There is general uncertainty as to which vegetable oil is good for the heart. As we look through the supermarket shelves in search of the right cooking oil, we are confused about the health claims of each brand. Vegetable oils have long been endorsed as being heart healthy. The reason for this is that these oils are low in artery-clogging saturated fat, and rich in certain beneficial fatty acids.

THE TERMINOLOGY:

Monosaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA): This refers to a healthy fatty acid, which lowers the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides without lowering good cholesterol levels. Olive oil has the highest content (about 77%) of monounsaturated fat among commonly used oils.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid(PUFA):

This lowers the levels of both good and bad cholesterol. There had been a lot of debate regarding the beneficial characteristics but recently by a verdict, The American Heart Association recommended that all should strive to consume at least five to ten per cent of their daily calories from PUFA.

Trans-fats: Trans-fats are the common name for a type of unsaturated fats, which are obtained by partial hydrogenation. This process increases the melting point of the fat, which makes them ideal for baking and cooking and increases their shelf life. But trans-fats are neither essential nor favorable to healthy well-being. The consumption of trans-fats increases the risk of heart ailments by raising levels of bad LDL Cholesterol and lowering levels of good HDL Cholesterol. Health authorities worldwide do not recommend any daily consumption of trans-fats.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil or canola oil are low in saturated fats and could be preferred. Groundnut or peanut has a high concentration of MUFA and is available in the market. Olive oil has a high concentration of monounsaturated fats. Mustard oil can be used also, as it is also high in MUFA. But there are certain harmful oils too such as hydrogenated fats or vanaspati, which are rich in trans-fats, hard margarine, coconut oil that is high in saturated fats, butter, palm oil and palm kernel oil. The use of these should be reduced far as possible. In order to derive maximum benefits, it is beneficial to consume a mixture of oils in order to maintain a balance between the different ingredients. A number of blended oils are available in the market to serve this purpose. For instance, blends of rice bran and sunflower oils are available and are suitable even for frying.

You could also have two or more different kinds of oils in your kitchen that you could use for different purposes. For example, you could use olive oil for salads, groundnut oil for frying and soybean oil for other cooking purposes. This will allow you to take advantages of the health benefits of each oil. It is needless to say that these oils are actually good, as far the health benefits to the heart are concerned.

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