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Tuesday 24 January 2012

The health benefits of olive oil, coconut oil and other popular kitchen oils

There are several healthy options to choose from when selecting an oil use in your cooking. The best types of cooking oils are those that are organic and unrefined, and that taste like the seed from which they were mechanically pressed.

Read on to find out four healthy oils you should consider adding to your diet, plus discover the health benefits of olive oil, coconut oil and other healthy oils.

1. The health benefits of olive oil 
Extra-virgin olive oil is the best quality of olive oil. “Extra-virgin” means the oil is derived from the first pressing of the olive. The subsequent pressing is referred to as virgin olive oil. In the creation of extra-virgin and virgin olive oils, the olives are pressed by mechanical means. This process is also known as cold-pressing. Cold-pressed olive oils preserve the flavours and health qualities of the olives, whereas refined oils, which are created by using chemicals, do not.

Olive oil is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which research shows promotes health when present in the diet in high amounts. Regular intake of olive oil, as found in traditional Mediterranean diets, has been associated with lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and asthma. Replacing the saturated fats and trans fats in one’s diet with olive oil can help decrease your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (know as the bad cholesterol) and can help with weight loss.

Olive oil is not a high heat stable oil, therefore it’s best used for cold dishes or under moderate heat.

2. The health benefits of coconut oil 
Coconut oil is made by shredding and cold-pressing coconut meat while it’s moist, separating the oil and the milk. Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is a medium-chain fatty acid.

This means it metabolizes more easily than other saturated fats, which are long-chain fatty acids. In addition to giving your metabolism a little boost, coconut oil is also heat stable and can be used for higher-temperature cooking and for baking. Look for expeller-pressed unrefined or virgin coconut oil, which retains a slight aroma and taste of coconut. Coconut oil will keep well in a dark, cool place, and will remain solid at room temperature.

3. The health benefits of flaxseed oil
Flaxseed oil is extracted from whole flaxseeds using a cold-pressed process. Canada is one of the main producers of flaxseed, using only non-genetically modified varieties of flaxseed in commercial production. Flaxseed oil is composed of 57 per cent alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid which is a precursor to the heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory omega-3s EPA and DHA.

 Flaxseed oil is very delicate and is easily damaged by heat, so add it to foods after cooking, for example in a smoothie or as a base for salad dressing.

4. The health benefits of hemp oil 
Hemp oil is cold-pressed from non-genetically modified hemp seed. Hemp's dark green colour is due to its high chlorophyll content, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Hemp is a rich and balanced source of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, and its gamma linolenic acid (GLA) content makes it unique among plant seed oils. GLA has been shown to help maintain heart health, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and aids in hormonal balance. Hemp oil is not suitable for heating, but can be used as a healthy dipping oil, on salads or added to smoothies.

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