Oil has long been maligned as an evil part of the diet – something to avoid at all costs, but did you know that there are some healthy oils that are good to include in your diet? These are polyunsaturated oils that are high in omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids and have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more.
What Are Omega 3, 6, and 9?
These are essential fatty acids that the body needs to obtain from the diet. Each of these acids has a vital role to play in the body. Omega 3 fatty acids are used in forming cells walls, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake. Omega 6 fatty acids are converted into gamma linolenic acid from linolenic acid, and it can help with conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, and skin disorders. Omega 9 can be made in limited amounts by the body providing that there is enough omega 3 and omega 6, and it can lower the risk of heart attack and arteriosclerosis.
What are the “Good” Oils?
Good oils are oils that tend towards reducing the levels of both good cholesterol and bad cholesterol in the blood. Some oils – monounsaturated oils – reduce only the bad cholesterol and do not affect the good cholesterol. These are the best oils to have in your diet.
Healthy oils that you can include in your diet are:
- fish oil
- olive oil
- canola oil
- pumpkin seed
- evening primrose oil
- grapeseed oil
- flaxseed oil
- sesame oil
How to Use Healthy Oils
Even though these oils are significantly better for your health than saturated fats and other hydrogenated oils, remember that they are still a liquid fat. Use the oils sparingly so that you do not overindulge and possibly suffer from weight gain.
Oils need to be stored in dark bottles as clear glass or plastic bottles allow light to penetrate into the oil and oxidise the fatty acids. Contact with air will also affect the oil so be sure to keep the lid on tightly. Be aware that the healthier the oil is, the more quickly it will spoil. Many healthy oils will need to be stored in the refrigerator. Olive oil is an exception however as it is high in oleic acid and contains antioxidants that slow spoiling.
The more omega 3 fatty acids that are in the oil, the less suitable it is for cooking. High temperatures can damage many oils as the heat not only damages the fatty acids, it can also make them harmful. Where possible, use the healthy oils at room temperature, such as in salad dressings. Olive oils are the best for cooking.
How Often Should I Eat These Oils?
Essential fatty acids are important for the diet and should be eaten on a regular basis. You should consume a source of omega 3 or 6 essential fatty acids three to five times a week. Where possible, consume them in a food form such as fish or flaxseed oil, rather than in a supplement form, as fresh is always better.