Facts about fats: Confusing terms and common cooking oils

As I briefly mentioned on Tuesday, it’s important to pay attention to the types of cooking oils we consume.  

So, today, let’s first continue clarifying some confusing aspects of fats—starting with a few terms you may not be so familiar with. And then, we’ll compare the health benefits of common cooking oils. 

Omega-9 fatty acids 

Omega-9s are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—but not all MUFAs are Omega-9. 

These fats are cancer-protective, heart-protective, and promote bile secretion (which helps your body digest fats and eliminate toxins). That’s why it’s important to add some omega-9s to your diet—in addition to omega-3s—in place of other less healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated omega-6 and trans fats.  

The most common form of omega-9 is oleic acid, which is found in both animal and vegetable sources, like grass-fed and -finished meat, nuts, eggs, avocadoes, and more.  

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) 

GLA is a beneficial metabolite of omega-6 oils. (As I explained on Tuesday, omega-6 fatty acids are only bad in excess.) People will often supplement with it because the omega-6s we consume are not readily converted to GLA. (More on that in a moment, see “conversions”.) 

GLA benefits heart health, skin, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), aging, and it reduces inflammation. Some of the most common sources of this type of fat are borage, black currant, or evening primrose oils.  

A word about conversions  

The beneficial metabolites of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are not easy to obtain from plant sources. Plus, to convert them, a specific enzyme is needed from the body. 

But stress, chronic disease, sugar, aspirin, alcohol, bad fats, nutrient deficiencies (especially deficits in B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium), and age can interfere with the conversion.  

In other words, you may consume flaxseed oil thinking it’s a good source of EPA or DHA—or a certain vegetable oil thinking it’s a good source of GLA—when in reality, your body never converts the fats to its metabolites.  

This is one reason why preformed metabolites—like the DHA and EPA found in fish and fish oils—are so critical to the diet.  

A head-to-head comparison 

So, now that we have those more confusing definitions out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most common cooking oils promoting these fats—starting with my favorite…  

Macadamia Nut Oil 

  • Highest in MUFAs (boasting 84 to 85 percent) and is 67 percent oleic acid 
  • Smoke point as high as 410º, which makes it excellent for stir-fry and baking. (Like all oils, though, this decreases with age.) 
  • Cold expeller-pressed—no chemical solvents  
  • Buttery, nutty flavor that’s great for any use 
  • Light, smooth texture 
  • Richer in vitamin E than olive oil 
  • Ideal 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids 
  • 2-year shelf life without refrigeration
  • Dr. Fred Rating: THE BEST (avocado oil runs a very close second) 

Olive Oil 

  • High in MUFAs (typically 65 to 74 percent) 
  • Smoke point of 325º (or less, depending on quality and age), meaning it’s unsuitable for frying or much more than a light sauté. (In the countries of the Mediterranean, most foods are cooked and then the plate is drizzled with olive oil—not baked or fried in it as we do here.) 
  • Quality olive oil has a relatively strong olive flavor not suitable for some uses 
  • Can be heavy and a bit greasy
  • Dr. Fred Rating: VERY GOOD 

Grapeseed Oil 

  • 74 percent pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids  
  • Very low in MUFAs 
  • Smoke point 400º 
  • Does not particularly enhance flavor
  • Dr. Fred Rating: VERY BAD (as it contains way too many omega-6s for any, much less frequent, use) 

Canola Oil 

  • Comes from genetically modified rapeseeds (that are altered to lower the natural presence of very toxic erucic acid, which is deadly to humans) 
  • Some studies show it increases cardiovascular risk (ultimately, there are NO real long-term studies on the safety or benefit of consuming this Frankenfood) 
  • Most brands are heat- and solvent-processed, and deodorized  
  • Some brands contain as much as 15 percent trans fats
  • Dr Fred Rating: THE WORST (stay away at all costs!) 

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. (For way more in-depth information on this topic, please see The Hamptons Diet book. I also explain more in the March 2014 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter.) But it’s nice to revisit some of the critical nutrition basics of common cooking oils that people tend to overlook or forget.  

And always remember—fat is your friend. You just have to eat the right kind! (No matter what conventional diet advice tells you, that habit actually does the body good, as I hope you’ve learned over this past week.)

P.S. This Sunday, September 19th at 3:00 p.m. (EDT), I’ll be hosting my Combat Your Inflammation Summit. During this exclusive event, I’ll reveal how regulating inflammation may be the missing piece to fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and more. Click here now to reserve your spot to this online event!