There are so many cooking fats and oils on the market, choosing which one to use can be difficult. Which ones are the most healthy for you when used in moderation?
Knowing the source of cooking fats and oils is as important as knowing how they are made.
Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, lard and fatty meats. They are also found in some vegetable products, such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oil. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They can raise your cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats come from both animal and plant products. There are two types:
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybean, soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts and fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout). They help to lower triglycerides.
Trans fats are made when vegetable oils are processed (or hydrogenated) into shortening and stick margarine. Sources of trans fats include snack foods, baked goods and fried foods made with "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "vegetable shortening. Try to limit foods made with these ingredients. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol.
While some fats are healthier than others, limit added fats and oils to three to six teaspoons per day. Include fats used in cooking, baking, salads, and spreads on bread.
The chart below lists the amount of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in one tablespoon of various fats and oils.
In general, the lower the saturated fat and the higher the monounsaturated fat content, the healthier the fat or oil will be.
Note: Numbers were rounded.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648; Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Understanding cooking fats and oils, nutr-ahc-12725 (9/05); USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 14); National Sunflower Association; Flax Council of Canada
Allina Health's Patient Education Department
The more liquid the margarine is, the less hydrogenated it is with less trans fatty acids.
Margarine is a better choice than butter.
Soft margarines are better than hard ones. Buy trans fat-free margarines if possible.