Know Your Good Fats From Your Bad Fats
A rundown of the healthiest fats and oils―and those to avoid.
These oils contain some saturated fat. But they’re considered heart-friendly, as they help lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, and some raise the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. They include polyunsaturated fats (like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help build cell membranes) and monounsaturated fats high in vitamin E, which is lacking in most Americans’ diets.
Canola Oil (7 percent saturated fat)
Made from: Seeds of the rapeseed plant.
Used in: Salad dressings, some margarines, frying food.
Pros: Good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point.
Con: Has fewer antioxidants than olive oil.
Sunflower Oil (About 10 percent saturated fat)
Made from: Sunflower seeds.
Used in: Some margarines; processed snack foods, like cookies and crackers.
Pros: High in unsaturated fat. Flavorless and colorless.
Con: Susceptible to oxidation, so restaurants may use an unhealthy, partially hydrogenated variety.
Corn Oil (About 13 percent saturated fat)
Made from: The germ of corn.
Used in: Salad dressings, corn chips, some margarines, baked goods, microwave popcorn, general cooking.
Pros: A good source of omega-6 fatty acids. Neutral in flavor. High smoke point. Inexpensive.
Con: Often hydrogenated (which adds unhealthy trans fats) in processed and deep-fried restaurant foods.
Olive Oil (14 percent saturated fat)
Made from: Olives.
Used in: Salad dressings, some canned tunas, Mediterranean cooking; it’s drizzled on cooked foods for extra flavor.
Pros: Tastes good. High in antioxidants.
Con: The tastiest extra-virgin varieties are expensive.
Soybean Oil (15 percent saturated fat)
Made from: Soybeans.
Used in: Salad dressings, mayonnaise, sautéed dishes, processed snack foods (in its partially hydrogenated form).
Pros: A good source of vitamin E. Inexpensive and widely available.
Con: In this country, most soybean oil in prepared foods is hydrogenated (though the bottled form is not).
Peanut Oil (17 percent saturated fat)
Made from: Peanuts.
Used in: Roasted nuts, high-heat searing and frying.
Pros: Nutty taste. High smoke point.
Con: More expensive than soybean, sunflower, and safflower oils. Potentially allergenic.