Vegetable Oils: A Simple Switch to Improve Heart Health

Cooking with OilIf you want to improve your heart health, you can make simple changes to your recipes, such as switching your butter/shortening/lard for vegetable based oils, like olive or canola oil. While fat is an essential macronutrient that our body needs to provide energy, support cell growth, absorb key vitamins and insulate and protect our body’s vital organs, not all fats are created equal. Butter, lard, and processed foods contain saturated and trans fats, which increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body.

Olive oil, canola oil and other vegetable oils are great heart healthy choices because they contain mono and poly unsaturated fats, which decrease LDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid like olive or canola oil, but can also be found in fish, nuts, seeds and avocados. Each oil contains a different combination of mono and poly unsaturated fats, and provides its own unique flavor. Because of its robust flavor, olive oil is great to use for salad dressing or marinades. Vegetable oils also are excellent for grilling, sautéing, roasting, baking, poaching and steaming . Consider switching canola oil for solid fat when baking to decrease calories, saturated and trans fats. Use 25 percent less oil than solid fat. For example, substitute ¾ cup oil for one cup solid fat.

Although these vegetable oils are heart healthy, it’s important to be mindful of portions. One gram of fat provides nine calories, while one gram of carbohydrate or protein only provided four calories. For example, 1 Tbsp of oil= 140 calories, 14 grams of fat . If you’re not careful, you can easily add 500 calories or more s to a meal with 3 ½ Tbsp of oil. To avoid this pitfall, when you are cooking, consider how many servings you intend to make. Aim to limit one to two tsp per serving (or 45-90 calories, 5-10 grams of fat).

Each oil also has its own smoke point. A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil will start to smoke. Heating oils past their smoke point can impact flavor, leaving food with a burnt taste.. Canola, safflower, and sunflower oils have high smoke points >460◦F, while olive oil has a lower smoke point of 330◦F. Consider how much heat you will use while cooking when choosing an oil.

Tropical oils such as coconut, palm, or palm kernel oils recently have been receiving a lot of attention in the media. It is important to note that these oils have a high amount of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than five to six percent of total calories when trying to control cholesterol levels.

Check out some of our heart-healthy recipes online, and check out our Pinterest boards for even more health tips and recipes!


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