Tag Archives: olive oil

Which Oil should I choose?

We all need fats and oils in our diet for our bodies to function properly and for our food to taste food and cook properly. The question I was asked recently was which oil is the best choice? So here is a run down for you:

When choosing an oil the top things to consider are:

1. Smoke point – the temperature at which oils start to break down and release free radicals that can cause damage to the body (see my previous post on this).

2. The type of fats – Monounsaturated fats have heart health benefits and can help improve cholesterol levels. These are a better choice over saturated fats. However we always need balance so some saturated fat in the diet is also fine.

3. Flavour – an obvious essential to consider. How does the flavour suit the food you are preparing? 

4. Cost and sustainability – whilst is it not always true the most expensive oils are the healthiest, they can have a better flavour and could be more sustainable.

Extra virgin olive oil

(EVOO) well known as a healthy oil due to having the highest monounsaturated fat content of all the oils making it super heart healthy. Plus, it contains Polyphenols (antioxidants) that can fight the free radicals in the body. Its smoke point is low which means it is not suitable for using at high temperatures. Better kept for salad dressings and drizzling on bread.

Light olive oil is a better choice for general purpose cooking as it has a high smoke point. A great general purpose oil for roasting, grilling and a stir fry. 

Coconut Oil

Has a high smoke point, so can be used in all forms of cooking, however it’s solid nature at room temperature makes it unsuitable for a salad dressing.  It has a lot of health claims but these are controversial and lacking in evidence. Whilst it is totally fine to use in normal quantities, large amounts are not going to give extra health benefits. Great for Asian dishes where you want that coconut flavour.

Rapeseed oil

Rapseed has a medium-high smoke point and a neutral taste making it a good multipurpose oil. With the lowest saturated fats and a blend of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is can help with cholesterol levels. Plus it contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant good for skin health.

Sesame oil

This is one of my top favourites for a stir fry due to it’s nutty taste and mid-range smoke point. It contains monounsaturated fats and antioxidants too, making it healthy for the heart. 

Avocado oil

Contains monounsaturated fats which are good for heart health. It has the highest smoke point of all plant oils so can be used for all forms of cooking plus dressings and cold foods. However it comes with a price tag and is not a sustainable crop.

So the verdict. For general purpose cooking choose a rapeseed or light olive oil. The other oils can be nice to have for different flavours and styles of cuisine, but aren’t essential!

The Mediterranean Diet

A lot of people would like to live in the Mediterranean. The weather is warmer than the UK, the landscape goes from rugged, to rural to beautiful beaches and it often feels more relaxed. That relaxed, warm lifestyle also brings benefits for food. 

The Med diet is well researched and known to have benefits for major health conditions. It may help prevent heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol  and prevent metabolic syndrome. Benefits can also be seen for Alzhiemers, dementia, depression and Parkinsons.

The Mediterranean diet is not really a diet but a way of life. Regular meals are a key component with meals being an occasion for sitting down and taking time to enjoy food and company. Eating regularly and slowly is something that can help with blood sugar control, weight management and IBS. 

Clinical trials have shown positive effects of this type of diet on reducing the risk of overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and also total cholesterol levels. A significant effect has been seen on cancer incidence and mortality too. The Med Diet has been shown to be more effective than a low fact diet for making long term changes in the risk factors for heart disease and inflammatory diseases. 

 

Summary of the Diet:

Low in saturated fats

Low in salt

Low in sugar

Moderate meat and dairy intake

Moderate fish consumption

Moderate alcohol intake alongside meals

High intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes and unrefined carbohydrates

 

I love this diagram of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.

 

Taken with permission from: http://dietamediterranea.com/dietamed/piramide_INGLES.pdf
Taken with permission from: http://dietamediterranea.com/dietamed/piramide_INGLES.pdf

 

Eat More:

Fruit and Vegetables – eat a variety and a range of colours to get a mixture of antioxidants and micronutrients.

Fish – at least twice a week, at least 1 portion should be oily (tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines).

Eat more beans and pulses. Try adding lentils to meat dishes, or make a vegetarian curry with beans. Falafels and hummous make great lunchtime options.

Wholegrains – for example oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread, couscous, bulghar wheat and plain popcorn.

Nuts and seeds once a day as a snack will provide healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, magnesium and are filling.

Include Olive oil.

Drink plenty of water.

 

 References:

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/mediterranean-diet-topic-overview

http://dietamediterranea.com/dietamed/piramide_INGLES.pdf (2010 Fundacion Dieta Mediterrainea)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20810976

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854893