JUN
12

Healthy Oils Part 1: Choosing Your Oils Wisely

Sunset’s selection of oils ranges from the familiar to the exotic. While there are many different types, not all oils are created equal. Each type of oil is unique, with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The right oil for you depends on how you’re using it, your taste preferences, and what sort of health benefits you’re looking for. Here are some tips for choosing wisely.

Types of oils

Fats matter
Each type of oil has a different mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Each of these fatty acids has a different effect on our health. Here’s what each of them do:

  • Saturated Fat is sometimes referred to as “bad” fat that have been shown to raise “bad” LDL cholesterol, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke. Use these fats in moderation.

    Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and usually come in the form of animal products like red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream. Coconut oil and palm oil are exceptions to this rule, as they are plant sources of saturated fat. Unlike other plant-based fats, they are solid at room temperature.

  • Monounsaturated Fat (MUFA) is considered “good” fat. They have been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats are associated with a decreased risk in cardiovascular disease. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil, and peanut oil are all good sources of monounsaturated fats. Oils that include the term “high-oleic” on their label have been modified to contain more monounsaturated fat. This is common for safflower and sunflower oils.

  • Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) is also considered “good” fat that has a positive effect on our cardiovascular system. These fats are liquid at room temperature. Many oils are mostly polyunsaturated fats. These include: corn, flaxseed, grape seed, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower, and walnut oils.

At this point, we’re not exactly sure what the most beneficial ratio of MUFA to PUFA is.  We do know they’re both good for us, and replacing saturated fats with MUFA and PUFA improves cardiovascular health.

Mind your omegas
Omega-3s and omega-6s are two types of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body, whereas omega-6s promotes inflammation Both are essential to the body, meaning the human body can’t make them and they must come from food. However, Americans tend to eat way too much omega-6s and not enough omega-3. A favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio reduces risk of inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, type II diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Omega-6s are found soy oil, corn oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil, which are often used to make popular processed foods like cookies, crackers, and chips. Oils that are good sources of omega-3s, like canola oil, walnut oil, and flax oil, are less popular, though healthier choices.

Know your smoke point
Not all oils can take the heat. When cooking with oil, smoke point is important. The smoke point is the temperature at which oil will begin to smoke. At this point, the oil chemically breaks down and produces free radicals that are harmful to health. Oils that are heated past their smoke point may also impart bitter, unpleasant flavors. High smoke point oils, like avocado oil and safflower oil, are best for high-heat cooking like grilling, frying, and stir-frying. Save low smoke point oils, like walnut oil and flaxseed oil, for salad dressings and garnishes.

Refined vs. unrefined
Oils come in refined or unrefined versions. Refined oils will say so on the label. Unrefined oils may use terms like “cold pressed” or “virgin” on their label. The more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point. This is because the refining process removes impurities that cause the oil to smoke. Because these impurities also serve as flavor compounds, refined oils have a more neutral taste. For example, choose refined coconut oil when you don’t want your dish to taste like coconut.

Choosing refined oils is a nutritional trade-off, however, as refined oils have fewer nutrients. For example, the “impurities” found in extra-virgin olive oil not only give olive oil its bold, botanical flavors, but are also antioxidants.

Savor the flavor 
Some oils have a neutral flavor that makes them versatile in the kitchen. Mild-tasting oils include canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, and “light” (light in color and taste, not in calories) olive oil. Others lend themselves to bold flavors that can transform your meal. For example, avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra-virgin olive oil are fruity in flavor (unless they’ve been refined). Flaxseed oil and walnut oil have nutty and earthy flavors. Use peanut oil or sesame oil when you’re going for bold Asian-inspired flavors.

There’s so much to consider when shopping for oil! Here’s a handy chart to help you make the wisest choice in the aisle.

Oil comparison chart

Check back later this week for more tips on choosing and storing oils properly. 

Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN 847.681.5523 courtney@sunsetfoods.com

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JUN
09

Dietitian's Pick: Carlson Lemon Fish Oil

When it comes to meeting nutrient needs, I take a “food first” approach. But where food comes up short, supplements can help fill in those nutritional gaps. I wanted to take a minute to express my enthusiasm for Carlson fish oils: one of the only supplements I take.  

To meet our needs for omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA omega-3’s, we must eat fish at least twice a week. EPA and DHA are responsible for reducing inflammation, promoting healthy brains, hearts, skin, and eyes, even improving our mood. Cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are all excellent source of omegas. However, fish may not always work itself into our diet with that twice-a-week frequency. For diets light in seafood, a good fish oil supplement comes in handy.Carlson fish oil

Because adulteration in the supplement industry is a growing concern, brand reputation matters—especially for fish oil. Nordic Naturals and Carlson are two highly reputable fish oil brands that come to mind. Both products are superior in quality. If you’re interested in a taking a soft-gel capsule, either choice is a good one. Personally, I favor the versatility and (surprisingly!) pleasant taste of Carlson’s ‘The Very Finest’ lemon flavored fish oil liquid.

In addition to taste, I appreciate Carlson’s fish oil for its ratio of EPA and DHA. While there’s no official recommendation for which ratio is preferred, keep in mind that EPA and DHA play different roles in the body. EPA has stronger heart, mood, and joint health benefits, whereas DHA promotes brain development, memory, and cognition. At 800mg EPA and 500mg DHA per teaspoon, Carlson’s product has a healthy balance of the two. Though every fish oil supplement is different; if you have specific health concerns, choose one with a ratio that favors the benefits you’re looking for.

I enjoy making a quick lemon balsamic vinaigrette dressing with Carlson’s lemon fish oil. My recipe is simple: 1 tsp fish oil + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar + a splash of lemon juice + salt and pepper.

I’ll also throw my fish oil into any dish that calls for both olive oil and lemon—think Mediterranean salads, taboulehs, yogurt dressing, hummus, and lemon chicken. It’s also perfectly fine all on its own. (If you’ve ever tried flavored olive oil before, it tastes a lot like lemon flavored olive oil). Don’t believe me? Taste for yourself at one of our upcoming demos! Plus score coupons and tasty Carlson recipes.  

6/11 – Libertyville – 11am-2pm
6/12 – Northbrook – 11am-2pm
6/19 – Lake Forest – 11am-2pm
6/26 – Long Grove – 11am-2pm 

Fish oil isn't the only type of oil that's worth our while. Check back next week for tips on choosing, storing, and cooking with other healthy oils. 

Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN 847.681.5523 courtney@sunsetfoods.com

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