Rating the Cooking Fats
Choose the healthiest (and tastiest) oils, spreads, and shortenings
Types of Fatty Acids continued...
Monounsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature. Many experts
urge us to make oils high in monounsaturated fat our first choice for
- What they do in your body: Especially if they replace saturated or
trans fats in the diet, monounsaturated fats reduce "bad" cholesterol
and reduce the risk of heart disease. They may also increase "good"
cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and improve
insulin sensitivity (when you also eat fewer carbohydrates).
- Bottom line: They are the smart fats! Choose cooking and table fats
that contain more of these fatty acids and fewer saturated and trans fats. Aim
to get 10% to 20% of your
total calories from these fats. (With a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 15% of
calories computes to 33 grams of monounsaturated fat per day.)
- Where to get them: They're found in olive oil (78% monounsaturated
fat and 14% saturated fat), canola oil (62% monounsaturated fat and 6%
saturated fat), peanut oil (48% monounsaturated fat), hazelnut oil (82%
monounsaturated fat), almond oil (73% monounsaturated fat), avocados, and some
nuts, such as almonds.
Polyunsaturated fats are divided into two main families: omega-3s and
omega-6s. Each of these includes a fatty acid essential to health.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid, found in plants, and
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), found in fish.
- What they do in your body: Omega-3s, especially those found in fish,
may help decrease blood clotting, decrease abnormal heart rhythms, reduce triglycerides (a type of fat
molecule in the blood), and promote normal blood pressure. Your body can
convert a small amount of the plant omega-3s you eat into the type of omega-3s
found in fish. There's also evidence that plant omega-3s lower the risk of
heart disease in their own right. To reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases,
some researchers suggest getting more omega-3 fats and fewer omega-6s.
Scientists are studying whether omega 3 fatty acids may help lower cancer
- Bottom line: These are the good guys, folks! Choose cooking and
table fats that will increase your intake of omega-3s.
2. Omega-6 fatty acids include linoleic acid, the major omega-6 found
- What they do in your body: Studies show that omega-6s can reduce
both total cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol when they replace
saturated fat in the diet. But too much may cause health problems. Omega-6s may
slightly decrease "good" cholesterol levels, compared with
monounsaturated fats. And they can spur the production of hormone-like
substances called eicosanoids that can lead to inflammation and damaged blood
vessels. Further, excessive omega-6s can interfere with your body's conversion
of plant omega-3s to the more powerful type of omega-3s usually found in
- Bottom line: These are better fats than the saturated or trans fats,
and some are essential to the body. They can also lower heart disease risk when
they replace saturated or trans fats in your diet. But eating excessive amounts
is not a good idea.