This article is a follow-up to my previous article “Why have I started adding a little vegetable oil to my recipes?”. After receiving a flood of comments and questions on social media, I had a chat with nutritionist Isabelle Morin and we decided to shed more light on the issue of oils. Many of you appreciated the more in-depth information and that’s why I thought it would be a good idea to post the article here as well. Here’s what she had to say.
All vegetable oils are composed entirely of fats. However, there are varying proportions of different types of fatty acids in the composition of these fats. As such, each oil has its own particular properties according to its specific fatty acid composition.
There are three main types of fatty acids: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids (also called omega-9) and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which include omega-3 and omega-6.
These fatty acids don’t all have the same health effects, in particular in terms of cardiovascular health.
It has been clearly shown that saturated fatty acids are more harmful to cardiovascular health and that’s why it is therefore preferable to limit their intake. Conversely, monounsaturated fatty acids have very beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. They should therefore be favoured as much as possible when choosing which fats to consume. Lastly, in general polyunsaturated fatty acids have positive effects for health. However, the ratio between the consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 in North America is typically disproportionate. We consume far too much omega-6 compared to our consumption of omega-3. This imbalance has potential pro-inflammatory effects on the body. It is therefore preferable to opt for fats that provide very little omega-6, because our diet already contains a lot of this type of fatty acid, and to instead prioritize sources of omega-3 whenever possible.
Olive, canola and avocado oil and sunflower oil with a high oleic acid content* are the ones that should therefore be favoured for daily use because they are predominantly made up of monounsaturated fatty acids. However, be careful to avoid regular sunflower oil, which contains considerably less monounsaturated fatty acids and is instead over 65% omega-6. This type of sunflower oil is significantly less advantageous. Look for “high in oleic acid*” on the label when choosing sunflower oil.
The following diagram will help you better understand the fatty acid composition of different vegetable oils. After that, it will be up to you to decide which ones are best suited to you!
*The term oleic acid refers to a monounsaturated fatty acid also called omega-9.