Understanding Cooking Oils – Terms and their benefits !
No meal is complete without a healthy amount of fat in it. In fact fat lends flavour, enhances digestion, ensures freshness and provides the much needed nutrition not only through its various elements but also acts as a facilitator for body to store absolutely essential vitamins like A, D, E & K. It also helps in maintaining normal core body temperature. Hence one should consume the best quality of fat one can afford since its significance cannot be overemphasized.
Here I have attempted to decode some important terms and enumerate the benefits of different types of fats / cooking oils present in our everyday food.
A. Unsaturated Fats – Polyunsaturated / Monounsaturated / Omega-3
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) / Extra virgin oils like fish oil, sunflower oils, corn and soybean should not be used for high heat cooking. PUFA reduce LLDL and increase HDL Cholesterol and help the body rid itself of newly formed cholesterol. Sunflower oil can increase sugar levels, though is good for skin (Cosmetics) due to high Vit E.
Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) is found in olives, olive and canola oil, most nuts like peanut and their oils & sesame, avocados and can be used for high temperature cooking.
Omega 3 (DHA mainly + EPA) – An essential fatty acids PUFA, is necessary for human health but the body can’t make it. It’s found in fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils.
B. Good Saturated fats & Bad Saturated Fats – Hydrogenated Transfat
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are contained in food products like butter, Ghee, dairy, or the fat on meat products. Ghee – is composed primarily of fats, but it also contains significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, Omega-3s in addition to other fatty acids like conjugated linoleic acid and butyric acid (short chain fatty acid), both of which have positive health benefits in the body. (Refer to Section E for detailed benefits of Ghee).
Medium chain fatty acids are also good saturated fats and are unique since they are not stored in appreciable amounts in body and are promptly burned as fuel. When they are ingested, fat burning increases and so does production of ketones. Coconut and palm kernel oil are uniquely rich in medium chain fatty acids (more than 50% of total fat). Milk fat (cream and butter) also deliver a decent amount medium chain fatty acids (about 20% of total fat).
Hydrogenated-Trans fat is simply liquid oils (eg palm oil) turned into solid fats during food processing. Trans fats raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. They have also been shown to have other harmful effects such as increasing triglycerides and Lp(a) lipoproteins, cause more inflammation, which is thought to occur through damage to the cells lining of blood vessels. They are present in most processed / packaged foods and should be avoided.
C. Good Omega 6 fatty acids – GLA & CLA
These essential fatty acids have many of the same benefits as Omega 3 fatty acids, but they are not as widely encouraged as those from fish sources Omega 6 fatty acids are those found in plant sources like avocadoes, nuts and flax seeds. Also present in margarines and sunflower oils, though they are good for us, consumption of too much of these fats without being balanced against an intake of foods in the omega 3 groups of foods can be unhealthy.
GLA’s help with inflammation due to arthritis and autoimmune diseases, and in maintaining healthy skin (Acne /Psoriasis) and losing weight. CLA also has anti-cancer properties and other benefits. GLA is found in borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil. CLA is found in grass fed dairy and poultry. Women especially can benefit
from these Omega 6 fatty acids as they can also help with menstrual disorders and related symptoms. CLA & GLA produce certain kinds of prostaglandins that promote healthy hormonal activity during menstrual cycles by easing and regulating blood flow and alleviating PMS.
D. Balance Hormones Naturally with Good Fats
If you’re struggling with thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, or any hormone imbalance, eat these six to naturally balance your hormones:
- Healthy Omega 9 Fats (Avocadoes, Almonds, Olive Oil)
- Short Chain Fatty Acid (Grass-fed Butter, Ghee, Organic Kefir and Yogurt)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid (Wild Caught Salmon, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Walnuts)
- Medium Chain Fatty Acid (Coconut oil and Coconut Products)
- GLA (Hemp Seeds) – good Omega 6 – may help with inflammation and to lose weight
- CLA (Grass fed dairy & Ghee and poultry) helps to reduce fat & possible anti-cancer properties– good Omega 6