Health, Heart & Oils by Priyanka Kharbanda, Educator, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India

“Avoid oils” has become a constant refrainin every diet chart ever made in the last few years; with more people adopting a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet is gaining ground, and, at the juncture of espousing a better life, major changes are being made in the ways of living and eating.

How healthy are the healthy diets? Have we contemplated the other side of the coin to evaluate the myths surrounding food and edible elements such as oil?

So, how do oils influence the diet? It all depends on the type and nature of the fat it contains. Selecting the right oil can connect the dots between health, heart and taste.

Why Oils?

Fats present in oils are infamous for the adverse effects they have on the human body. However, human anatomy is very much dependent on fats that come from oils.Dietary fats are essential for the body.

  • Fats are the source of energy that body requires to perform activities.
  • Fats are the source of fatty acids that we need for development and functioning of the body butcannot be produced.
  • Fats envelop nerve cells and help transmitting electrical messages and also a significant portion of human brain is made of fat that keeps the functioning error –free.
  • Fat works as a gatekeeper for the body cells; it oversees the incoming and outgoing of elements in cells.
  • Fats promote healthy skin.
  • Fats keep bones healthy.
  • Fats help in producing steroid hormones in the body needed for regulation of many biological processes.
  • Essential vitamins like A, D and K are soluble in fat, so, fat is needed for the absorption of these vitamins.

The Right Choice

You walk into a departmental store and the long isle displaying a variety of edible oils, making it hard to decide which one to pick. The fallacious marketing strategies often that are adopted by some,prompt people to invest a hefty amount in a bottle of oil that will affect their health adversely. However, the fundamentals of buying good oil that will add aroma, texture, and taste as well as provide health benefits are tricky but not impossible.

So, before embarking in buying healthy oil here is a guide everyone must go through.

Understanding Fatty Acids– Fats are micronutrients essential for the development of Fatty acids in oils are of three types’: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and Trans fat.

Saturated “fats” are fats that contain a high proportion of saturated fatty acids; this type of fat is infamous for causing heart diseases and increasing bad lipids in blood plasma. Hence, their consumption should be regulated.

Mostly found in plant oils, “unsaturated fats” remain liquid in room temperature and can be categorized in two types depending upon the nature of fatty acid present in it.

  • Monounsaturated Fats-monounsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) are found in nuts and vegetable oils. Consuming foods that are high in monounsaturated fats can potentially lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats may also keep “good” HDL cholesterol levels high.This may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

Sources of MUFA

  • Avocado oil
  • Oils from nuts
  • Vegetable oils
  • Canola
  • Olive
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Sunflower Oil.
  • Tallow
  • Grape-0seed oil etc.

But eating more unsaturated fat without cutting back on saturated fat may not result in good level of lipids in blood

  • Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA)- found mainly in vegetable oils, this fat remains liquid in room temperature and have great health benefits. Consuming polyunsaturated fat in lieu of saturated fat can help lower the risk of heart diseases, and bad cholesterol in the blood. The two most important fatty acids present in polyunsaturated fat are omega 3 and omega 6.With an array of health benefits, consuming polyunsaturated fats in a balanced ratio may decrease the risk of high cholesterol and heart diseases.

Sources of PUFA

  • Soybean
  • Sesame Oil
  • Safflower
  • Chia Seed oil etc.

Trans Fats- can be categorised into two types, natural and artificial.while natural trans fats have been part of our diet ever since we began eating the meat and dairy from ruminant animals, artificially produced trans fats pose great threat towards health as the chemical treatment of the oil changes its chemical structure, turning it from a liquid into a solid and significantly increases risk of heart diseases.


Antioxidants are the nutrients that reduce burning impairment to the body tissues. The most common nutrient is Vitamin E, although oils contain mixtures of tocopherols and tocotrienols that differ in their contribution to the constancy of oils and also vary in their implication for human nutrition. Oil having more than one antioxidant holds good value in terms of nutrition.

Smoke Point: Smoke point is the oxidative stability, which is, how resistant the oil is in reacting with oxygen before breaking down and potentially producing harmful compounds while exposed to continuous heat. The higher the smoke points the more convenient to expose such oil to extreme heat. However high smoke point oils are great for sautéing, oven baking and stir-frying.

Health, Heart& Oils

According to experts 20% of diet must be devoted to healthy fats. All the rivalry between heart and oil may start to fade when consumed in appropriate form and quantity. Here is a list of oils that vehemently negate the myths enveloping heart health and oils.

  • Sunflower Oil- Extracted from thesunflower seeds, this oil contains more than 80% of monounsaturated fats making it heart friendly.
  • Olive Oil- High on monounsaturated fat, this oil keeps the cholesterol level in check and promotes healthy heart and reduces risks of heart attack or heart diseases.
  • Safflower Oil- High content of Omega-6 fatty acids helps balancing the cholesterol in the body, prevents the hardening of the arteries and therefore, reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Peanut Oil- Rich in Vitamin E, this oil is good for the heart.  It does not contain any trans-fat, is cholesterol free, and low in saturated fats.

Excess oil consumption has its shortcomings. The key to healthy oil consumption is quantity and variants. While consuming on saturated fat can be harmful to the heart, only vegetable oil intake can also result in a deficit of many nutrients so, the key is to blend. Smartly blending different oils in the diet can supply the adequate amount of fat, antioxidants and other nutrients in the body.

Authored by:- By- Priyanka Kharbanda, Educator, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India

(The views expressed in this article are by Priyanka Kharbanda, Educator, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India. doesn’t own any responsibility for it.)

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