Q. What oil would you recommend for cooking? I just read that safflower oil is high in linoleic acid and could increase the risk for heart disease.
Olive oil is great for salads and some cooking, but not for everything. I’ve been using canola oil when I don’t use olive oil. Is that the best choice?
Is there an oil that would not be high in omega-6 fats? I am still confused.
A. For decades, nutrition experts have been recommending oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as safflower or corn oil. PUFAs lower cholesterol and were assumed to prevent heart attacks.
A new analysis of old data shows that we should not rely too heavily on vegetable oils high in linoleic acid. That’s because of the Sydney Diet Heart Study. In this randomized trial, men eating safflower oil instead of butter and other saturated fat had higher rates of death from cardiovascular causes (BMJ, online, Feb. 5, 2013). Breakdown products of linoleic acid may be oxidized into compounds that clog coronary arteries.
Olive oil is rich in the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, and the recent study on the Mediterranean diet certainly supports its use. Participants had to consume at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil daily. For high-heat cooking such as stir-frying, we sometimes use peanut oil or grapeseed oil, even though they have more linoleic acid than we would want for everyday use. For baking, we like to use walnut oil, which is rich in omega-3 fats but rather pricey.
Other options include rice bran oil or cold-pressed organic canola oil. According to Mary Enig, PhD, author of Know Your Fats, the best approach is to “use a mixture of natural fats in moderation.”