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Posted at: Dec 1, 2018, 2:32 AM; last updated: Dec 1, 2018, 2:32 AM (IST)WELLNESS

The best grease for your ticker

Seed oils are better for heart health

Loveneet Batra

When something gets popular, it often attracts blind following, and it is true for both people and products. This has been particularly true for olive oil for its increased global standing and craze for being the best healthy oil available.

A lot of information is in circulation about olive oil being a nutrient-rich healthy alternative to other oils. It is often advocated that this oil contains healthy antioxidants and vitamin E, and is resistant to oxidative damage, something which destroys any oil. Many of these facts pertaining to the olive oil are true. However, there also exists a misplaced craze about the benefits of olive oil.

It will not be correct to say that olive oil is the best alternative, as many other seed oils have equal or better benefits than olive oil. A recent study has published its findings on testing 13 cooking oils and solid fats, including sunflower oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, soya bean oil, butter, and fat, against their impact on cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Contrary to popular belief, the research has found that seed-based oils such as sunflower oil, sesame oil and flaxseed oil to have performed better against cholesterol and LDL, although the research did not declare any clear winner from the seed oils. In comparison, olive oil, which is fruit oil, came next and solid fats such as butter and lard were the worst.

While the results may not make this Mediterranean (olive) oil’s lovers happy, the research findings are significant and positive for the Indian scenario and our way of cooking. The Indian way of cooking involves using oil for frying where temperature of cooking is high. Olive oil has a comparatively lower smoking point, which essentially means that above this point the nutritional value of the oil decreases. Also, at high temperatures, oil undergoes some chemical reaction, emitting toxic fumes, which can be carcinogenic and are not best suited for health. While certain seed-based oils have higher smoking point, olive oil has moderately high smoking point, making the former better suited for Indian cooking.

Seed oils and their benefits

Flaxseed oil: One of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil benefits heart and is good for skin and hair. This oil is beneficial for diabetics. It also helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in omega 3, which contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and managing heart diseases as well as in reducing blood pressure. 

Mustard oil: This oil can be called the Indian version of the “Mediterranean oil”. Because, like olive oil, it can be used directly on salads or dishes in uncooked form.  Mustard oil is rich, both in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol or the HDL. The oil boosts cardiac health. The oil is also good for the skin,and improves the health of hair. It also reduces pain associated with inflammation.  

Sunflower oil: This seed oil supplies  monounsaturated fat (20 per cent) and is low in saturated fat (11 per cent), making it an overall heart-healthy option. Due to its quality of withstanding high cooking temperatures, the sunflower oil is considered as a good all-purpose oil. 

Sesame seed oil: Sesame seeds prevent inflammatory activity of insulin. It promotes fat loss and reduces LDL or the bad cholesterol. It also contains monounsaturated fats, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. The oil contains minerals like copper, calcium, manganese and zinc. Zinc boosts your immune system and has a positive effect on bone-mineral density. 

— The writer is clinical nutritionist, Fortis Lafemme, New Delhi

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