What’s it ‘oil’ about?

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the UK’s most inspirational #lifestylebloggers (Vicki
,  Alison
, Becky
Kate
) to name but a few and giving them some advice as part of the #smallchanges campaign.

After they had some pearls of wisdom from me, they went off to be pampered at the luscious Cowshed spa. As they were being oiled for relaxation purposes it got me thinking about oil in a different context. This energy dense liquid has so many uses – but which one should we be putting inside our own bodies?!

There’s been a lot of murmuring recently about stability of fats and scaremongering that certain fats are busy becoming ‘unstable’ in the pan whilst you obliviously chop your carrots.

I often feel a little unstable come a Friday night after a long, busy week but what about these oils then? It all has to do with smoke points – the stage at which an oil starts to literally smoke and break down and thus lose its quality and nutritional value.

The not so new kid on the block – coconut oil – is standing proud and many are swapping to this exotic sounding oil with confidence that it is ‘stable’ and therefore to be trusted!

Although high in saturated fat, there are some studies suggesting its high lauric acid content means it behaves a little differently and might not be as damaging to blood cholesterol levels as other saturated fats. Recommendations for saturated fat intake still stands at no more than 20g a day though, and a tablespoon of coconut oil has a whopping 15g!

Whilst the scientists get on with their job and look into this more, let’s get on with ours…. For now I would still choose the high predominantly monounsaturated oils such as olive or rapeseed as we know categorically these oils are good for health – think of all those elderly Italian gentlemen still harvesting their olive trees well into their 90’s (as well as all the research obviously!)

Their level of processing can vary though, hence the mixed messages about stability so check what it is recommended for on the label before you buy. Extra virgin olive oil, for example means it has undergone minimal processing and will therefore be ‘unstable’ when you heat it –aaaargghhh. Keep that one cold on salads. If you’re watching your waist line, be careful the drizzle doesn’t become too generous.

Lastly you often read that these hard working scientists don’t in fact know what they’re talking about – fat isn’t the enemy, it’s sugar you declare as you joyously munch on your toast with lashings of butter!

For me, it’s quite simple – it’s the balance of fats that count and the overall amount of both fat and sugar if you’re watching your weight. Boost your healthy fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in cooking, avocados in salads with nuts and seeds for a crunchy sprinkle or snack when you fancy. Keep dairy products low fat (for concerns about sugar see my previous blog
) and watch that visible fat on meat.

I rather like to keep my saturated fat quota for my ‘unstable moments’ where a small portion of chocolate is the only answer! If yours is a bacon butty on a Sunday morning then savour and enjoy!

 

 

Image: By Leon Brocard from London, UK (DSC02505) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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