Like proteins and carbs, fats are essential to our diet - it's only a matter of what kind and how much. Fats found in certain oils can actually have some great health benefits.
Studies have found that oils may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and prevent a whole host of inflammatory diseases. But that's not all they can offer. Oils such as argan and coconut are praised for their beautifying benefits for the hair and skin too. So what's stopping you from indulging in oils?
We partnered up with Nutritionist, Marlene Watson-Tara who gave us a lesson on some gorgeously healthy oils. From nutty walnut to buttery avocado, here's what you need to know.
Firstly, you need to know the difference between bad fats and good fats. "The best fats for you to enjoy are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acids (EFA’s) which are dramatically different from trans, saturated and interesterified fats and benefit your health in different ways," says Marlene.
"Monounsaturated fats come to us in such an array of delicious tasting oils such as avocado oil, which just happens to be my absolute favourite for baking (it gives cookies a rich buttery taste). You also get all the benefits of the antioxidants and healthy fats from pumpkin, walnut, almond, hazelnut and Omega oils."
Bad fats include palm oil, soybean, and even margarine! This is because they are hydrogenated oils (or partially hydrogenated) which are extra-saturated and as a result can raise 'bad LDL cholesterol' and decrease 'good HDL cholesterol' which can increase your risk of heart disease. So even though they may look harmless it's best to stay WELL away.
How can I use them?
Well, it depends which one's you have! Here are a few examples of how to use different oils...
- In salad dressings
- Adding a few drops to soups and vegetables
- Argan oil for your skin (amazing)
- Avocado oil for baking
- Coconut oil for cooking (at high temperatures)
See? They're not just good for cooking! Make sure to store your oils at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Keeping your oils in the cupboard or on your kitchen table will do just fine!
Alright, let's get to the good stuff! Here are some of our favourite oils...
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkins aren't just good for their yummy seeds and baking pumpkin pie - pumpkin oil is actually super nutritious. They contain a high zinc content, natural phytoestrogens, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber.
"Pumpkin seed oil is a great source of magnesium which participates in a wide range of vitally important physiological functions, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), the synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels, and proper bowel function," Marlene explains.
The high zinc content is also a great benefit. Zinc is important for immunity, cell health, sleep, mood, your sense of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function. Impressive resume, right?
Marlene adds, "People who eat diets high in pumpkin seeds have been found to have a lower risk of gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancers, with anti-carcinogenic effects being found in pumpkin seed oil."
And what's more impressive, pumpkin seeds and their oils are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin. Serotonin is then converted into melatonin, the "sleep hormone," helping you achieve a restful night's sleep.
Pumpkin seed oil is deliciously nutty with potent earthy tones. Use for dressings, garnish in soups, veggies or as a substitute for butter. Nut lovers you won't be disappointed!
Joining the ranks with other super oils, walnut oil has everything you need and more.
Marlene says, "Several medical studies have indicated that walnut oil offers a rich source for antioxidants, specifically ellagic acid which has been found to detoxify several substances linked to the development of certain cancers." In addition, the high content of omega-3 oils provides heart-protecting effects while phytochemicals work to prevent disease and maintain skin health, bone health and immunity.
Despite being an excellent choice for cooking, walnut oil is touted for its therapeutic benefits for the skin. "Walnut oil makes a great carrier oil blend for the purpose of massaging the body and is often brought to use as a base oil that is used in combination with one or more essential oils."
It's soothing and refreshing emollient qualities are great for hydration while helping fight wrinkles and protecting the skin from infection.
This oil has a mild nutty taste so it goes great with almost any recipe. Use it for cooking and baking or as a dressing or dip. You can also apply topically to aid a number of skin conditions such as psoriasis or dry skin. We love it over here!
Argan oil is one of those 'cure-all' pantry staples we often hear about. And while most of us know it as a 'miracle beauty product' for skin and hair, its benefits stretch as far as our health too.
Marlene says, "Argan oil facilitates digestion by increasing the concentration of pepsin in the gastric juice. It also contains flavonoids which act as a natural anti-inflammatory both internally and externally. The oil is considered highly beneficial for arthritic or rheumatic conditions while it's also helpful for lowering cholesterol levels, stimulating circulation and strengthening the body`s natural immunity."
So, yes, it's excellent for our health it wouldn't be right not to mention its beautifying benefits too. "Argan oil is produced from the kernels of the tree and is one of the rarest and most expensive oils in the world," says Marlene. Berber women, who often come from Morocco's Northern region have used argan oil for centuries to help protect and nourish their skin, hair and nails. And rightly so!
"The active substances called triterpenoids that occur in argan oil offer amazing skin protection benefits," says Marlene. Benefits such as tissue healing (scars), anti-inflammatory, sun-protective and disinfectant properties are just a few of the things it has to offer.
And with high levels of vitamin E and 80 percent fatty acids it's perfect for the skin, whatever your age! "It's powerful anti-aging properties are due to it's high levels of tocopherois (anti-oxidants which help neutralise free radical damage, which is important for skin exposed to polluted environments) and saponins (skin-softening agents)," says Marlene.
If you're after something that's natural and works then this is your oil. Apply a few drops of argan oil to your face and neck as a substitute for your usual bedtime oil. Your skin will be soft, hydrated and all-over radiant!
But don't forget that consuming it is just as good. Use this rich nutty oil as an enhancer for your food. Drizzle it over salad, finished dishes or use it as or in a dip. The flavor goes well with both sweet and savoury dishes! A win win for us.
Don't let avocados' 'fatty' reputation fool you into thinking it's a no-go ingredient. This super nutritious fruit is a powerhouse for health and beauty. Here's why...
"Avocado oil contains a balanced proportion of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids, along with vitamin E have powerful antioxidant properties which can protect your blood vessels by binding and removing free radicals and cholesterol deposits and reducing your risk of blood vessel damage," says Marlene.
"The binding of these antioxidants to your blood vessel lining also makes your vessel wall stronger and more flexible so that they respond better to sudden changes of blood pressure."
Avocado is also known to prevent cancer due to it's bioactive substances. "Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid in avocados, have been found to suppress tumour growth in breast and colon cancers," says Marlene. While avocado's high level of carotenoids and vitamin E help inhibit the growth of cancer all together.
But while consuming avocado oil is excellent for your health it should also be a key ingredient in our beauty regimens too. Lechitin, the yellowy fatty substance in avocados acts as an emulsifier and lubricant to the skin, nails and hair. When applying avocado topically it can help protect your hair follicles and the skin's surface by combating day-to-day stresses such as wind and climate change.
In addition to these benefits, avocado oil is also a great product for anti-aging. "Vitamin A and D can promote collagen production which can effectively slow down your skin’s ageing process," says Marlene. Use it in a mask or as a night oil and see the difference in your complexion straight away!
When it comes to cooking, use it pan-fry, sauté or grill your foods. Believe it or not, avocado oil has the highest smoke point among all other plant oils! It results in a clean, mildly nutty flavor that is great to use on a variety of dishes, including garnishes or sauces. Go crazy!
We all know that losing weight is no easy feat, especially when burning fat typically is attributed to diet. However, making sure you're consuming the right oils might just sort you out.
Coconut oil has quite the reputation for being the best fat-burning fat out around. So if you wanna burn fat fast, this is the way to go.
"Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which helps create a healthy digestive tract and in turn, allows for better digestion and absorption of the nutrients in our foods," says Marlene. This process helps speed up our metabolism by helping use it as energy, which ultimately results in boosting our fat burning.
Marlene says, "Coconut oil is not hydrogenated, contains no trans fats and has a long shelf life. It is a wonderful substitute for butter or margarine and because it does not revert to trans fatty acids when heated, it is a healthy choice for cooking too!"
It can also be pretty handy in the bedroom, ladies. It has a reputation as an aphrodisiac because of its ability to stimulate the production of hormones. Marlene explains that "when used as body oil and blended with stimulating spices such as cayenne pepper, it acts as a carrier to circulate the blood and stimulate the organs, while its aromatic scent enhances the senses."
Coconut oil also helps protect against skin cancer, blemishes, and helps prevent premature aging. In fact, it has so many benefits and uses, you can practically use it for anything! Some claim it's "the healthiest dietary oil on earth". Now how's that for a super oil?
What's your favourite oil? Tweet us @wewomenCA!
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