Cholesterol is a type of waxy substance (blood fat) which helps make vitamin D, cell membranes, bile, and steroid hormones. Your liver makes all the cholesterol to meet the needs of your body.
But you can also get cholesterol from eating animal-based foods, which are the dietary sources of cholesterol. However, foods high in saturated and trans fats trigger the liver to produce more cholesterol.
It’s also important to consider the saturated fats in oils since they can cause cholesterol build-up. For example, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil contain saturated fat that can increase so-called “bad” cholesterol.
Not all oils are created equal, and choosing an oil rich in unsaturated or unrefined fats is essential for cholesterol management. Whether you’re sauteing up some veggies or frying an egg, you want an oil that is not overly processed or refined.
How to Choose the Healthiest Oil for Cholesterol?
From nutrient composition to flavour, wide varieties of cooking oils are available in the market. However, it can be overwhelming when selecting the right oil for cholesterol.
Oils are a combination of multiple fatty acids, and they come from animal products, nuts, fruits, seeds, or grains. A heart-healthy oil that lowers your risks for high cholesterol and heart disease is rich in healthier, unsaturated fats.
Unhealthy cooking oil is high in saturated and trans fats. Nutritionists recommend choosing oils with less than four grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, with no trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils.
Here are a few factors to consider while choosing an oil:
The Smoke Point
The smoke point or “burning point” is the temperature at which oil is no longer stable. As a result, the oil stops glistening and starts to break down, lose its nutritional value, become unpalatable, and produce harmful compounds or free radicals.
A study shows that free radicals cause disturbance in cholesterol metabolism. So, you shouldn’t cook the oil at a temperature above its smoke point. Instead, use oils with a high smoke point to avoid overheating and toxic chemical production.
The healthiest and safest oil for cholesterol should stand up to high heat. Therefore, choosing the right oil suitable for the different cooking methods is essential.
Refined and Unrefined
Refined oils undergo a high-heat extraction process, resulting in a loss of natural nutrients, flavour or aroma.
Conversely, unrefined or cold-pressed oils get extracted with no heat or minimal heat without compromising natural nutrient content, taste, and aroma. Therefore, unrefined cooking oils are more nutrient-dense options.
Each cooking oil comes with its fat profile. Health experts recommend using oils with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat to benefit your overall health.
Daily consumption of oils rich in saturated and trans fats raises your risk for chronic illnesses, including high cholesterol.
Which Oil is Good for Cholesterol?
Extra-virgin olive oil, the least processed form of olive oil, is one of the healthiest options since it has zero cholesterol. One tablespoon of olive oil has 2 g of saturated fat, 10 g of monounsaturated fat, including oleic acid, and around 1 g of polyunsaturated fat.
A study shows that the powerful antioxidants in olive oil increased HDL and decreased total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides more than other plant oils.
Choose cold-pressed olive oil since its pressing process never exceeds a specific temperature, which ensures maximum quality. Regular olive oil is also healthy and contains monounsaturated fats but has low anti-inflammatory properties. However, extra virgin olive oil does not have a high smoke point. So, it’s best for a low-slow cook, sautéing over medium heat, and dressing on a salad or a topper for pasta.
Avocado oil, derived from the flesh of pressed avocados, is good even at high temperatures. Unrefined avocado oil has a smoke point of 375 degrees, while refined shows a high smoke point of 520 degrees. Avocado oil carries the high monounsaturated fats of all oils, with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and heart health benefits.
Avocado oil also contains beneficial antioxidants like lutein, which your body does not produce on its own. So adding avocado oil is a great way to get some lutein, which supports the health of your eyes. Unfortunately, though avocado oil is healthy, it can be pretty expensive.
Soybean oil, the leading edible oil consumed in the United States, is an excellent non-fish source of omega-3 fatty acids. A study shows that soybean oil (1 and 1/2 tablespoons daily) lowers circulating cholesterol levels. In addition, the phytosterols in soybean oil reduce LDL cholesterol.
Peanut oil is a high-heat cooking oil made from the seeds of a peanut plant. Unrefined or cold-pressed peanut oil preserves most nutrients and is a budget-friendly option.
Peanut oil’s relatively high smoke point is ideal for grilling, roasting vegetables and searing meats. While you can use peanut oil for deep-fat fry, this cooking method is unsuitable for cholesterol and negates the oil’s health benefits.
Sesame oil is cholesterol free but has a lower smoke point than the others. In addition, it has a healthy mix of fats, with each tablespoon containing over 5 gm of monounsaturated fat and 2 gm of saturated fat.
You can use sesame oil to saute vegetables or as a salad dressing ingredient, but its more intense and nutty flavour might interfere with general-purpose cooking.
Chia Seed Oil
Chia oil is a golden-coloured oil packed with alpha-linolenic acid, which helps make heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It has a very high smoke point and a neutral flavour, which is suitable for light sautéing, pasta, and salads.
While the chia seed is high in fibre, the oil lacks fibre due to the extraction process. Therefore, don’t rely on chia seed oil to meet your fibre needs.
The HealthifyMe Note
Some oils are unhealthy or lead to cholesterol buildup in the body because they contain high saturated and trans fats. A healthy oil should have less than four grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, such as olive oil. Moreover, never cook oils above their smoke point.
Cooking Oils to Avoid or Use in Moderation
Coconut oil is popular in the keto diet and Paleo diets, but it is composed of 90% saturated fat. Therefore, coconut oil is controversial regarding cholesterol and blood pressure.
Since it has higher fat solids, it is best to use coconut oil in moderation. However, virgin coconut oil, extracted at low temperatures, may benefit from regulating cholesterol levels.
Palm oil is a tropical oil high in palmitic acid, a type of saturated fat that increases the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. It has about 7 gm of saturated fat in one tablespoon. Therefore, you must limit or avoid palm oil in a heart-healthy diet.
Lard is an animal product that comes from pork fat. It is high in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, with each tablespoon having 12 mg of cholesterol, 115 calories, and 5 gm saturated fats.
In addition, the small amounts of naturally occurring trans-fats in lard cause a cholesterol imbalance by raising LDL cholesterol.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary source of unhealthy trans fats. Trans fat, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids, can raise the ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and lower the ‘good’ cholesterol.
These should be avoided, esp when trying to control cholesterol levels. These artificial trans fats shouldn’t be your go-to, especially when trying to lower cholesterol. Therefore, always check for the “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the ingredient list.
Manage Your Cholesterol With HealthifyMe
You can receive stats and figures on your health from a doctor or import cholesterol readings from various sources, but you may not always have the right tools to understand or take necessary action on the results.
The launch of HealthifyPRO brings you closer to understanding your health and how you can better manage it. The app provides a simple view of your cholesterol, glucose levels, and other metabolic parameters over time, alongside personalised explanations of your lipid profile. High cholesterol, like high blood pressure, has no symptoms.
So, HealthifyMe provides easily accessible insights to help you understand how your dietary behaviours impact your heart health and empower you to take action to improve the results.
HealthifyMe Coaches will use your body metrics, such as BMI, BMR, muscle mass, and body fat%, to build a personalised plan to achieve your fitness goals. Hence, you can manage cholesterol with a customised diet and workout plan per your lifestyle and preferences. The CGM also gives you real-time insights into your blood glucose levels, which coaches use to design your diet and fitness plan.
In addition to choosing heart-healthy oils when cooking, here are some other tips for managing your cholesterol:
- Aim for 150 minutes (30 minutes five days per week) of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- Choose whole grain varieties and eat 4-5 fruit and vegetables daily.
- Replace red meat with lean protein options like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or beans.
- Choose healthier cooking methods, such as baking, boiling, poaching or grilling food, rather than frying.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
You’ve probably noticed a plethora of cooking oils on grocery store shelves. However, all cooking oils are not equally created, and the oil you choose can either be good for your cholesterol or do the opposite. Whatever your diet, the oil you use must comprise monounsaturated fats or omega-3 fatty acids.
A healthy cooking oil is an oil devoid of saturated and trans fat. But an oil’s composition is only one part of its healthfulness. Oils also have a range of smoke points, and you need oils that tolerate high heat to prevent the release of harmful chemicals.
There are many factors to assess and compare when trying to manage cholesterol. HealthifyMe assists you with accurate nutrition information. With the input of Pro Coaches, you can find the best oil and foods that would do the most good for your cholesterol levels and overall health.