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Canola oil a good substitute for olive oil

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A shout-out to all who will join the 2018 Holiday Challenge!

I was happy that Pitt County folks participated but disappointed to learn that in 2017 Pitt County was down to 287 participants. We usually have more than 300 join in this free fun that benefits personal health and wellness.

 The focus for 7 weeks is to maintain your weight throughout the holiday season. The Challenge begins on Nov. 12 and runs through Dec. 31. Invite your friends and family members from other states and countries to join in as well. Create a team to join the virtual walking race across Rome. We raced across Paris last year and the images were wonderful. 

Register at esmmweighless.com. It’s free. Click the Holiday Challenge tab. Thanks to my colleagues at N.C. State University and the N.C. Division of Public Health who manage the program.

Q I keep hearing I should use olive oil instead of corn oil. What should I use if I can’t afford olive oil? — J.H., Ayden

A  I asked Thais Oliveria, an ECU senior dietetic student, to tell you about vegetable oils. Here is what she wants you to know. 

Olive, canola, sunflower, coconut and palm oil … the world of vegetable oils is broad and confusing. Although not every study shows that using olive oil gives you better health benefits than other oils, many experts recommend it as the “gold standard vegetable oil.” 

As you suggested, it’s not affordable for many people. I have heard Dr. Kolasa and other experts suggest canola oil is your second-best option for cooking and seasoning foods. 

The American College of Cardiology published a guide listing foods that experts disagree on their health benefits. This list is meant to aid cardiologists advising patients on the role of diet and heart disease. 

To make an informed choice about oils let me remind you about the three different kinds of fatty acids: saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), and polyunsaturated (PUFA). For many years there was little doubt that SFAs were the worst subcategory of fat for heart health because it appeared to raise LDL-C, or the bad blood cholesterol. 

The American Heart Association still warns against consuming large amounts of saturated fat. After some time in the blood stream, LDL-C is attacked by the body’s own immune cells and becomes sticky. This sticky cell attaches to the walls of veins and arteries and, over time, blocks the path for blood, which in a human body can lead to a heart attack. 

MUFAs and PUFAs have been shown to help to reduce LDL-C. It’s important to know that all oils have all three fatty acids but the amounts of each vary. 

Although some people think of coconut oil as extremely healthy, it is very rich in SFA, which most experts still believe is bad for the heart. There aren’t a lots of studies of coconut oil for heart health but most do not show a benefit for reducing heart disease. Therefore, the College of Cardiology does not recommend the use of virgin coconut oil. 

Palm oil has the highest concentration of SFAs after coconut oil. In addition, research shows that it increases LDL-C at a much higher rate than HDL-C, the good blood cholesterol. The bottom line advice is to limit or avoid using coconut, virgin coconut and palm oils if you are concerned about preventing or managing heart disease.

Sunflower oil is rich in both MUFAs and PUFAs and lowers LDL-C, but the effects on HDL are unclear. Cardiologists suggest using it in moderation. 

Canola oil also is low in SFAs and high in MUFAs and PUFAs, and therefore a good choice. Olive oil is rich in compounds called polyphenols which are responsible for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are responsible for keeping your cells “young and strong.” The more the olive oil is processed, the fewer polyphenols remain. There is plenty of evidence that olive oil is worth the extra money when it comes to health benefits. 

Remember, whatever oil you use, stay within your calorie budget. Oils are fats and even healthy oils need to be used in moderation. Nutrition plays a big role in disease prevention. Since the science of nutrition still is a young one, the results of studies, and therefore experts, don’t always agree. 

If you are confused about what is right for you, have a source of nutrition advice that you trust. Besides your family doctor and your registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), you might like these websites I find helpful: www.choosemyplate.gov, www.diabetes.org, and www.fda.gov.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutrionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.

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