Green salad with olive oil pouring from a small bottle.

Top 5 Heart-Healthy Oils: Don’t Fear the Fat

Staff | Herbalife Nutrition​ | February 28, 2018
If you're trying to watch your blood pressure or cholesterol, don't be weary of all fats! Just make sure that it is the right kind To Tweet

If you’re watching your cholesterol or blood pressure or working toward a weight loss goal, you don’t have to banish all fat from the kitchen. We need some dietary fat to keep our energy levels up, to absorb certain vitamins, and for soft skin and hair. Just make sure it’s the right kind.

Saturated fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol according to the American Heart Association. Foods high in saturated fat include butter, fatty meat, full-fat dairy products and foods cooked in lard, shortening and tropical oils. Grandma’s fried chicken may have to go.

If you pick up a box of crackers and see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients label, put it back on the shelf, says Chen Du, dietician for Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Hydrogenated means trans fat, which should be avoided.

Trans fat, found in processed foods, fried foods and margarine, raises LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL (good) cholesterol and increases your stroke and heart disease risk — another reason to stay away from fried mozzarella sticks and doughnuts.

According to current guidelines, keep saturated fat at seven percent or less of your daily calorie intake. If you’re watching your blood pressure or cholesterol, drop that number to five or six percent.

The American Heart Association recommends that total fat stay in the 25 to 35 percent range for all adults. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that equates to 55 to 77 grams of total fat, with no more than 11 to 15 grams of saturated fat.

To get an adequate amount of heart-healthy “good” fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat), eat a moderate amount of nuts and seeds and use one or more of the following oils.

1. Olive

In addition to mostly good fats, olive oil contains small amounts of vitamins A, E, D and K. It’s anti-inflammatory and a Mediterranean diet staple. Because it’s heat-stable and has a high smoke point, olive oil works well for cooking. Use it to sauté vegetables or with balsamic vinegar for a classic salad dressing. 1 Tbsp: 119 cal, 13.5 g fat (9.8 mono, 1.4 poly, 1.9 saturated)

2. Flaxseed

Whether used whole, ground or in an oil, flaxseeds are a very good omega-3 source, and an inflammation fighter. Keep flaxseed oil refrigerated and don’t cook with it. It goes rancid when exposed to light, heat and air. Use it for salad dressings or marinades, or take a supplement. Talk to your doctor before using flaxseed oil, as it may interact with blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering statins and other medications. 1 Tbsp: 119 cal, 13.5 g fat (2.7 mono, 8.9 poly, 1.3 saturated)

3. Peanut

Peanut oil has a flavorful aroma that makes it popular for cooking. It contains vitamin E and phytosterols, which benefit heart health. Pure peanut oil has a long shelf life and one of the highest smoke points, which makes it a stir-fry favorite. Toss a variety of chopped vegetables, garlic, low-sodium soy sauce and some lean meat or tofu into a wok and voila! An easy, healthy dinner. 1 Tbsp: 119 cal, 14 g fat (6 mono, 4.3 poly, 2.3 saturated)

4. Avocado

Avocados make great guacamole, as well as healthy cooking oil. Avocado oil has a high smoke point, which means you can use it for browning and sautéing as well as for salad oil. Avocado oil contains mostly oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and high in lutein, an antioxidant that’s good for the eyes. 1 Tbsp: 124 cal, 14 g fat (10 mono, 2 poly, 2 saturated)

5. Walnut

Walnut oil has a rich, nutty taste fit for salad dressings, dips and marinades. It’s a rich source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant found to detoxify substances linked to cancer. Walnut oil also contains manganese, copper and melatonin, a hormone that regulates your internal body clock. It’s high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid with cardio-protective benefits. Because of its low smoke point, walnut oil isn’t good for cooking. 1 Tbsp: 130 cal, 14 g fat (3 mono, 10 poly, 1 saturated)


What’s the deal with coconut oil?

Everywhere you turn, there’s news about coconut oil’s “miraculous” or  “life-changing” benefits, including its ability to raise both good and bad cholesterol. Scientific evidence suggests otherwise, Du says. “Coconut oil contains medium-chain tryglycerides that are 12 carbons long. No studies show this type of fatty acid has any health benefit.” With 12 g of saturated fat per tablespoon, use coconut oil in moderation.