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April 18, 2016

Put Healthy Fats And Oils On Your Dinner Table
Pierce Holmford

When we think of cooking with oil the first thing that typically comes to mind for many people is greasy fried food. However, there are plenty of healthy oils you can add to your diet - including seed oils, olive oil and even that trendy newcomer, coconut oil.

We've also been trained for many years to think negatively about fats. Yet there are plenty of foods that are loaded with healthy fat, just look at eggs or nuts.

Of course moderation applies, as even water can be harmful if we consume too much of it. Sadly however some historic public health advice has now proven to be poor. Margarine is not the healthy alternative to butter we thought it was. Eggs are not going to give us all heart attacks. We cut our fat intake as we were supposed to, but we all got fatter instead of healthier.

So let's take another look at some of those demonised fats and oils, and see what we might be missing.

Personally I love cheese. There are so many amazing flavors and uses for it. It contains healthy fats, not sugar, so why would we avoid it? Of course, I'm talking about proper cheese made from quality milk. Cheese does not come in a spray can folks. Good cheese is also loaded with important vitamins and nutrients too, such as calcium, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin D. And don't forget protein of course, a decent slice of cheese contains as much protein as a whole glass of milk! Hard cheeses also contains Vitamin K2, a nutrient which a couple of studies have shown can even inhibit cancer growth.

Eggs developed a very bad reputation in the past due to their cholesterol and fat content. But things have changed greatly. The eggs themselves are pretty much the same, it's our understanding of nutrition that has changed. Because eggs are now considered a highly nutritious health food. After all, they are designed to contain everything needed to grow a healthy baby chicken - so they are a mini powerhouse of nutrition.

Sure, you don't want to eat your weight in eggs, but they provide you with healthy fats and plenty of vitamins and other nutrients. So why not eat eggs for breakfast instead of carbohydrate heavy grains or sugary highly processed cereals. You might be surprised to find your hunger fully satisifed until lunchtime, or even beyond.

Fish is another food which provides plenty of good oils. Particularly in the form of Omega-3, which is a nutrient that benefits just about every bodily system from your brain to your heart. It's been shown to benefit inflammation and arthritis, and even depression. It is also thought to help provide some protection against cancers because of that anti-inflammation effect, in particular those cancers linked to chronic levels of inflammation, namely lung, colorectal prostate and liver. The jury is out as far as any benefit on existing conditions goes - although personally I wouldn't be surprised to find that's just a matter of waiting for the science to arrive. There however studies that show Omega-3 has helped patients bodies to better tolerate chemo and maintain muscle mass.

Omega-3 is also an oil that most of us don't get anywhere near enough of anyway. The oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and anchovies have significantly higher levels and are delicious if you can get them fresh. It's also fairly cheap to buy a good quality supplement for those that don't enjoy eating fish or find it difficult to eat enough of it.

What About Those Cooking Oils?

As with most foods, generally the less processing and messing around the healthier the oil is. So pure, cold-pressed oils that haven't been extracted using chemicals or heat treatment are the ones to look out for.

That said, many of us will have a large bottle of canola oil at the ready. It's cheap and supposedly fairly healthy. Although if you read up on how the oil is actually made you may rapidly change your mind. Canola is actually a modified form of rapeseed - the term Canola is really just a brand name. And most canola oil now comes from further genetically modified crops, which are then processed using high heat methods and a toxic solvent. Not quite the same as squashing an olive.

Switching to healthier oils does not however mean breaking the bank or throwing away your big bottle of canola though. It's more about prioritising how you use oils in your cooking according to your budget. If you're going to deep fry you need deep pockets to be using premium virgin olive oil or sesame seed oil - and it would be a waste of money anyway. So it's OK to have a cheap oil at hand, just don't deep fry regularly. Then save your more expensive tasty oils for salad dressings or drizzling over cooked food - then you get the taste benefits too with out harming those oils by heating them.

Incidentally, do look after your oils. If you keep your bottle of olive oil out on the bench right next to the cooker in full sunlight, now is the time to change that habit. Sunlight and oxygen will damage your oils and make them unhealthy to eat. So always replace the tops right after using them, and put them away again in a cool, dark cupboard.

If you've never really thought about oils to flavor foods and salads, it's a great time to explore. Virgin olive oils are like wines, they all taste different, and can make an amazing salad dressing just on their own. As can seed oils like sesame or pumpkin seed oil. If you buy generic salad dressing products in plastic bottles, you're probably buying very low quality oils, sugar and flavorings. You can mix your own dressings in seconds by shaking up a glug of oil and vinegar, salt and pepper in jar. Keep it in the fridge and it will last you all week.

So don't let the words fat and oil be negatives in your kitchen. They can instead mean highly nutritious, flavor packed and exciting food.

About The Author
Pierce is a fan of healthy eating, and runs a website at He likes staying active, hitting the gym and cooking delicious fresh meals afterwards too.

Ozaki, Iwata, et al. "Menatetrenone, a vitamin K2 analogue, inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma cell growth by suppressing cyclin D1 expression through inhibition of nuclear factor κB activation." Clinical cancer research 13.7 (2007): 2236-2245.
Laviano, Alessandro, et al. "Omega-3 fatty acids in cancer." Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.2 (2013): 156-161.
Andersen, Jens Rikardt, et al. "A randomized study of the effect of fish oil on n-3 fatty acid incorporation and nutritional status in lung cancer patients." Austin Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism (2015).

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