Saturday, October 20, 2007

Selecting Fats and Oils for Health

One very important influence on our health is our choice of fats and oils in our diet. In general, we should look for oils and fat that are close to what is found in our bodies - mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with only a small amount of polyunsaturated fat. Below is a table showing the percentage of these types of fat in various fats and oils that we eat. The omega-6 and omega-3 fats are also included in the polyunsaturated total in this table. We need small amounts of omega-6 fat, but most people eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) get way too much of this type of fat and that depresses your immune system and increases your chances of getting cancer and heart disease. It's best to avoid fats/oils that have more than about 20 percent as omega-6 and use sparingly fats/oils that are more than about 10 percent omega-6. Oils high in omega-6 are commonly used in processed/packaged foods and in restaurants because they are inexpensive and because of misguided advice to avoid saturated fats. Because of the polyunsaturated bonds, the high omega-6 oils easily go rancid and are easily damaged in processing and cooking. Also be sure to read "Some Typical Questions and Misconceptions on Fats and Oils" by Mary Enig, PhD nutritionist and "The Great Con-ola".

Percentage of Classified Fats for Different Fats and Oils
Cod liver oil1.020.524.550.924.6
Palm kernel oil1.70.01.712.186.2
Macadamia oil1.
Coconut oil1.
Butter oil (ghee)
Beef fat (tallow)
Sunflower high oleic oil3.70.23.986.110.0
Mutton fat (tallow)
Palm oil9.50.29.738.751.6
Olive oil10.00.810.875.014.2
Goose fat10.30.511.559.429.0
Pork fat (lard)
Duck fat12.61.013.551.734.8
Avocado oil13.
Flax oil13.355.869.021.19.8
Safflower high oleic oil15.
Almond oil18.
Canola (rape seed) oil19.29.228.564.17.5
Chicken fat20.41.021.946.931.2
Peanut oil33.60.033.648.617.8
Rice bran oil35.51.737.241.821.0
Sesame oil43.20.343.641.514.9
Soybean oil53.
Cottonseed oil53.90.254.318.627.1
Corn oil56.21.257.429.013.6
Sunflower oil68.80.068.820.410.8
Grapeseed oil72.
Safflower oil78.40.078.415.16.5
Compiled from USDA Nutrient Database
Note: about 4 to 6 percent of total fats were unclassified

Table Abbreviations
Omg-6: Omega-6
Omg-3: Omega-3
Poly: Polyunsaturated (including both omega-6 and omega-3)
Mono: Monounsaturated
Sat: Saturated