Despite the bad reputation that fat has developed in recent years, your body needs a certain amount of the right kinds of fats in order to function well, fight inflammation and prevent disease. Healthy oils are excellent sources of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients. Let’s take a look at six healthy oils that can be very beneficial to your health.
Healthy Oils: A Word about Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Essential fatty acids are important to every cell in your body for normal growth, especially of the blood vessels and nerves and to keep the skin and other tissues youthful and supple through their lubricating ability. They regulate the transportation of oxygen and are vital in maintaining the integrity of cell structure. Omega 9 is not technically an EFA, as the body can produce limited amounts of it, if there is a proper balance of other necessary Essential Fatty Acids. Much of the disease in this country and in other developed nations, both physical and mental, is due to an excess of omega 6 found in poor diets heavy on processed foods, sugar, and animal fat. Consuming healthy oils can help to bring EFAs back into balance and prevent many debilitating conditions. Essential fatty acids are all polyunsaturated and have the unique ability to lower cholesterol levels of the blood. Choose unrefined and organic oils that have been cold-pressed to preserve their nutritional potency.
Healthy Oils #1: Organic Hemp Seed Oil
The oil from the hemp seed has long been a favorite for use in salad dressings, dips, smoothies and as a condiment base. Its characteristic nutty flavor makes it very pleasant to consume. However, it is not recommended for use in frying or cooking as it breaks down easily when heated. Hemp seed oil contains balanced amounts of omega 3 and omega 6, and a lesser amount of omega 9 as well. It is also rich in vitamins B, C, and E, along with magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and potassium. Along with hemp seed oil you can also find hemp seed milk, hemp seed ice cream and hemp seed protein powder. All are recommended – just be sure to check the ingredient list.
Healthy Oils #2: Macadamia Nut Oil
The macadamia nut, originally native to Australia, is a favorite cooking and baking oil for chefs “in the know” worldwide. Its flavor is delightfully nutty and rich, and it has a very high smoke point so that it can be used for frying safely without concern of its components breaking down into hazardous free radicals. Macadamia nut oil provides a suitable amount of omega 3, but it is also high in omega 9 and low in omega 6, which is a very desirable combination. It works great as a substitute for butter in baking. Try this delicious, healthy alternative in muffins or pancakes.
Healthy Oils #3: Tea Seed Oil
Tea seed oil, not to be confused with the inedible tea tree oil, is also known as tea oil or camellia oil. It has been popular as a healthy cooking oil in parts of China for thousands of years, and is now gaining popularity in the West. Its sweet herbal flavor and aroma is very unique, and along with its very high smoke point (485F), it is an excellent choice for stir-frying. Tea seed oil provides balanced amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 but is also very high in an omega 9 EFA called oleic acid that helps keep the heart and circulatory system operating at its best. Tea seed oil is also a good source of natural vitamin E and other antioxidants.
Healthy Oils #4: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Who hasn’t heard of the virtues of coconut oil? Coconut oil is a wonderful choice as a source for healing fats. It is structured a bit different than most of the oils we have discussed so far, having mostly omega 6 and omega 9 EFAs and no omega 3s. However, because it is rich in certain types of fats such as linoleic acid, oleic acid, and lauric acid, vitamins E and K, and iron, it is a bountiful resource for many reasons. Introducing coconut oil into your diet helps to prevent heart disease (even though it is high in saturated fats – but the right kind), boosts the immune system, is good for the thyroid, and can even help you to lose and maintain your weight (use in moderation though, as it relatively high in calories). Coconut oil can also help you to digest and absorb more nutrients from your food. Coconut oil is very versatile too and can be used for stir-frying, in dips and salad dressings, and as an excellent substitute for butter. Some people even use it as a creamer in their tea. And, some people use it as a healing moisturizer for their skin. Overall, coconut oil is wonderful for your health!
Healthy Oils #5: Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is the old standby for healthy oils, and for very good reasons. It has been a staple in the Mediterranean Diet because of its many health benefits, excellent flavor and versatility and because it is locally grown in Mediterranean climates. It has ample amounts of a balanced proportion of omega 3 and omega 6, but most of the beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil are a form of omega 9. It is also very high in a powerful type of antioxidant called phenols. Studies have proven the value of a diet high in olive oil, from boosting heart and vascular health to preventing colon and other cancers. Use olive oil in dressings and dips. Contrary to what many say, I do not recommend cooking/heating olive oil. Olive oil is a nutritional powerhouse, but it must be handled and stored carefully to prevent rancidity and potentially harmful free radicals.
CAUTION: Unfortunately, seven of the largest olive oil manufacturers in the USA have been caught cutting their olive oil products with cheaper, inferior oils (such as sunflower oil or canola oil) in order to minimize production costs. This scamming of the public prompted the University of California to perform studies on 124 imported brands of extra virgin olive oil. Their findings showed that over 70% of the samples tested failed.
Olive Oil Brands That Failed Testing
- Antica Badia
- Felippo Berio
- Whole Foods
Olive Oil Brands That Passed Testing
- Corto Olive
- Bariani Olive Oil
- Kirkland Organic
- Olea Estates
- McEvoy Ranch Organic
- Cobram Estate
- California Olive Ranch
There is an easy test you can do at home to check if your olive oil is pure. Place the bottle in the fridge for about 30 minutes and check to see if the oil is beginning to solidify. If it does then it’s a good indication the oil contains a large amount of monounsaturated fat, which is exactly what extra virgin olive oil contains. If the oil doesn’t begin to solidify its a good sign that the oil is not 100% pure olive oil. While not a perfect test, it is a good indicator if you are unsure about the quality of your oil. You can also look for official governmental seals of approval on the label, such as “Australian Extra Virgin Certified” and “California Olive Oil Council Certified Extra Virgin.”
Healthy Oils #6: Flax Seed Oil
Flax seed oil is a wonderful source of omega 3, with lesser but significant amounts of omega 9 and omega 6 as well. Flax seed oil is particularly rich in a key omega 3 EFA known as alphalinolenic acid which is excellent for cardiac health because it reduces arterial inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis. It is also a great source of a phytoestrogen called lignan that is a potent antioxidant that may help to prevent cancer and other illnesses. Do not cook with flax seed oil; instead use it for salad dressings or stir into dishes after they have been heated.
For some invaluable information about the health and healing benefits of flax seed oil, I recommend reading two books by Dr. Johanna Budwig: Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and other Diseases and Cancer: The Problem and the Solution.
“The metabolism of fat has such as extensive effect on the vital functions and every individual organ—quite simply on life itself, including the generation of new life, that the lack of unsaturated fats is no longer acceptable. Well-meaning methods of treating fats to give them a longer shelf-life, but which destroy their fatty substances, must be changed. The metabolism of fat affects each and every organ. Any patient with liver and gall bladder problems is fully aware of how fat makes him feel. Medical treatment prescribes the eating of less amounts of fat because it ihas been observed that the patient cannot digest it. However, if he is given beneficial fats within the definitions I’ve just summarized, that is, highly unsaturated fats, then he has no digestive trouble at all. It is best to use threefold unsaturated fats prepared from flax seed oil, together with the substance which easily dissolves them, and that is cottage cheese. Various highly trained and educated individuals are dismayed and irritated by the fact that serious medical conditions can be cured by cottage cheese and flax seed oil. The diseased organ is in no way harmed by these substances. There is only one other important point to be observed. The usual methods of preserving foods are based on the addition of ‘oxydation’—inhibiting substances which render inert that process itself, the combustible process in the foods. The majority of preservatives can be labeled as respiratory poisons in that their effect is to block the combustion of fat—its continued interaction with oxygen. When, in such a situation as described, we supply respiratory activating fats and prevent the ingestion of preservatives, which are respiratory poisons, then great numbers of patients who have been given up as hopeless cases by many clinics, will recover their health.” – Dr. Johanna Budwig – Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and other Diseases