When choosing an oil while on a cholesterol-conscious diet, know this: All cooking oils are not created equal. Certain oils can increase you LDL ("bad cholesterol"), while others can actually help lower it. The selection of oils out there is vast -- well beyond juts canola and vegetable. Know which are best for your cholesterol-lowering efforts before your buy.
Oils to Include
Cholesterol research indicates that diets high in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated "good fats" can help lower your cholesterol. You will find these beneficial fats in avocado oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and walnut oil.
Tip: Omega-3 and monounsaturated "good fats" can provide the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. In addition to helping to lower cholesterol, good fats appear to aid in the promotion of healthy blood pressure, improve normal blood clotting, and reduce inflammation.
Oils to Avoid
Hydrogenated oils are oils that are processed by manufacturers in order to prolong their shelf-life. Unfortunately, the hydrogenation process can create harmful trans fats.
When cooking at home, avoid palm and processed/hydrogenated coconut oil, which are high in saturated fat.
Legislation now requires all food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat on nutrition labels for all packaged foods. Many progressive cities and townships have voluntarily banned hydrogenated oils and trans fats in restaurant foods, although not all geographic areas have taken this action. The best way to avoid trans fats when eating out is to limit the amount of fried foods (French fries, fried chicken) and baked goods (doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and pastries) -- a good practice for plenty of other reasons, too.
Remember that you do not need to cut out fat entirely to control your cholesterol level. The American Heart Association recommends that 30% of your daily recommended calories should come from fat. Some keys to a heart-healthy diet:
- Keep your overall calories in check.
- Make sure that the majority of your fat calories come from healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Limit foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats.
Hooper L, Thompson RL, Harrison RA, et al. Risks and benefits of omega 3 fats for mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review. British Medical Journal. Apr 1;332(7544):752-60. 2006.
Hu FB, Manson J, Willett W. Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 20, No. 1, 5-19. 2001.