -Can’t withstand high heat well.
- -Also high in monounsaturated fat: 70% monounsaturated, 20% polyunsaturated, 10% saturated.
- -A tad bit pricier
- -Can withstand high heat well. Suitable for grilling, roasting, dressing, and sautéing
- -High in monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. (49% monounsaturated/33% polyunsaturated/18% saturated)
- -can withstand high heat.
- -High in monounsaturated: 62% monounsaturated, 32% polyunsaturated, 6% saturated.
- -One of few oils that contain Omega-3 fats, an essential fatty acid.
- -inexpensive, well versatile for cooking.
- -High in saturated fat: 92% saturated, 6% monounsaturated, 2% polyunsaturated. usually used as a substitute for regular butter despite having more saturated fat for the same amount. Butter is 52% saturated fat, 20% monounsaturated, and 3% polyunsaturated.
- -Not suitable for high heat cooking
- -Contains medium chain triglyderides (MCT). A study found that MCT supplements were better at promoting satiation than coconut oil. So, while you may not get all the benefits of MCT from coconut oil, it is something worthwhile looking at.
- -primarily polyunsaturated oil: 61% polyunsaturated, 24% monounsaturated, 15% saturated.
- -Contains omega-3 fats.
- -doesn’t have much taste.
- -can withstand high heat.
Are you noticing a theme here? All of the oils above have a blend of all three types of fats. Some have more omega-3 fatty acids, some have higher smoking points, some have different tastes. They’re all very, very similar though. Even coconut oil, when compared to regular butter is very similar.
Now, you may be asking yourself, shouldn’t I just choose the one that has the least amount of saturated fat? That used to be the case before. With new research comes new theories on saturated fat's role on heart disease and inflammation. One study found a diet high in saturated fat does increase risk factors for heart disease. It does not increase your risk of getting heart disease. This is likely due to the fact that heart disease is not based on a single factor. Saturated fat may play a role in it, but not an apparent one.
Most of your cooking oils are essentially the same thing. With similar compositions of each type of fat. Coconut oil has a similar composition to butter with a hint of MCT. You don’t rely on oils to get all of your healthy fats in your diet. Rely on vegetables, nuts, and meats to get most of your dietary fat. Don’t stress on which oil to buy. If you’re looking to cut dairy out of your life, coconut oil is a similar substitute. If you feel you don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids, then try some canola or soybean. The only thing it really comes down to is taste and smoking point. So when you go to buy your next cooking oil, ask yourself: “what the hell am I going to cook with this?"