The goal of a “right fat” diet is to eat the right amount of the right kinds of oil. We have used these criteria for evaluating the various types of oil:
- the percentage of essential fatty acids in the oil
- the percentage of unsaturated versus saturated fats (i.e., how heart-healthy the oil is)
- the effect on blood cholesterol (i.e., whether the oil raises or lowers cholesterol, especially in cholesterol-sensitive persons).
- other proven health benefits of the oil
- likelihood of pesticide residues being left in the oil during processing
- how processing procedures affect the nutritional qualities of the oilThe fact that some oils rank higher than others does not mean that you should consume only the one or two at the top of the list. Balance is still the key to good nutrition, and nutrition depends on variety.
- Flaxseed: Best source of omega 3 fatty acids; has heart- healthy properties; is a colon-friendly oil; lessens constipation; boosts immunity; promotes healthy skin; contains the healthy phytonutrient, lignin; spoils quickly without careful storage; not to be used in cooking
- Canola: One of the lowest oils in saturated fats, making it a heart-friendly oil; a rich source of essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Soybean: Contains both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, but is often highly refined and hydrogenated.
- Olive oil (virgin or extra virgin): Doesn’t need high temperature or chemical processing, since it is made from the flesh of the olive and not the seed; slow to spoil; okay for medium-temperature cooking; in moderation lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting HDL, (good) cholesterol thereby improving the HDL-to-LDL ratio.
- Pumpkin seed: Low in saturated fats; rich in omega-6 fatty acids, may contain some omega 3′s; refining and chemical processing lowers the nutritional qualities.
- Safflower: Low in saturated fats, rich in omega 6 fatty acids.
- Sunflower: Rich in omega 6 fatty acids.
- Corn: Slightly higher in saturated fats than the best oils; usually hydrogenated; rich source of omega 6 fatty acids
- Peanut: Somewhat high in saturated fats but still less than butter, animal fat, and cottonseed oil; good for cooking at higher temperatures.
- Cottonseed: High in saturated fats; likely to contain pesticide residues; frequently hydrogenated.
- Palm kernel: High in saturated fats, therefore a potentially cholesterol-raising oil.